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New trend of Bollywood: Selling mediocre movies using social issues

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Dr. Ravi Kant Upadhyay
Dr. Ravi Kant Upadhyay
Nanotechnology researcher with hobby of reading and writing about science, politics, religion and society.

Bollywood has always been accused of promoting stereotypes; repacking them again and again and sell under different titles. The reason behind Bollywood’s propensity for brazen exploitation of stereotypes is their easy acceptability by the audience which lessens the pressure on the filmmaker to be more creative. Among several filmmakers, Anubhav Sinha comes first in mind when thinking of spicing up a social issue and wrapping it with stereotypes to serve the audience. After the critical acclaim and box office success received by the movie ‘Pink’ Anubhav Sinha identified a potential short cut formula for making successful movies. Put together a mediocre script on a social issue decorate it with stereotypes and tag it with ‘Inspired from true events’ and eureka there is another successful movie.

These types of movies don’t go through tough scrutiny like other movies because both critics and audiences feel pressure to appreciate these movies to avoid being tagged as insensitive towards social issues. Anubhav sinha is selling cheap copies of the movie ‘Pink’ with different social issues, he smartly uses the issue to divert the attention of the audience from the lack of creativity in the film script. Audiences feel pressure to appreciate the movie because it is dealing with an important social issue in doing that they usually choose to ignore flaws in the script and mediocre film making. Sinha’s recent ‘Thappad’ is third in the series of mediocre movies on a lingering social issue. Even though Thappad is a movie with a noble message the film script lacks creativity.

The movie has a flawed script with numerous loopholes and barely developed characters with convoluted characterization. Like ‘Mulk’ movie thappad also lacks proper understanding of the legal system and can easily be accused of propagating misinformation about the divorce proceedings and legal aspects of it. For example, legally, slap alone that too in the heat of moment can’t be considered as domestic violence in a divorce proceeding as suggested in the movie. A judge usually suggests counseling in these types of cases. Perhaps that’s the reason Sinha avoided the dramatic court scene like Mulk because he knew legally the plot is flawed. The protagonist suggests that the ‘Thappad’ surfaced all other wrongdoings of her husband which she was ignoring but Sinha chose not to discuss those because presumably, he wanted to focus on the Thappad since the inclusion of other incidences will make the movie another version of several previous domestic violence based TV shows and movies. Just one Thappad instigating protagonist to ask for a divorce is the only novelty of the script but it is also the biggest loophole. Thappad promotes the stereotype that somehow housewives are lesser than working women and most of the women are forced to become housewives which is entirely untrue.

Being a housewife is also as respectable as being working women and it’s not some kind of social punishment as the movie suggests. The movie shows how women have to give up on their hobbies after marriages, which is sad but it’s not true only for women men also usually give up on their hobbies because of lack of time and the burden of responsibilities. So giving it a gender angle is another wrongdoing this movie is accused of.

The more deserving protagonist of the movie was the poor housemaid who was constantly getting physically abused but for her Sinha’s solution was ‘If your husband hits you, you hit him back instead of taking divorce’, however, this solution might have worked in the case of Ammu the protagonist. But of course, movie revolved around domestic abuse of a housemaid would have not been so successful. Among other things, the most serious issue with thappad is that it projects divorce as a first and only option instead of last resort for marital problems which is not justified both legally and socially. The movie portrays divorce as a woman empowerment tool and blatantly glorifies it. The protagonist remains adamant even after getting to know about the pregnancy and keeps on insisting on divorce and somehow that was suggested to be empowering, which was absurd because the protagonist was simply being selfish putting her ego in front of a child’s future. Imagine the mental state of a child whose parents were divorced even before he/she was born. Overall, the movie glorifies and oversold the concept of divorce; the issue of domestic violence deserves a more sincere and honest film. Basically, if you are married stay away from this movie it will just make you more mentally intolerant toward each other. For every woman: if you watch be careful with what you take away from this movie and keep in mind that like every movie this movie also had financial goals to achieve, so exaggeration was inevitable to make it more sensational.

Sinha’s previous two movies Article 15 and Mulk also carry the same caricature. Besides social issues he also loves to claim the movie is based on an actual event which is a desperate attempt to confer more authenticity to the movie. Article 15 also claims to be based on actual events. Except in movie the perpetrators were brahmans while in case of the real incident the caste of the criminals was thakur. Now for a movie that discusses casteism in society, not being stick to the actual cast of criminals seems not right. Making a movie on someone’s brutal death is like selling someone’s pain and torture. Just assume if those girls were alive would Sinha dare to ask them that can he change the identity of the perpetrators because it doesn’t fit his image of the real events. The most disgraceful moment in the movie comes when Sinha tries to justify the violence and rioting by a Dalit leader citing ‘revolution demand agitation’; no Mr. Sinha burning of public property can’t be justified by any means no matter how noble the cause is. Sinha’s Dalit leader Azad inspired by a real-life leader who has several cases against him falsely resembles Chandra Shekhar Azad. The villain of the movie ‘Mahantji’ resembles U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath but the irony is Sinha thanks him in the movie credits this shows the filmmaker has no serious intention to put forward any social message he is too scared of the very system he is calling corrupt.    

Mulk has been already criticized by many for its superficial treatment of the complex problem of terrorism. Just think how many times parents of a terrorist refused to take the dead body as shown in the movie but you can easily remember an incident where dead terrorists are called martyrs by their parents. The character played by late Rishi kapoor says in court “If you will ask with love I will open my heart but if you will force me than I don’t care I am only answerable to country and God.” And there lies the problem; everyone is also answerable to the legal system besides god. This increasingly popular concept of “I am only answerable to God’s court or I will accept only God’s judgement“ is very dangerous. People in Shaheen Bagh also made the same claim when refused court’s order saying that they believe in God’s court.

Sinha has a history of making the same kind of movie until he exhausts the genre and the audience rejects it. For example, after the movie ‘Dush’ he made a similar type of flop movie ‘Cash’, after hit ‘Tum bin’ he made a flop sequel. He also made Tathastu a cheap rip off of Hollywood movie John Q. Now let’s see how many movies it will take before the audience realizes Sinha’s movies are just products of poor film making with mediocre script having a social issue as protecting shield.

Sinha is not the only filmmaker who has a propensity towards smearing stereotypes on the silver screen, almost all the movies focusing on a social issue suffers from this predisposition. Making an honest investigation and then presenting the facts with an unbiased attitude is not a favorite practice for filmmakers. They usually pick a side and then narrate the whole story singing praise for that side. Filmmakers don’t want to spend much time on fact-checking most attention is paid on increasing the emotional content of the script to make it sellable. That’s why documentaries are a more honest and suitable form for discussing social issues, not Bollywood movies.

Finally advice for Sinha: Hire a lawyer first before hiring a scriptwriter when you are making a court drama to avoid butchering of legal issues in your movies.      

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Dr. Ravi Kant Upadhyay
Dr. Ravi Kant Upadhyay
Nanotechnology researcher with hobby of reading and writing about science, politics, religion and society.
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