Gehraiyaan – Why Is The Indian Audience Always Supposed To Forgive Spoilt And Condescending Men?

Why does the man always get to cherrypick the women in his life, why do the female characters have to compete with one another for a man’s attention, and why is the Indian audience supposed to forgive a condescending male hero?

Infidelity, complex relationships, and cousin rivalry are a few terms that most of us might have associated with the trailer of Gehraiyaan (2022) and watched it with that in mind.

However, the movie isn’t about any of these. Instead, it is a cluster of multiple western pop culture character tropes that many of us either wish to do away with, or wish to de depicted differently, especially in Bollywood films.

While a lot of people might argue that the movie is genuinely very deep, here are my (very personal) thoughts about why the movie fails to do justice to the serious themes it claims to be centered around.

The victimisation of the traumatised woman

Deepika Padukone’s character, Alisha, can be described as an Indianised, adult version of Hannah Baker from 13 Reasons Why. She is an independent woman who wakes up at 4:30 AM to teach yoga to the women of South Bombay, returns home to her unemployed live-in partner whose bills she must pay, and makes cheese toast for him while he pretends to do some serious work. What’s more, is that the worst things seem to happen to her throughout the film and she blames it all on her luck.

While watching the film, one is often left wondering how every horrible thing under the sun can happen to just one woman, and why she has to keep returning to the men who have constantly let her down. The answer to the question, according to the filmmakers, is, of course, “linked to her traumatic childhood experiences.” However, that still doesn’t explain why the viewers are expected to sympathise with someone who consciously chooses the mess she finds herself in.

The man-child archetype

Alisha’s live-in partner, Karan, is a stereotypical man-child who needs a woman to wash him, feed him, and raise him without complaining in any way. The viewers who have watched Gone Girl (2014) might be reminded of Nick Dunne’s character the moment they are introduced to Karan (I wonder why all the man-child characters are shown to be unemployed writers) – he acts as if he is entitled to his partner’s time and money and still has the audacity to criticise her on her face. However, his woman partner can never say a word to him, or else she’ll have to deal with his bursts of anger (our hero gets angry even if our heroine touches his diary, so he definitely won’t be open to confrontations and criticism).

What is disappointing is the fact that the film highlights all of Karan’s toxic traits without punishing him in any way. In fact, the only way in which he suffers is by losing his partner (after sucking on to her for years) and by writing a novel that won’t sell any copies.

The self-made rich guy who wants it all

By the time Siddhant Chaturvedi’s character, Zain, is introduced in the film, the viewers might have shed a tear or two over Alisha’s misery. So, when a rich man with saviour complex enters the picture, everyone subconsciously expects him to rescue Alisha from her monotonous life and lazy partner. He employs flirting to break the ice between him and his fiancee’s cousin and offers her a shoulder to cry on. When sparks are shown to fly between the two, one realises that our Cinderella has met her Prince Charming. In one scene, you see him kissing his fiancee goodbye and in the very next scene, you see him lying in bed with her cousin at Taj, Mumbai.

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The individuals who say that Gehraiyaan is about relationships must understand that the most important relationship in the movie is extremely hollow – the only thing that Alisha and Zain can offer to each other is sex.

Of course, there is some basic conversation between the two about their disturbing past. However, the movie still fails to explain how and when they actually fell in love. In fact, after a point, Zain’s double-timing becomes too much to take in because he is simply too confused about whom to pick and whom to leave. But then, why does the man always get to cherrypick the women in his life, why do the female characters have to compete with one another for a man’s attention, and why is the Indian audience supposed to forgive a condescending male hero?

The gullible woman who can do anything for her man

Gehraiyaan can be viewed as Legally Blonde (2001) in reverse because the parallel female lead, Tia, ends up doing more of what Elle Woods taught us not to – making a man her everything (quite literally).

Tia is a bundle full of contradictions who has the sensibility to understand legal paperwork and processes but still ends up taking pottery classes when she doesn’t have her fiancé by her side to entertain her all the time. She can review the drafts of Karan’s novel, but can’t see through her Zain’s manipulative tactics. The question I won’t ever be able to answer about her character is whether she is a ‘beauty with a brain’ or a ‘dumb blonde’.

Zain uses Tia like a pawn for his personal gains and she is constantly taken for granted by every other character in the film. She gets gaslit throughout and is left apologising to the people who caused her pain. It is clear that her character was created by a bunch of men who deliberately create mentally weaker women in order to give men all the patriarchal powers that they have been enjoying for centuries.

The nagging mother

It is absolutely, completely, fully necessary to understand that a nagging woman can not be blamed for every mistake that a frustrated man makes.

Gehraiyaan tries to convince the audience to accept Zain’s follies just because his soon-to-be mother-in-law constantly bickers about him while talking to her daughter, Tia. Most of the time, whatever Tia’s mother says is actually true. However, she hurts the male ego by mentioning the truth and that apparently gives the man the right to do as he pleases.

The absent alcoholic father

Most books, movies, and stories (whether western or Indian) that deal with childhood trauma involve the concept of neglected parenting.

While it is necessary to delve deeper into this theme and have more conversations about parenting in general, Gehraiyaan completely misses the point while trying to do so. It introduces us to the character of Vinod, played by Naseeruddin Shah, who failed his child as a parent, but, doesn’t reveal anything about what his equation actually is like with his daughter, Alisha. The only thing we know is that she has been disappointed in him since her childhood, and talks to him only on birthdays.

If Alisha detests her father so much, how did she survive after her mother’s death? Since there is absolutely nothing mentioned about her formative and adolescent years in the film, it appears as though she suddenly woke up as a grown-up after a childhood tragedy and developed a hatred towards her father.

Too many tropes, not enough real substance

Gehraiyaan tries to fit in too many complications and events within a span of three hours. There is a vacation, followed by a love affair, followed by a proposal, followed by a breakup, followed by a financial crisis in the lives of one of the characters, followed by a pregnancy, followed by multiple fights and confrontations, followed by death, followed by a huge revelation, followed by a reunion of a parent and a child, followed by a reunion of the main characters.

Once we stop intellectualising the themes of the film, we might realise that the plot is no different from the plots of a few never-ending Indian daily soaps.

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About the Author

Upasana Dandona

A dysgraphic writer who spends most of their time watching (and thinking about) Bollywood films. read more...

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