Hooting, laughing and cheering – the audience reacts enthusiastically as Kabir Singh tries to force a woman to get physical with him. Honestly though, the crowd is only reacting to background sound which makes the entire scene appear ‘funny’.
The director of the movie, Sandeep Reddy Vanga, in a recent interview, went on to justify violence in a relationship and even said there is no love if you cannot slap each other. It is strange to see how Indian society opposes public display of affection but is completely fine with violence and assault on display in public areas.
In Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadkne Do, Ranveer’s character is slapped by his mom in the end of the film for his action and then later goes on to hug him. In that scene, the mother reveals her frustration to her son regarding his immature behavior but expresses love with a hug. Similarly, Preeti slapped Kabir and later hugged him because of the frustration of the time lost and suffering they went through which could have been avoided.
Critics and myself are not offended by character but the glorification of the character. The movie focuses too much on so-called ‘heroic’ nature of toxic masculinity to an extend that it tries to show his irrational misogynist behavior romantically. A society like ours, which is sexually regressive, young adults look at cinema, literature and art for depiction of how love should and can look like, and what is normal. When a mainstream Hindi movie glamorizes and justifies act of violence against partners it is selling wrong ideas of love and romance that in reality are hurtful not just to women but even to men.
We still live in a regressive society where matters regarding love, emotions and family are not discussed or understood. When Kabir in the movie does not understand the meaning of the word ‘No’, pees on the footpath, makes fun of fat women, feels ownership for his girlfriend, mansplain towards his girlfriend about her MBBS studies and smoking is shown as a very masculine thing to do, we reinforce the idea of abusive, toxic men in society.
Many on social networking sites have tried to highlight Alia Bhatt’s character from Gully Boy to justify Kabir Singh acts. We, as a society, fail to understand how cultural and traditions shape our behaviors and psychology. Safina, Alia Bhatt’s character from Gully Boy, is a head-strong woman from a middle-class Muslim family who wishes to have that basic freedom as the men around her. Sadly, life denies her that. While her character is studying to become a doctor she is stuck between her culture and that freedom she seeks to achieve which is reflected by her love affair with Murad – who represents that comfort, freedom and independence that she seeks in her world. In a country where most women do not get to choose their partners, and do not have sexual freedom – for Safina it’s Murad that represents the little freedom that she and millions of Indian women seek in there life, and when that freedom came under threat, she began to protect her little act of liberty by expressing her frustration violently.
Our society’s collective understanding of social behavior, life experiences, women, religion, culture and it’s differences is so little. When movies like these promote those notions that are dangerous to life of women in reality, it shows us that social freedom that we seek is at stake – not just for women, but even for men.
A movie like Kabir Singh reinforces those ideas of abusive relationships, toxic men and culture norm of female ownership and male entitlement by men, it seeks men to inspire for roles where they repress their emotions, be violent because that’s what men do. A movie like this can only inspire for a life that can shatter men and women emotionally.