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What Ranbir’s JOKE On Alia’s Pregnancy Weight Says About Him And Insensitive, Body Shaming People

It’s hard to believe that Ranbir is oblivious to Alia’s body image and anxiety issues, after being her steady boyfriend for five years, and now husband.

While this article might come across as nitpicking on a handsome not-so-young actor for a joke he cracked, that seems normal among married couples, please hear me out as I plead that it’s not.

So, the two people in question are nepotistic products hailing from Bollywood royalty. Both have been subjected to enough trolling in recent years. Both are talented in their craft. They are called the power couple of Bollywood.

The body shaming ‘joke’ controversy

First, I’m happy that some netizens called this incident out. Now here’s what exactly happened.

Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor, and Ayan Mukherji were promoting their latest movie, Brahmastra, in a YouTube live. To a question about the film promotions, Alia Bhatt answered, “If the question you are asking is why we are not phaeloed (spread) everywhere, right now our focus is…”

And our hero swung into focus, interrupting and mansplaining as usual, with his not-so-genius joke, “I can see somebody has phaeloed.” Referring, clearly, to the pregnancy weight Alia has obviously put on. 

Understandably, both Alia and Ayan were shocked. Before Alia could even react, Ranbir closed in on her and covered up with the lame excuse, “Sorry! Joke!”

Well, Ranbir, I have news for you. And also for Ranbir’s supporters who defend him, saying that this is “normal among married couples”.

Why it was not ‘just’ a ‘normal’ husband-wife joke

Let’s start with the basics. I can assure you that not a single person laughed at Ranbir’s joke or found it funny. Not even Alia.

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She was gracious enough not to retort with a similar body shaming joke. Let’s face the reality! Most ageing Bollywood actors go through all kinds of cosmetic procedures, hair transplants, and photoshopping techniques to look eternally youthful. So Ranbir should be thankful that Alia did not stoop to his level and call out his bluff.

But this is not the first time Ranbir Kapoor has said something nasty about his female co-stars.

Remember Katrina Kaif, who gave him a taste of his own medicine when he mansplained her during the Jagga Jasoos promotions? She also vowed to never work with him ever again. For someone who’s usually well-mannered and diplomatic like Katrina Kaif to reach her tolerance levels, speaks volumes about Ranbir’s covert misogyny.

Then, there was another utterly distasteful so-called joke about Anushka Sharma’s mental health. When asked about the ‘quirky’ traits of Anushka Sharma during the Ae Dil Ae Mushkil promos, Ranbir’s answer was: “Anushka is the anxiety queen. She takes anti-anxiety pills even if she has to have a conversation because she is frantic. She has a medical problem, and she has a mental problem also, and a hygiene problem. But we accept her. She’s precious.”

Imagine the man’s nerve to pick on a woman’s low-point and crack a joke about it on national television. Even though Anushka and Ranbir continue to be friends, it still doesn’t ‘excuse’ his despicable joke, especially when there is still so much stigma around mental health.

How do you even defend a statement that we ‘accept’ someone ‘even if’ they have a ‘medical’ or ‘mental health’ problem?

Who are ‘we’ to ‘accept’ anyone or decide who’s precious and who’s not? Statements like this are not just callous, but also reinforce biases against neurodivergent individuals. And on what basis is Ranbir calling Anushka ‘precious’? Does it have anything to do with her ‘pretty privilege’ that saves her from being an outcast? Who needs his acceptance in the first place?

Finally, another reason Ranbir’s remark on Alia’s pregnancy weight was not ‘just’ a husband-wife joke is Alia Bhatt’s long-standing problem with weight. In an interview with Barkha Dutt, she confessed she battles with body image issues and anxiety. “I do therapy once a week and in four sessions in three months, I’m talking about body image issues,” she said.

Alia is naturally on the chubbier side, and had to lose a lot of her weight to fit into the beauty typecast of the film industry, egged on by someone as superficial as Karan Johar, which certainly didn’t help her cause as far as her body image issues are concerned. Karan Johar has said on record that he regrets being responsible for Alia Bhatt’s obsessive behaviour about weight.

It’s hard to believe that Ranbir is oblivious to Alia’s body image and anxiety issues, after being her steady boyfriend for five years, and now husband. For someone this close to you, to hit you where it hurts the most on public television can’t be ‘just’ a normal husband-wife joke.

Moreover, why did he feel the need to apologize if he didn’t mean anything bad? What stopped him from appreciating his wife’s beauty post the pregnancy weight gain on national television? There are men who use pregnancy and non-pregnancy weight gain as a poor excuse to cheat on their wives. Recently, I saw a post of a man who wanted to divorce his wife, as he found her unattractive after she got breast cancer.

I’m now reminded of Ranbir’s recent comparison of Alia Bhatt to ‘daal-chawal’ which I found quite crass and downright misogynistic. Some might find that comparison ‘cute’ and ‘romantic’ but I beg to differ. Not only is the objectification disrespectful to his wife but also the implying comparison to his past girlfriends uncalled for.

So, my dear Ranbir Kapoor supporters, please repeat after me that It was ‘not’ a joke because:

  • No one laughed, including his ‘darlings’ wife, Alia Bhatt. 
  • Ranbir is a serial mansplainer. 
  • Making jokes on weight, mental health, and professional choices is not ‘okay’ or ‘normal’ even if it comes from a handsome unofficial ‘prince’ of Bollywood or your husband. 

Is this about Ranbir living up to the ‘not being a joru ka ghulam’ expectations of his mother?

Ranbir’s mother, Neetu Kapoor, also made a disturbing remark recently: “Jab tum joru ka ghulam ban jaate ho na, fir maa ko problem hoti hai.” (When you become a husband who pleases his wife, then your mother has a problem.)

She implied that if men wanted to please their mothers, they should not become ‘joru ka ghulams’ of their wives. Again, like her ‘darlings’ son, Ranbir, this is not the first time she’s said something problematic.

In the “Rendezvous with Simi Garewal” show, she said, “There are two kinds of girls, one who comes with scissors and one who comes with needles. Scissors are the ones who break the family and the ones who come with needles kind of mend the family, and will make sure the family is together, and that’s the girl I would like.”

I don’t know about you, but I found this statement highly regressive. I also read a comment on one of the post threads where the reader remarked that Neetu Kapoor probably saw herself in Alia Bhatt, and that her young age (read less experience and easier to control) acted in her favour. If Neetu Kapoor’s expectation from her bahu is that she needs to endure any nonsense from her husband including abuse, and be primarily responsible for keeping the family together, she needs a reality check.

Can someone please counsel Neetu Kapoor ma’am, that it is not the wife’s responsibility to mend the family? No girl can break a family if the foundation is strong. And no girl can glue a family together if the foundation is weak. Please do not have such tall expectations from your bahu. Also, there are more than two types of girls in the world.

I also have some news for you, Neetu ma’am: Marriage is a 50:50 relationship, with equal give and take. If a woman is expected to be her shohar ka ghulam (pleasing the husband), why can’t a man serve his wife in return? Why the shame in being a “joru ka ghulam”? Aren’t “acts of service” also love, and why can’t women expect the same from their men?

Is expecting basic decency too much to ask from men?

Contrary to the stereotype that “women are complicated,” women don’t really ask for too much to be happy. And we certainly don’t need an alpha male like Kabir Singh or Arjun Reddy in our lives.

We have exactly the same expectation that most men have from women.

I’d like to believe that I’m speaking for all when I state women appreciate decency in men. Just as men appreciate decency in women.

Kindness, compassion, and understanding are virtues that have hurt no one. If expecting basic decency from our men, which is the bare minimum standards, asking for “too much”, then there’s something problematic with our societal standards.

This article is not about criticizing Ranbir Kapoor as a person, as much as it is about criticising his words and his actions. I do hope he meant the ‘sorry’ to his wife, Alia. If he didn’t, I can only hope he’d bite his tongue and regret this so-called joke when he looks back at it years from now.

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About the Author

Tina Sequeira

Tina Sequeira is an award-winning writer and marketer. Winner of the Rashtriya Gaurav Award in association with the Government of Telangana, Orange Flower Award by Women’s Web, India's leading website for women, read more...

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