Media, one of the vastest tools of communication has evolved into the most effective way to modify people’s perception. From handwritten documents to print media and now digital social platform, it has opened many channels within itself. Cinema is one of its wings which came into existence in last few decades. This has become the main source of entertainment in 21st century. Now a whole new industry has come into existence. In terms of this diverse country, the Indian cinema has become a major part of people’s life. Industrialists are making millions by producing any form of cinema. When we talk about merits of cinema, we should also talk about demerits of it. In the name of freedom no one can misuse the means for their own purpose. There should be some ethics and morals in digital communication too. Bollywood, being one of the biggest industries has stereotyped communities, identities, gender and promoted false perception. Stereotype is generalizing an individual or a group to some behavior or things. It is a mistaken idea about them based upon how they look outside. It can be totally or partially wrong.
Bollywood had played major role in forming wrong perceptions about gender and communities by stereotyping them.
Bollywood had made some really problematic movies, songs, scenes, characters etc. that not only portray objectionable image but also diminishes the very presentations they argue to portray. They have depicted Dark colored people as dacoit and savage. The movie ‘All The Best’ is such example. They are plenty of other movies that shows dark colored people either a drug dealer, smuggler, or gangster. Movies like ‘Fukrey’, ‘Phir Hera Pheri’ are the examples of such cases. Bollywood have also made certain beauty standards. The obsession with fair color is no hidden case. Songs like ‘Chittiyan Kalaiyan ve’, ‘Hum Kaale hai to kya hua dil wale hain’, and the most recent when the Black Lives Matter Movement was at peak ‘Goriya tujhe dekh ke beyounce bhi sharma jaayegi’ shows that they not only glorify Racism but promote it and argues that color black is inferior.
The industry also promotes derogatory behavior against women. We have witnessed the patriarchal and sexist songs and movies from a long period in Bollywood. The portrayal of women as greedy and gold digger is very problematic in nature. Movie ‘Pyar ka Punchnama’ is a very famous example of this. There are plenty of songs that promote questionable behavior against women. A very famous song ‘Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si Soti raaton mein jaagi si Mili ek ajnabi se Koyi aage na peechhe Tum hi kaho yeh koyi baat hai’, the other song ‘A B C D padli bohot, achhi baatein Karli bohot, ab karunga tere sath gandi baat’ and ‘Yeh uska style hoyenga
Hothon pe na dil mein haan hoyenga’ promotes rape culture and crimes against women.
Some dialogues from celebrated movies are just nail in the coffin. “Akeli ladki khuli hui tijori ki tarah hoti hai’ from the movie ‘Jab We Met’ is one of its kind. Another from the movie ‘Malamaal’ “Agar khoobsurat ladki ko na chedo to wo bhi to uski beizzati hoti hai na” is blatantly promoting eve teasing.
The industry has not left fat shaming also. Where the movies shows chubby characters as side kick or to use fat jokes for. One of this example is ‘Wanted’.
The presentation of South Indian characters is another problematic issue. The movies represents all of the South as Tamil as it is the only southern state. That too is faulty. They mix up Malyali, Kannad and Tamil people all together. The industry shows them craving over Idli or dosa or a Rajnikant fan or weird in nature. One of the example is the character of Shahrukh Khan in the movie ‘Raone’ where he is shown a person eating noodles with curd having curly hair and weird accent.
Indian cinema has completed 100 years. But some stereotypes remain the same. Nothing about them has changed in general. In terms of stereotyping the community, the present is same as the past. First talking about the Sikhs, Indian cinema has portrayed them as loud, drunkards, abusive, and foodies. Is it the same case with all Sikhs? No it is not the case. Whenever you see a Sikh in an Indian movie, you’ll find all those qualities. Another stereotyping associated with Sikhs is names in movies like Manpreet, Harpreet, Manjot and so on. Some of the examples are the character of Diljit Dosanjh in ‘Good Newzz’ where he is shown dumb. The movie ‘Jo bole so nihal’ where the character of Sunny Deol is shown easily heated person who always starts to fight and less educated. In the movie ‘Mohabbatein’ the character of Anupam Kher is a Sikh character who wears bright colorful clothes and is just for comic relief. This stereotyping makes people perceive Sikhs as loud, drunkard, and foodie, and builds a homogeneous impression of all Sikhs.
The other very common stereotype is a Muslim often portrayed as a terrorist. This is the most common and typical thing in Indian cinema. Any goon, terrorist butcher, or anti-social element has to be a Muslim. This has led to a general misconception about Muslims being violent and extremists. The other stereotype which goes with the Muslims is green color, amulet, skull cap, plaid, kohl, and etc. You’ll find dozens of examples in most of the movies where the Muslim dominated area has green colored flags, people are wearing amulet, plaid and so on. This is not the case with the community majorly. But it is shown in the movies and now it has become a general perception. Post-independence movies have always doubted Muslims for their love for the country. Movies like Chak De India is one of its examples where Kabir Khan has to prove his love for the country. Movies like Fiza, Kurban etc. are the examples of Muslims shown as terrorist. Now a new trend has come into the industry. The makers are now returning to the history. The recent movies ‘Taanhaji’ and ‘Padmavat’ have shown Muslim rulers evil, pervert, and savage. Muslim women have shown as the victim of a conservative family. The recent movie ‘Gully Boy’ is one of the examples where Safeena is struggling with her family.
Christians and Parsi are the other stereotyped community. A Parsi would have a distinctive accent, always using the word ‘dikra’ during the conversation. They would wear the same black cylindrical cap, drive vintage cars and wear white coats. ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’ is such example. Christians are shown immoral and would have a distinctive English accent.
Gender Stereotypes in Bollywood
Gender discrimination has always been an issue. Indian cinema is no exception. Though there are stereotype breaking movies also. But in general, gender bias does exist in Indian cinema. Whenever you see a girl child rooms in movie, it would have a pink colored interior and the boy’s blue. This has divided the colors on the basis of gender. Dolls would be the favorite toys of a girl. Boys are bound with cars and guns. The next stereotype found in terms of gender is that the hero has to save the heroine. Some antagonist would kidnap the heroine and hero has to save her. The most common movies are male centric where the story revolves around the hero and heroine plays the supporting role. Hero will roam around her. They will fall in love and some chaos would occur where the hero has to save her. But gradually the situation is changing. Female centric movies are made. Movies like Nil Battey Sannata, Neerja, Kahaani are the good examples of breaking this stereotype.
The very famous dialogue from the film ‘Mard’ “Mard ko dard nhi hota” (the man doesn’t feel the pain) has left a great impression. This has stereotyped men with machoism and a heroic image. Indian cinema has spread the conception that men can not cry and doesn’t feel the pain. This stereotype has affected the society negatively. Men are bound to be strong, muscular and less expressive.
Linguistic discrimination is common in society. So is in Indian cinema. A Bihari person will have the particular Bihari accent while speaking any language. He won’t be able to differentiate between masculine and feminine gender. He won’t be able to speak English fluently. He will be confused in sounds like sh and s, z and j etc.
The discrimination has targeted the Bihari identity. This can’t be applicable to the whole Bihari community. But it is shown in the Indian movies. For example, Super 30, Half Girlfriend etc. now it is a general perception about Biharis that they cannot speak fluent English as well as Hindi. Bihari accent has been stereotyped in Indian cinema in this manner. Filmmakers are doing it intentionally or unintentionally. The frequent usage of this stereotype has made it a general perception about Biharis. The same case is with the small-town people coming to metro cities. The Indian cinema portrays them in the same manner. The recent example of this, is a web series ‘Thinkistaan’. Where a man named Amit comes to Mumbai from a small-town. He sleeps in the streets and is working in an advertisement company. In the company he is appointed as an editor in Hindi language. The character is portrayed in a way that he confuses between the sounds and words. People in the company make fun of his accent and Hindi. Everyone thinks of his as a fool. On the other hand, there is another character who speaks fluent English. Being a junior of and less experienced than Amit, he is promoted before Amit. Everyone finds him smart, handsome and talented on the basis of his language. Amit is ignored because of Hindi he has. The makers have portrayed him in a way that a small-town man who is speaking his own dialect is incapable of doing other things. The other discriminations on the basis of language is done to Bihari are, presenting them as UPSC aspirant, fools, aliens to modern technologies and etc. The supporting cast make fun of their language. They are shown as uncivilized, unhygienic, abusive and etc. The most common discrimination to Bihari language is, using it for comedy. In the movie ‘PK’, Amir Khan gets to learn Bhojpuri which is a dialect of Bihari language. The major humor of the movie is based on his language and utterance. Why is it so that always the Bihari accent is used for humor in the main stream media? There are plenty of examples of this linguistic discrimination. Any comic role or backward based role would have a Bihari accent.
South Indians have also been the victim of this discrimination. They are always shown, using words “Ayyo”, “Inna”, “Akka” etc. ‘chennai express’ is a clear example of this linguistic discrimination. In the movie, Deepika Padukone is playing a character of a south Indian female. She is shown in the movie, using words “Nakko” and “Ayyo” continuously. Why is it so? Why always a south Indian, in the movie, would be a Madrasi? South Indians would be shown as typical dark colored and strict personalities in movies. This has become so common that it has become an issue of identity. A tension between south and north has always existed. This linguistic discrimination has made this tension a little more complex.
A new trend has come these days. The use of accent of Kanpur (A district in the state of Uttar Pradesh) is attracting many filmmakers. They are portraying the accent to represent not just Kanpur but whole state. This new trend is already getting more attention from the audience. The makers are using it very frequently. This has resulted many YouTube channels mimicking the accent has been created. ‘Make Joke of’ is very famous example. The use abuses and vulgarity are very common in this trend. This whole thing is being glorified. Apart from the movies, web series are contributing in this more. The youth generation is attracted and using this trend in their daily life. This can be questionable on moral grounds. But the linguistic discrimination which is done in this trend is not acceptable. Summing up the entire state with one accent and representing that accent in a bad form is the major problem. It is clear that in this diverse country, there are thousands of accents that changes on every corner and moreover there are other things that can represent the concerned community. But showing only one aspect is injustice.
Another linguistic discrimination that is from past and still exist in cinema is rowdy language usually known as Tapori language. The characters that have links with Marathi or shown as goons, used to have this language. Now if anyone uses this language, he/she is to be considered as some street thugs. They used to have a certain distinctive attire also. After a period of time this rowdy language shown as comic and get to use for humor. This shows the power of cinema that it can put something from one side to another.
These languages are made fun of because of their utterances, accents and usages. People enjoy this and promote it. This linguistic discrimination still exists in Indian cinema.
Police are the savior and guard of the society. They are tended to control the violence and law and order. But in the recent years they are shown in movies controlling the violence through violence. The very examples are Dabang and Police wala gunda. Police are not goons. They are supposed to control the goons, not to become one. This image of police in Indian cinema has entirely changed their behavior. Through the movies the encounter has been normalized. In the movies, policeman is given title like ‘encounter specialist’. In real world the number of fake encounters has risen in recent years. Movies plays an important role in behavior changing and making a discourse. The portrayal of police in movies changed the discourse entirely. The portrayal of police as violent has led to being violent in the real world.
The other thing that has been normalized through media, is the use of drugs. The web series has major role in this discourse changing in than main stream movies. This issue is very recent. YouTube channels have the major role in this. The use of drugs like weed, marijuana and others are common in the web series. It is shown as it is part of daily life. The characters use those drugs in a fun way and it has been generalized. As the youth generation is the targeted audience of these web series, the use of drugs among the young generation has become common. Weed is being smoked in public places. Few years back, drugs used to be as taboo, but now it is considered as fashion. The common use of drugs has somehow managed the audience that it is not harmful. The Multimedia has the major role in this discourse changing. The use of drugs is no more an abuse among the young generation in general.
The problem with stereotyping is that it results in discrimination against communities, hatred, gender biasness, crime against women, communal hatred, and misinformation and so on. It creates misconception about individuals and groups. The male characters teasing and objectifying women as objects has resulted women being look at as sex object and commodity. Consider this, a South Indian travels to the north, will he not be given weird looks? Will a Muslim not be doubted as terrorist and savage? Will a dark colored person not be discriminated? Will chubby people not be shamed?
The important thing here is that in India people are mostly influenced by movies. Be it for fashion trends, behavior, perception, and what we call ‘dialougebaazi. Every week thousands of people turn to cinema halls for the sake of entertainment as escape from their daily life struggles. Which eventually have a great impact on them. Now the responsibility comes to the makers to be more sensible. It is their responsibility to research properly before making movies.
It is also a responsibility of the audience to be aware of what they are shown and to differentiate between what is wrong and what is right. If they come across such stereotypical content, they should come up with what is wrong. They should not believe to whatever they see and hear. And surely not to form any opinion with no concrete information. People need to promote content that is more realistic in representation and have no bias.
This survey may act like a foundation for analysts. Media is an important tool. It is called ‘Mass Communication’. People can inculcate a positive perception through cinema. A gradual approach is needed to take this research a little further and expand more dimensions of media and cinema.
- Jean Folkerts and Stephen Lacy. (2005) The Media in your life, (third edition). New Delhi: Pearson Education.
- Andrew Grant. (2018, July). What is Bollywood? A brief history of Indian cinema from 1913 to the present. https://www.liveabout.com/what-is-bollywood-3549901
- Sanchita Paul. (February,2017). History of Indian cinema. https://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/history/history-of-indian-cinema
- 14 Times Bollywood Endorsed Gender Stereotypes And You Didn’t Even Realise It! https://www.indiatimes.com/entertainment/bollywood/14-times-bollywood-endorsed-gender-stereotypes-and-you-didn-t-even-realise-it-252806.html