Toxic Misogyny Is Not Cool Or Heroic, And Neither Is Kabir Singh

Posted: June 22, 2019

Though the portrayal of the flawed character of Kabir Singh is sheer excellence in acting, it’s not something that should exist in the real world.

There is nothing cool about the alpha masculine, testosterone driven, drug addict, misogynistic, always angry and toxic Kabir Singh.

Warning: some spoilers ahead

Sitting in the theatre you see the highly attractive bearded Kabir Singh portrayed by the equally handsome Shahid Kapoor landing at a friend’s house for a planned hook-up, something completely normal. Even before they could undress the girl seems to change her mind and asks him to leave. At this, the angry Kabir threatens the girl with a knife, telling her to remove her pants. Give him what he was promised!

His rage is interrupted by the noise of the radio which makes him leave. His failed attempt at what would clearly be a rape ends with him shoving ice cubes down his pants to quell his erection. Sadly this “rape attempt sequence” is followed with laughs and giggles in the theatre, something which is highly disturbing.

Kabir Singh is an official remake of the 2017 released Telugu movie Arjun Reddy starring Vijay Deverkonda. No doubt the movie is a pure gem on the basis of songs, performances, and the show of true campus life. But the man Kabir Singh or his original, Arjun Reddy is problematic.

The story in a nutshell

Kabir Singh is a story of this man who is this brilliant student, a topper but is also an obnoxious bully with anger issues. He is eccentric, demanding and treats everyone around him very badly. Also, is least apologetic about that, because according to him everything is justified. “This is me and I have no regrets!” is what he is seen saying.

Kabir is the alpha male of his medical college who is hot-headed and is often feared by batchmates, juniors and teachers. This bad boy falls in love with our very quiet, introvert Preethi played by Kiara Advani. Then what follows is the story of physical and emotional abuse, drug abuse, heartbreak, and obsession filled with misogyny.

Kabir likes Preethi. Agreed. But making decisions for her because he loves her so immensely is not right. He falls for Preethi at first sight and threatens everyone in college announcing “yeh meri bandi hai” (She is my girl). Mind you at this point while he is showing his complete authority over Preethi as if she is a commodity, he doesn’t even know her name and “vo white salwar kameez wali” (the girl in the white salwar kameez) is her actual reference.

He commands her to follow him around, kisses her without consent and drags her out of class to give her ‘lessons’ of his own. He doesn’t propose or ask her out. Instead, he instructs her and the makers justify these actions of smashing consent on the grounds of love. Unbelievable!

He decides that Preeti will sit on the front bench in class and befriend only fat women. The justification is that ‘fat chicks are like teddy bears… good-looking girls and fat chicks make a deadly combination’. A scene completely irrelevant with the movie was still there in both the movies because obviously shattering the self-esteem of women is something considered to be comical.

The character of Preethi is just saddening. She is this typical Indian obedient girl who can’t defend herself. She can’t object and just quietly agrees to everything and anything Kabir does. If your female lead doesn’t utter a proper sentence until 50 mins of the movie are done and her first proper dialogue is “Kabir why do you like me so much?” then something is definitely wrong with your movie. The character has no spine of her own. All she does is sit and cry and wait for Kabir to rescue her from the ‘harshness of college life’. I mean stand up for yourself girl!

Sadly, she is the glorification of the image of a woman that a lot of men out there have. According to one of my friend Divya, possession+ownership+obsession = Preethi. If your “female lead” leaves this impression then there is definitely something wrong with the movie.

Kabir Singh/Arjun Reddy is no hero

Indeed there was a scene of Preethi slapping Kabir. Also, he does speak his mind without any fear or regret. He is not shy to shed a few tears on the screen. Kabir also talks about PMS and educates his friend on how to support a woman during her periods. He willingly accepts Preethi’s child too as his own child. But all the abuse and irrational behaviour in the name of love cannot be neglected just because of he was being “normal” at sometimes.

In a scene, he angrily rushes out while Preethi is following him, and begging him to stop. He lashes at her and comments “tu hai kaun, tu koi nahi, tu sirf Kabir ki bandi hai” (who are you, no one, you are just Kabir’s girlfriend that’s it) to which she readily agrees and says, “I am nothing without you Kabir!” At this, he turns around and smacks her on the face. A scene like this is followed by hooting’s of appreciation in the theatre. In a country where most of the women don’t have an agency to raise their voice, a movie stopping the heroine from using her voice, and portraying the male abusive lead as “heroic” for all his actions is not justified.

Kabir Singh is the brilliance of fiction and is not needed in real life

While I was researching I asked my friends for their opinions about the movie. One comment by my friend Shreya struck me.

She said “The movie is supposed to be a work of fiction and watched like that. It’s not be watched to get moral values. It is to be watched for the director, the intensity of performances and the songs. The characters do not belong in the real world.”

Agreed that movies are a work of art and shouldn’t be taken seriously. But in a society where movies shape and even form the mentality of the people is it fair to glorify this psychopathic manliness?

The portrayal of toxic masculinity and abusive relationships is not something new. Masterpieces like “Walk the Line” and “Revolutionary Road” have done it. New age movies like “50 Shades of Grey” have done it. Bollywood has done it in the past many times. People have been inspired to commit crimes like eve-teasing, stalking, abusing women in real life just because their favourite hero did it on a big screen, and eventually got the girl through these means.

Kabir is the actual representation of ‘the kind of men that are feared by women’. In one of the scenes, he very authoritatively instructs Preethi to wear her dupatta properly. His “dupatta theek kar lo” makes me shudder thinking of the repercussions of what he would have done if she was wearing anything less than a salwar kameez. And this is exactly why Kabir Singh should never be the hero that our men should aspire to be.

He is seen chasing his maid with anger because she broke a glass, chasing women while unzipping his pants, marking girls as his ‘bandi’ and kissing her without her consent, and all of this is portrayed in a comical manner for laughs.

Think about this

The question is – in the 21st century where people have finally started to talk about consent and respecting women, is it fair to show a character like Kabir or Arjun and justify all his actions because he is “pyaar main hara becahara” (heartbroken and deserves sympathy)?

NO, IT’S NOT.

Kabir in the movie gets away with all kinds of bad behaviour. He molests women, beats up men without any repercussions, and it is all justified with “he is a good man at heart”! I mean seriously? Is it justified to glorify misogyny in the name of “becahara dekho pyaar ke lie kisi bhi hadd tak ja sakta hai” (poor guy destroyed himself for love)?

NO, IT’S NOT

Kabir Singh/Arjun Reddy is flawed, heartbroken, but not at all justified for his sexist, patriarchal and misogynistic behaviour. So Kabir Singh is a movie that should be watched only for brilliant performances. It is not a movie that the audience should learn something from and apply in real life. Because is Kabir Singh a hero?

NO, HE’S NOT. PERIOD.

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