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In Bollywood, stalking is shown as love. But can we get it clear, Shahrukh in Darr or Dhanush in Ranjhanaa were stalking the girls. It’s a criminal offense.
Raise your hand if you have ever seen a Bollywood movie where the concepts of stalking and romantic love were used interchangeably. If you grew up in the nineties, chances are a lot of the hit movies you saw were based on this insane idea that having a stalker is just fine as long as he claims to love you. Remember the song ‘Tu haan kar ya naa kar, tu hai meri Kiran‘ (whether you say yes or no, you are mine, Kiran) from the movie Darr. The song and Shahrukh Khan’s portrayal of crazed stalker captured more imaginations across the country than set any fear in them.
This spills into real life in several damaging ways. Men all over the country believe it is perfectly acceptable to harass and stalk and threaten women. They see it is a normal path to some sort of romantic relationship. Part of this attitude also comes from a culture that idolizes the idea of ‘modesty’, ‘honor’ and ‘reluctance’ on part of women. Women are never supposed to ‘want it’ and so the men ‘have to force them’. Once again, ideas of what good girls and women are supposed to be like are used as justification. Consensual sex in Bollywood is seen as dirty and contrary to our ideals; forced sex, rape as a tool of revenge, rape as a reason for a woman’s suicide, on the other hand are all seen as absolutely fine.
In a real life case of an Indian man in Australia, who escaped a stalking conviction after claiming his behavior was normal as per Bollywood movies.
If you think this is crazy, read this real life case of an Indian man in Australia, who escaped a stalking conviction after claiming his behavior was normal as per Bollywood movies. It isn’t as if the movies or our real life has left this attitude in the nineties. A recent example is that of the movie Raanjhanaa rather misleadingly and ridiculously described as a romantic drama film and a story of a ‘small-town boy who needs to break through the class divide to gain acceptance from his childhood sweetheart who is in love with big city ideals‘. These descriptions, the normalization of this behavior, the popularity of these movies in a country that pretty much pays scant attention to what women want, is a dangerous combination. Men routinely stalk and harm women – think of all the news articles you read about acid attacks and stabbings by ‘spurned lovers’. Aggressive ‘macho’ men are seen as the ideal – I have lost count of the number of forced kisses I have seen on film (Ishq comes to mind to start with), normalizing the man continuing while the women resists. So here’s my suggestion for all of you: don’t watch these movies without any reservations, call out sexism and rape culture when you see it, men and women and everyone across the gender spectrum remind yourself and each other that consent is good and sexy. Question the friends in movies who act coy and encourage the stalker and tell the woman being flattered to take it as a compliment. Remember men can get stalked as well, but it happens more often to women and has more harmful consequences for them. Stop glamorizing stalking as some sort of romantic ideal and call it out for what it is: a criminal act.
Cover images via Wikipedia
I think of myself as a feminist development practitioner with a strong interest in issues
Thanks Shruthi. Well said and powerful message to all of us. Sure we need to raise against such crimes. I am happy that I do it to my family members and they have soon started seeing the absurdity in such movies. But it should happen in everyone’s house, as you had correctly said. Lets do it together.
Thank you for sharing your perspective and I am glad to hear that. True, the change will happen once we start calling this behavior out as criminal and not accepting it.
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