The catastrophic assault and rape of a 23 year old in Delhi that initiated a nationwide mass protest was an unfortunate and melancholy testimony on why we treat women so badly. Myriad causes and reasons comprising of poor administration, patriarchal worldview, inefficient and loose functioning of laws et cetera were discussed by the intelligentsia but one major reason was left out- The Film Industry.

It has fostered thoroughly retrograde male attitudes that are partly responsible. The representation and commodification of women in Bollywood’s item numbers, sex-laden dances, spiced-up, racy scenes has delved so profoundly in our psyche, thus, conditioning our minds in a similar fashion, that they have come up to be absolutely normal and acceptable for us. Rather, it sells in the market.

The film makers often invest rape and harassment scenes in the movies to give it an extra dosage of masala to titillate audiences. This came about as a regular feature in 1970s and 80s with the old-time popular villains like Ranjeet and some years later, Shakti Kapoor; with the audience almost cheering them on.

Yet we cannot categorize them as the main problem as the villains are not held up as role models. What is problematic is the way in which film heroes have stalked and pestered women, somehow managing to extract a ‘YES’ from them.Hit film songs that people go gaga over have worsened the situation. Amitabh Bacchan strode the Bollywood scene like a colossus with his biggest degradation in the movie ‘Hum’ where he demands a kiss from actress KimiKatkar.

If you harass a woman enough, no matter how much she says NO, she will ultimately agree. There have been innumerable instances in which romantic wooing has been replaced by a kind of harassment of the heroine.

One wonders, what message does it send out to the crazy fans of Bollywood who worship the heroes? And worse, what does it convey to the women of our country? Is it that they should submit to such atrocity and fall prey to man’s harassment camouflaged as romance?

Such notions and promotions need to be checked, though, moderating the works of the artists would appear as a suppression of their talent and a form of insult, but in a country like India where Bollywood serves as the biggest source of entertainment, which runs in the blood of people, one needs to ponder upon such aspects which have become normative over the years; or the audience should be mature enough to boycott and leave such ideas as the curtain falls and they step out of the theatre.

Maybe, Shakespeare’s quote “Sweet are the uses of adversity.” rephrased as “Great are the uses of harassment.”  fits well in the present scenario, though this is highly unfortunate.  

Suhani Arora

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