Whilst also there have been several cinematic masterpieces that aided the need to liberate Indian society of patriarchy, the vast bulk of conventional motion pictures have propagated the notion that male plutocracy is toxic and has contributed to a rise in felony against women

Indian Cinema And Toxic Masculinity

Films don’t derive from the void. Whether they reflect the values of an existential society or by divulging the truth, they work to alter the natural cohesion that is universally recognized. The maximum variety of films is generated each year globally by the multimillion-dollar Indian film industry. Whilst also there have been several cinematic masterpieces that aided the need to liberate Indian society of patriarchy, the vast bulk of conventional motion pictures have propagated the notion that male plutocracy is toxic and has contributed to a rise in felonies against women.

When we talk of Indian cinema, predominantly, it has always been Bollywood. However, now that the south is on the verge of getting the light of ‘mainstream cinema’, it’s crucial to point out the underlying toxic and hyper-masculinity that south cinema, along with Bollywood, has germinated over the long decades.

The chauvinistic depictions of women in Indian cinema are well-known and have had a lasting impact on our society. In this essay, I’ll mainly focus on how the representation of women in Indian cinema has morphed over time and how cinema has extensive conversion. Faiths and traditions play a prominent part in Indian cinema. Additionally, stereotypes influence films and how women are caricatured in them. Indian cinemas top the list for dehumanizing women on screen, by a study.

The patriarchal view of female sexual orientation and how hostility and the physical body define manhood are ubiquitous in Indian mainstream cinema. In Avenging Women in Indian Cinema, Lalitha Gopalan makes the case that the way women are portrayed visually in Indian cinema encourages the viewer to undergo sado-masochism and scopophilic, in easier words, fetish contentment.

Let’s take a scrutinizing glance at the films that put up more hilarity when it came to the portrayal of women:

Aitraaz, starring Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor in the leads. The film is so problematic in the significant instances and cruxes of what has been made. We still need to get the slightest calculation of why Priyanka Chopra’s character got villainized in the first place. Well, evaluating her false accusations against Raj, we do project that as the ‘wrong’; but keeping aside this, the entire film considered Sonia as a ‘bad woman’ for choosing not to have a child, for being ambitious, for being sorted about her sexual needs.

Biwi No. 1 stars Sushmita Sen, Karisma Kapoor and Salman Khan. A pointless hilarity of the same scenario, where two women fight over one single man. Karisma Kapoor remains faithful to her husband and his family even though the latter cheats on her with another woman. And then, villainizing Sushmita Sen, aka Rupali, projecting her as the ‘home wrecker’ and not Prem. Pooja (Karisma Kapoor) competes with Rupali constantly to win over Prem, and eventually, she wins him over for being the ‘good wife’.

Ghare Baire, based on the novel by Rabindranath Tagore, projects that how ‘Andarmahal’ is for women because women are more likely to deal with the ‘domestic help’ and take the responsibility of ‘caregivers’, while men go out and fight the ‘baire’ outer world. Also, as Tagore brilliantly puts out in the entire novel, we see Bimala getting exploited by both Nikhil and Sandeep. Nikhil tries to liberate Bimala by imposing his idea of ‘liberation’ on Bimala, and Sandeep asserts ‘patriarchal’ comparisons towards Bimala, inferring about the ‘Queen bee’.

Aradhana remains one of the glorified treatments of ‘anti-feminism’. The Indian model of a self-sacrificing mother is presented in this movie, indicating that Indian mothers are indeed characterized in a way that implies that they are not viable mothers if they do not sacrifice themselves for their son’s needs. The punishment for Sharmila Tagore’s character was being forced to abandon her child after her boyfriend—the child’s father—died on her. Thus, it was concluded that having s*x before getting married was explicitly banned and would result in incarceration. Therefore, because of this caricatured belief, society dismisses those women who were inseminated through rape. This explains why Indian men will indulge in sexual relationships before marriage but only accept a virgin woman as their wife.

Arjun Reddy (Kabir Singh Remake) is a classic example of how celebratory it can get when it is to glorify toxic masculinity. A man who deliberately comes into a room full of students picks up a girl and asserts that he ‘owns’ her, chooses her friends, decides who’s going to sit beside her, abuses her, and threatens to rape her if she doesn’t love him and surprise, in the end, the man eventually wins the woman after injecting in all chaos with her family and of course ‘her’. Arjun Reddy was a box office hit!

Kantara! A magical cinematic experience, and we do put our hands down if we talk about the performance led by Rishab Shetty. But the glorifying toxic masculinity in the film remains nauseating. Featuring men who lose it when something doesn’t go their way. Rishab Shetty, who plays Shiva in the movie, almost fulminates at every woman in his life when something uproots his male ego. The film gets a ‘zero’ on consent, as we see Shiva pinching Leela’s belly and watching her taking a shower. Kantara is another fine example of showing ‘rowdy’ as ‘heroism’ and ‘hyper masculinity’ as ‘heroism’. Kantara almost makes it feudal with its constant villainizing of people who go against the hero’s set of ideas.

In characterizing gender societal issues, Pushpa represents a significant break towards the Indian film industry. It almost seems as though nothing was heard from the Kabir Singh debacle. Once more, loud, obnoxious, and stalker-like conduct is proffered as romance fantasy. Pushpa dominantly normalizes ‘patriarchy’ and treats women as commodities.

A substantial due diligence gap pertains to how these films affect the men in society. Additionally, despite a noticeable decline in informativeness, we concede that portraying toxic hegemonic masculinity content is more abundant and held in high esteem for several reasons.

About The Author
Shatakshi Ganguly

An ardent writer with a cinephile heart, who likes to theorise every screenplay beyond roots. When not writing, she can be seen scrutinizing books and trekking in the mountains.

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