5 Reasons Why I Disliked Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani As A Half-Punjabi, Half-Bengali

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani is being hailed as a miracle of sorts, a "feminist" KJo film. As an insider to both Bengali and Punjabi cultures, I think not.

Trigger Warnings: This has mentions of sexual violence and may be triggering to survivors.

If there is a film that many of us — the hardcore Bollywood buffs — had been eagerly waiting for this year, it was Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (2023). In my own case, I could not watch it for weeks because it was, quite unfortunately, not screening in the cinemas near where I stay in London — apparently, people here find Barbie (2023) and Oppenheimer (2023) more interesting. Nonetheless, I finally managed to watch it last week and after all the ballyhoo, I have to admit that I felt confounded.

Here are five things I could not wrap my head around:

*few spoilers alert*

Are we still living in a world where creepy behaviour is supposed to be laughed off?

Kanwal Lund (Dharmendra), ever since he is introduced, comes across as being extremely inappropriate. In his introductory scene, for instance, he forcefully kisses an unknown woman. That is followed by his grandson, Rocky (Ranveer Singh) apologising to her while completely dismissing his unbefitting conduct just because he is an amnesiac.

Even if Kanwal does have amnesia and he mistakes the woman in front of him for his love interest, Jamini (Shabana Azmi), is it suitable for him to carry out an act like this without her consent? Also, why do the filmmakers expect the audience to laugh at his perverted actions?

Why is Dhanalakshmi antagonised, again?

We’ve finally got a KJo film that has a headstrong matriarch in it instead of a domineering patriarch. However, even then, Dhanalakshmi (Jaya Bachchan) is shown to have a highly repulsive personality and that somehow becomes the entire plot of the film. While watching Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani, I found myself wondering whether the narrative would remain the same if Dhanalakshmi was not such a terrible person.

Additionally, why is it that she is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the lives of the other characters? She is just another ambitious woman who wished to acquire wealth as a young adult. Plus, it is literally her husband who is disloyal to her to the point where he osculates Jamini in front of her. Yet, his immorality is blamed on Dhanalakshmi’s patronising personality.

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It is surprising how we continue to find Bollywood filmmakers recycling character tropes from Hollywood films by creating a “nagging woman” who is responsible for her husband’s infidelity. Does Karan Johar not know that there are many of us who have watched Gone Girl (2014) a million times?

What’s with Rani’s character and her dialogues?

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani is to feminism what Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga (2019) is to lesbianism — it can educate the masses while failing to impact those it is actually about. Just as many South Asian queer women did not find Sweety’s love story relatable, many feminists would not see Rani’s character as strong.

Without getting much into Alia Bhatt’s unconvincing Bengali accent in which her response to a colleague of hers is, “Chintā koro nā, āmi khub mishti!” (translated into “Do not worry, I am very sweet!”) — the writers seriously used the most basic Bengali words to create whatever dialogues they could — it is important to note that even her feminist arguments and debates seem generic and repetitive. To begin with, she lectures a corrupt politician on sexual violence without adding anything new to what most of us might have already heard about the sexist mentalities of Indian leaders. She also calls Rocky’s mother and elder sister “spineless” to their faces while imposing her own ideologies on them. Honestly, blaming North Indian women for how oppressed they are within their own families is a horrible thing to do because no one would willingly ask men to treat them like doormats. What’s more is that even the suggestion Rani gives to the employees of Dhanalakshmi’s company to help them improve their sales remains very basic.

Can Bengaliness PLEASE not be equated to fish and “Ekla Cholo Re”?

In one scene, Rani’s friend, Somen (Namit Das) walks towards her family with a plate in his hand and says the line, “Garam-garam fish! Kis-kis ko chahiye?” (translated into “Hot-hot fish! Who all want it?”) Will Bengalis ever be shown having dinner on screen without fish being enthusiastically brought up? After all, there are many Bengalis who aren’t fish eaters.

Furthermore, in a cultural gathering organised by Rani’s parents and grandmother, Rocky stands up and starts singing Ekla Cholo Re. It is disappointing that a bunch of Bengali screenwriters came up with scenes that, if anything, stereotype Bengalis.

Why are Bengalis portrayed as being superior to Punjabis?

While Rocky and his family members turn into progressive feminists by the end of the film, there is absolutely no change that can be witnessed in Rani and her Bengali parents, except for “accepting” him. In a way, the purpose of the film seems to be to make it appear as though Bengalis are superior — be it culturally or morally — to North Indians. However, as a half-Punjabi, half-Bengali, I can vouch for the fact that neither are Bengalis the benchmark of progressiveness nor are Punjabis uncultured dimwits, irrespective of what KJo attempts to tell us.

Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani needs to be recognised and perceived as what it truly is — a typical KJo film where rich characters create problems for themselves. In no way does this film do justice to its dichotomisation of Punjabi and Bengali cultures. Thus, seeing it as a woke film would be nothing short of insanity.

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About the Author

Upasana Dandona

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

42 Posts | 218,546 Views

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