From Heartwarming Films Like Laapataa Ladies to Triggering Movies like Animal, Here’s How Bollywood Strongly Impacts The Audience

A few days ago, I was telling my father that some of the practices in our family are very sexist and patriarchal. I come from Rajasthan and the women still serve food to the men in the family and eat only after they are done. My father told me he had never looked at the situation as problematic. After giving him a few long examples and debunking myths, he got the essence of how wrong this practice was. Following this conversation, my mind instantly went to the Netflix film, Laapataa Ladies by Kiran Rao. With the new Bollywood ventures getting released on OTT, nothing really excited me before. But this movie amazed me with its simplicity and innocence. Though the movie was set in small villages, it was so modern at the same time.

It depicted the true essence of cinema, and soon after the soothing feeling of watching this wholesome movie, I remembered that most of the mainstream Bollywood movies that I had been watching recently were mindless action films like Pushpa and Animal, and I felt a sense of rage and confusion. While in an interview, Ravi Kishan talked about how Laapataa Ladies made a positive impact on a lot of women in the North, it also made me ponder about the effect violent movies have on the people watching them, especially the Indian audience.

cinema lol gif | WiffleGif

Living in this country, the diversity of cultures, thoughts and feelings goes beyond anywhere else in the world, which also attracts a whole lot of issues that need conversations around them. The impact that even one movie has on people is crazy. I recall hearing an immense amount of chatter among the boys of my class regarding the then-new film Kabir Singh, which had hit theatres and had instantly become a part of the conversation in every boy’s group. It went to the extent of a boy from my class physically assaulting his girlfriend at that time in front of everyone, claiming that she wasn’t obeying him. I know this is a rather traumatising way of starting, but its feels important to set the depth of the issue at hand.

SalaamNamaste Grafika: Kabir Singh

The Responsibility of Storytelling: Can We Have Our Masala and Meaning Too?

I get that the topic of sexist behaviour in movies is now done and dusted, but can we put the long-lasting effects of casual immoral behaviour against women away so easily? “It’s just a movie,” “No one acts like this in real life,” and “You should just chill out your inner feminist; it’s such a small thing” are some of the comments I heard when I raised my voice against such movies because having “a big pelvis” isn’t a compliment!

But is it really just a movie when it comes to the Indian audience? Superstars like Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajnikanth and Salman Khan aren’t just actors; they’re revered figures. Temples dedicated to their likeness dot the landscape, where fans offer prayers and seek blessings. Like the boy from my class, a lot of young people who are still forming their opinions get inspired by such things. I know this may not be a popular opinion, but it is a much-needed one.

So, the question remains: Can we have both sides of the Bollywood coin? Can we enjoy empowering stories and heartwarming narratives alongside action-packed thrillers without blurring the lines between entertainment and reality? The answer, hopefully, is a resounding yes. But it comes with a responsibility for filmmakers to be mindful of the messages they portray and for audiences to analyse what they’re watching critically.

The Legacy of Damsels in Distress and the Archetypal Angry Young Man


This isn’t a new phenomenon, though. Bollywood has a long history of portraying women as damsels in distress needing rescuing by the hero or reinforcing the “angry young man” trope where violence becomes the answer. Think of the countless movies where the heroine’s sole purpose is to sing and dance around trees with the hero, or films where the brooding protagonist solves every problem with his fists. While some classics like Mughal-e-Azam or Deewaar hold a special place in our hearts, it’s important to acknowledge how they perpetuated certain gender stereotypes. The effects of watching such movies at a young age demonstrate some of the toxic patriarchal norms that we see in our households as well.

The Allure of the Alpha Male: Why Does Bollywood Get It Wrong?

These violent movies often portray male characters with anger issues, a sense of entitlement towards women, and a troubling possessiveness that goes by the name of “love.” Though they’re commercially successful, these films paint a dangerous picture of relationships, normalising stalking, aggression, and emotional manipulation. This resonates with a long line of Bollywood films where the hero’s forceful behaviour is eventually “forgiven” by the heroine, as in the controversial climax of Maine Pyar Kiya. 

So when does it end?

8 - Witty Vows

As much as I want to be entertained by cinema, being blind to the toxic impacts of such ventures is not something worth sacrificing. Movies like Queen and Mother India have achieved both the entertaining and socially responsible aspects of storytelling so beautifully. Bollywood has the power to shape societal narratives. And while you can have a laugh at the 10-minute monologue by a mainstream actor yapping about how much he is annoyed by women, by promoting films like Laapataa Ladies that celebrate healthy relationships, female empowerment, and positive social values, you can play a significant role in creating a more responsible and progressive narrative for a better, more equal future.

Also read: Retake Please: Were These 8 Bollywood Female Characters Villains Of Their Story Or Simply Misunderstood?

Digital Intern

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