Home » Just like that | Bollywood’s new take on gender equality is big

Just like that | Bollywood’s new take on gender equality is big

by Joe Bourn

After a long time, I went to a cinema hall to watch a movie, Rocky aur Rani kii Prem Kahani. Responses to the movie vary, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed the movie. Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt give great performances. Ranveer as Rocky, his brash brood never The empire of a very rich Punjabi family in Delhi’s Karol Bagh – with its Ferrari and hilariously bad English – was impressive if slightly caricatured. Alia Bhatt as Rani was great. Her bhadralok The Bengali family is diametrically diverse, steeped in classical culture, for whom English is as much a mother tongue as Bengali. The supporting cast consisting of Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan and Shabana Azmi is a towering presence.

Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh with Karan Johar during press conference of Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. (PTI Photo)(PTI)

At a time when many Over the Top (OTT) platforms are offering great value and showcasing a huge number of overlooked but very talented actors and directors, it’s good that Bollywood too has grabbed a piece of the viewership pie, in the form of several hits like Rocky aur Rani, Oh My God 2, and Gadar 2. For quite some time now – with one or two exceptions – only south Indian films like KGF 2 and RRR have been raking in the moolah.

Given my time constraints, I usually wait for a movie to come out on OTT and watch it at its best. But my wife, who had seen Rocky aur Rani insisted that I see it too. There was a time when as a college student in the mid-1970s, I went to see several movies every week. This was because I was the film critic of a weekly newspaper that has long been defunct Linkthe newspaper magazine patriot, which also no longer exists. My column appeared every week and I earned an amount 100 every month, which was then considered princely. I finally left it, because I couldn’t stand such a plethora of unwatchable movies. But I got interested in the film genre and studied film seriously. In fact, I wrote a script for my own short film called Nahin Kuch Bhi Nahin, which was accepted by Doordarshan—then the only platform available for such projects. However, by the time this happened, I had already qualified for the Indian Foreign Service, and there was no time to pursue this other interest.

But to return to Rocky aur Rani. The film is a standout entertainer but with a very important and relevant message woven into it: Gender Equality. Without giving away the story, I will only say that the film does more on this crucial issue than all the government’s ad campaigns. We have been a heavily male-dominated society for too long, and women – and their aspirations – have been suppressed or marginalized. Things have somewhat changed for the better now where modern and educated women are conscious of their rights and have made their mark in many fields with an excellence that challenges male monopolies. However, the subjugation and exploitation of women—especially in rural India—is far from being erased.

This movie conveys the message of gender equality in a way that can be easily internalized by men and women without being preachy or preachy. The key word in the male-female relationship is “respect”. It cannot be reduced to a rigid formula, as is customary in the West, that you make the bed today and I will make it tomorrow, or that both have to take turns cooking and changing the baby’s diapers. Yes, this sharing of burdens is also important, but the real impenetrable barrier still remains male attitudes. Unless men are imbued with this vital sense of mutual respect, formulas are of little value. I had an aunt who wore the pants at home, but if her husband was late for work, she wouldn’t hesitate to run his stroller to the car or even shine his shoes. For his part, he treated her with total respect, took her advice in every decision, treated her as an equal and above all did what she wanted. Every relationship is a microcosm in itself, and there can be no universal formula. From respect comes rights, and from rights comes equality.

Another message that the film successfully conveys is about the invisible but very tangible divide that so-called genealogy creates in society. For too long, generations of talented Indians have been judged by their ability to speak English with the right accent and fluency, or by their proficiency in Western table manners and dress. But slowly but surely, these barriers are being eroded. India has changed from a thali (kidding) with an emphasis currently (bowls) separated from each other, in a crucible. In this vessel, people can approach each other regardless of barriers of class and caste and differences in background and upbringing. The process is still incomplete, but more and more people in the vast sprawl of urban India prefer to choose a good man as their partner, despite differences in “social status” or family vetoes.

Kudos to Karan Johar, the director, and the writers, Ishita Moitra, Shashank Khaitan and Sumit Roy. Readers, please write your opinions about the movie.

Pavan K Varma is a writer, diplomat and former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha).

Just Like That is a weekly column where Varma shares nuggets from the world of history, culture, literature and personal memories with HT Premium readers

The opinions expressed are personal

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