Bollywood and the golden goose

By Bhushan Salunke
The Devil’s Advocate, serving you a cocktail of humour, wit and sarcasm

Bollywood is a mass production factory which manufactures movies on an assembly line, churning them out at the drop of a hat. Bollywood is a major source of mass entertainment for the Indian population. The demand for movies is so great that Bollywood cannot keep up with it and in its urgency to fulfilling it, Bollywood does not shy away from blatantly copying ideas, scripts, music tunes etc from other sources, notably Hollywood.

Bollywood can spot the goose that lays the golden egg, miles away. When Bollywood is not busy objectifying women in its item number songs, it is making biopics to satisfy public curiosity. The biopics include sportspeople, politicians, terrorists, gangsters, unsung heroes and historical characters. More than 40 biopics have been made in the last few years. Typical examples are Mary Kom, Dangal, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, M S Dhoni The Untold Story, Soorma, The Reluctant Prime Minister, PM Narendra Modi, Thalaivi, The Dirty Pictures, Omerta, Daddy, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Neerja, Manjhi, Manikarnika etc.

Biopics offer an off-the-shelf storyline for Bollywood to work on. Biopics have the potential to create a sense of inquisitiveness about the personality, the sordid details that were never known, raise the patriotism levels of certain groups of people etc. What were the struggles of Mary Kom? Why did Silk Smith commit suicide? Etc.

For Bollywood biopic is just a cash cow, waiting to be milked.

With an eye on the box office, Bollywood runs the risk of sensationalising biopics by creating larger-than-life personalities and embellishing them with lies. For instance, in the film Dangal, Bollywood locked up Mahavir Phogat, the father, in a storeroom, while the wrestling match was going on, to create tension and drama. In real life, Mahavir Phogat was in the stands watching his daughter win the match.

To ensure the movie is a commercial success, Bollywood used a beauty queen, Priyanka Chopra, who had none of the oriental looks of Mary Kom. Bollywood could have easily picked actors from Manipur, Mary Kom’s home state, but the box office success would not be guaranteed. Priyanka Chopra made more money out of this movie than Mary Kom did in her entire life.

Bollywood in its quest for box office dollars, is causing damage by discouraging women from considering employment in “male dominated” professions, making it difficult to close the gender equality and wage gap

The recent biopic Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl has stirred up a controversy because of the negative portrayal of Indian Air Force (IAF) men as sexists and misogynists. It is a story about Flt Lt. Gunjan Saxena, who became the first female Indian Air Force (IAF) officer to fly a plane in a combat zone during the 1999 Kargil war.

The Indian Air Force has written to the Central Board of Film Certification and has lodged a formal complaint against the negative portrayal of “an organisation which has gender neutrality objective and has always provided an equal opportunity to both male and women personnel”.

Many women IAF officers, past and present, have come to the defence of the IAF and have rubbished the movie. Retired Wing Commander Namrita Chandi, who served in the Indian Air Force with Gunjan Saxena, has written an open letter criticising the film’s portrayal of the IAF men.

In her letter, Namrita Chandi wrote, “I have myself served as a helicopter pilot and I have never faced the kind of abuse and maltreatment as was portrayed in the movie. In fact, men in uniform are true gentlemen and professionals”. Namrita also accused the filmmakers of peddling lies. “Srividya Rajan was the first lady pilot who flew to Kargil—not Gunjan”, she wrote. She also had a piece of advice for Janhvi Kapoor, who played Gunjan in the film. “Lady, let me advice you, please, never again do a film of this kind if you are a proud Indian woman. Stop showcasing Indian professional women and men in such poor light.”

Bollywood in its quest for box office dollars, is causing damage in at least in two ways. First, it discourages women from considering employment in “male dominated” professions, making it difficult to close the gender equality and wage gap. Second, it plays into the hands of toxic feminists who will cry foul and brand all men as sexists and misogynists. It is bizarre that such “agenda-driven” movies are made predominantly by men who represent patriarchy.

My wife was an officer in the Indian army. She is proud of her career and the personal growth it has offered. She has no incidents to recount to show male army officers in bad light. Female officers were treated as equals, with respect and dignity.

Bollywood’s tentacles and influence reach far and wide and into every nook and corner. So, it has the moral and social responsibilities to present facts and truths as they are.

Bollywood should stop making a goose of itself and not indulge in adding tadka (seasoning) to their movies, in order to make profit at the cost of facts.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author

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