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In Haseen Dillruba, Nice GuysTM do not finish last. In fact, they get praised for their so-called niceness.
I would be lying if I said that I did not enjoy watching all the strange twists and turns in the relationship between Rani and Rishu. However, I was not able to ignore the fact that Haseen Dillruba blatantly glorifies Nice GuysTM (basically, not-really-nice-men who think that their supposed niceness to women means women owe them sex/romantic relationships).
Take the following quote from the film, for example:
Nice GuyTM Rishu says, “Ordinary people like me … go unnoticed. Everyone thinks of us only when they want something fixed.”
It is obvious that we are supposed to sympathize with him for what Rani did to him. Who cares what he did to her? This is exactly the sort of thing that ultimately ruined the movie for me.
I was extremely happy with Rani’s character at the start. She gets really cool lines like, “Husbands make no effort in arranged marriages. It’s wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am and the show’s over.” We understand her irritation and why she embarks on an affair (this is not really much of a spoiler). And yet, this is never properly addressed later on. The movie just ends up favoring Rishu’s story over hers.
She is begging for his forgiveness, and we are supposed to excuse him showing his anger in horrifyingly toxic ways because he’s “a very good man”. After all, the movie strongly pushes the message of, “If love doesn’t push you to the brink of insanity, it’s not true love …”
His “goodness” and love for her make him the hero by the end of the film. If he loves her so much, why does he ignore her for a good while in between until she learns how to cook food? Apparently, the woman owes you her love and “purity” just for being a somewhat decent person even if you do not care enough about her needs.
I began watching Haseen Dillruba thinking that Rani was main character. It turns out that the movie was secretly empathizing with Rishu the whole time. In hindsight, I should have guessed it. Nice GuyTM narratives are hardly uncommon.
The 2010 Tamil film Kutty features a hero who claims he has no expectations from the heroine. He just wants to continually harass her by telling her he loves her even when she clearly dislikes it. And that is considered all right because he does not expect her to reciprocate. Of course, she has fallen in love with him by the end of the movie.
The 2016 Hindi movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil thankfully, does not have Alizeh fall in love with her Nice GuyTM best friend, Ayan. However, the movie excuses a whole lot of abuse she faces at the hands of Ayan in the name of love. I can only wonder at why she ever considered him a best friend in the first place.
Haseen Dillruba is only the latest in a long list of films that favor Nice GuyTM narratives over the woman’s perspective. She can be as amazing as ever, and yet has to end up putting up with the male protagonist’s shit. I can only hope that Haseen Dillruba is the last movie on that list.
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