I have a question for Varun Dhawan. Say, he's at a department store with some friends, getting supplies for a party. A random man walks up to a female friend, while she is bent over a shelf, and spanks her butt. Would he — as he probably expected his audience in Judwaa 2 to — break into peals of laughter?
My hunch is, he or any decent person for that matter, won't find harassment of that kind funny. In his latest film, Dhawan plays Raja, a man who cannot control his urge to grab a woman's butt when he sees one. Now the problem is not Dhawan playing the man — he is an actor and he'd ideally play a gamut of different characters — but the film's insistence that this man is its 'hero'. And, like a zillion Hindi films before it, also establish that this butt-grabber, sexual harasser is a man women will eventually fall in love with, because they actually secretly consider being chased and grabbed as a rite of passage to fall in love. I guess, at this point, we should just be thankful that Bollywood movies aren't yet suggesting women actually want to date the T-Rex or that human-chomping shark from Jaws.
In 10 days, Judwaa 2 has made Rs 112 crores. It is hardly surprising, given that the last time he played an entitled Indian man chasing a woman and not taking 'no' for an answer, it was a blockbuster hit, too, that made over Rs 200 crore.
In Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya, his character Badri abducted the girl and locked her inside the trunk of his car... yet the film was being hailed far and wide as 'feminist'.
In Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya, his character Badri abducted the girl and locked her inside the trunk of his car. His father threatened to hang her in the town square and none of them apologised for these specific incidents of violence inflicted on the woman. Yet the film was being hailed far and wide as 'feminist'.
Because, though true to Bollywood, boor extraordinaire Badri gets the girl, he also gets ridiculously sloshed and tells his horrible, violent father at the conclusion of the film that he is a bad person who doesn't not let women pursue careers. My guess is people in India found it fairly progressive that the protagonist did not actually let the woman he abducted die inside the trunk of the car. Though common human sense says, such a man shouldn't be let alone near an ant unsupervised, forget a human being, in the Indian scheme of gender justice, all was fair in love and two super-hit nightclub numbers. The rousing support for Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya was symptomatic of how even in the presumably 'aware' social circles in India, dignity of women is considered a conditional allowance, not an unquestionable right, the breach of which should be met with punishment, not romance. In a country with a frustrating understanding of gender equality, we actually cannot afford to send out mixed messages as Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya did.
The rousing support for Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya was symptomatic of how even in the presumably 'aware' social circles in India, dignity of women is considered a conditional allowance, not an unquestionable right,
Judwaa 2 doesn't even pretend that nearly two decades have passed since the original film was released, when there were just a few channels to call out it's obnoxious sexism. Which brings us to the question, what gave the makers the courage to go ahead and make the same film, its misogyny intact? Look no further than the film's raging collections and the nearly non-existent protests, to figure what.
One is compelled to wonder if Bollywood's slapstick ideas only have to do with violating women's bodies and ignoring consent? Judwaa 2 showcases every possible way of harassment imaginable to women in India, perpetrated by the male protagonist. A lecherous co-passenger hurling sexually coloured comments at a woman on a flight, a man in a mall who grabs someone's butt, a man who has been rebuffed but comes back to forcibly smooch a girl in a public space, a man who spots a house help in a skirt and immediately grabs her and rubs himself against her — the list is infuriating.
Not only that, the women in the film — obviously — are made out to be the most confusing humans you would know. So the character played by Tapsee Pannu is initially upset that Varun Dhawan's character forcibly smooched her and her mother, but runs right back into his arm thinking it was him who fought a few louts harassing her at a basketball game. A part of me felt that character she plays doesn't need a boyfriend, she needs a lesson in self-respect first.
A part of me felt that character doesn't need a boyfriend, she needs a lesson in self-respect first.
Judwaa 2's success comes unsurprisingly at a time when a host of men and women actually went to town arguing that the repulsive 'Aunty Ki Ghanti' song doing the rounds of the internet was actually about consent. Several 'fans', apart from shouting lines from that song in public places, argued that since the singer is asking 'Bol na anty aoon kya', it is clear that he is seeking consent. Ask them what kind of people actually think saying 'hey should I come and flap your boobs' qualify as consent, they will present you a plethora of arguments that usually make one point — 'but it's a joke!'
Before HuffPost India and a few other news outlets pointed out the frighteningly misogynistic nature of the song, several social media pages of comedy groups and even self-proclaimed 'feminist' content sites made 'funny' memes about the song, helping normalise and legitimise this brand of misogyny as 'fun'. No wonder Judwaa 2 exists and is laughing its way to the bank.
Ask any woman, if a random man grabbed her butt in a mall and gnawed at her mouth, she'd be furious and traumatised. It's high time films start sticking to the script of reality on issues like these.
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