Graphics: Soham Sen
Graphics: Soham Sen
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HBO Max pulled down a Hollywood classic Gone With The Wind as racial tensions reached an all-time high following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May. As Many Twitter users have expressed outrage over HBO’s move, but honestly — this was long overdue.

Not just because the 1939 film featured skewed, white-washed representation of African-Americans during the Civil War, or its romanticisation of the slavery-ridden Antbellum South, but because the film even contains a marital rape scene everyone seems to have forgotten about.

HBO has stated that the movie will come back to its library of films, supported with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions”. But those critical of the film being pulled down argue that it made Hattie McDaniel the first black actor to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy. The reality is that McDaniel was not even allowed to sit next to her White co-stars during the Oscar ceremony due to racial segregation. That’s not the only tragedy — the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People disowned her for playing a role they felt perpetuated negative stereotypes about Black people, her Oscar was dismissed as “valueless”, and then subsequently the statue went missing.


Also read: Picture abhi patriarchy hai: Studying Bollywood’s sexism disease


 

Many SRK films

But in the same vein of looking at classics that have not aged well, we must shift focus to India’s successful but tone-deaf films that need to be taken down. Karan Johar’s blockbuster directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and the problematic ideals it promotes of an “attractive woman” and femininity, deserves an honorary mention in this list.

The Shah Rukh Khan-Manisha Koirala starrer Dil Se has become a cult over the past two decades. But it’s storyline is just as deeply etched in my memory as AR Rehman’s ‘Jiya Jale’, and not for the best reasons. When I rewatched that movie as a 23- year-old, thanks to the lockdown, I could not stop cringing. Khan’s character, Amarkanth Varma, fails to understand what ‘no’ means, with Koirala’s character being anything but ambiguous about her feelings towards him. Fun fact: this film was released in 1998, the same year Deepa Mehta came out with Fire — a pathbreaking film that addressed homosexuality in the most nuanced manner possible.

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Homosexuality may no longer be illegal, but Bollywood’s representation of it needs to be. What began as a funny little segment in Nikhil Advani’s Kal Ho Na Ho of Kanta Ben freaking out watching two men in bed together (problematic nonetheless), snowballed into another Dharma Productions nightmare — Dostana. The film caricatured homosexuality, and while some argue that it brought the LGBTQ conversation to the forefront, maybe the filmmakers could have taken a cue from Deepa Mehta, Shonali Bose or Zoya Akhtar instead.

Blackface — Souten to Bala

The blackface controversy may have gained momentum after an embarrassing image of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from an Arabian Nights party in 2001 emerged, but Bollywood is just as guilty. Saawan Kumar Tak’s 1983 film Souten featured Shreeram Lagoo sporting blackface to underline the fact that he was playing a Dalit character, Sunny Deol starrer Ghatak (1996) featured an entire song sequence with backup dancers in blackface. More recently Bhumi Pednekar appeared in brownface in Bala — was there really not a single dusky-skinned actress in India who could have played that role, instead of offensively putting makeup on Pedhnekar? And while we are at it, completely drop the song ‘Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan’.


Also read: Bala’s bald patch is beautiful but its brown-faced hypocrisy can’t be ignored


Zero idea of consent

Then there was the horrid Hum Aapke Hain Koun — in what world is it okay to force a woman to marry anyone, let alone her dead sister’s husband? In the end, it’s an annoying Indian Spitz that saves Madhuri Dixit’s character from a loveless marriage. I have so many questions, the biggest one being — how did this movie make Rs 200 crore worldwide for showing that any woman can be used as compensation for a dead wife or motherless child. Another fun fact: This Sooraj Barjatya film released in 1994, the same year Shekhar Kapur’s powerful biopic Bandit Queen, based on the life of Phoolan Devi, hit theatres and that is what the censor board chose to ban.

Dhanush’s superhit Raanjhanaa caused a furore because of its glorification of stalking in the name of love. Even actor Swara Bhaskar, who plays the lead’s best friend, admitted to this. Another example of how men fail to grasp the concept of a clear, unambiguous ‘no’. The ignorance and dafteness of making a movie like this in India, which records a case of stalking every 55 minutes, is baffling.

Given that HBO’s decision to pull down Gone With The Wind is temporary, I am not against it. Such a welcome step must be practiced in India as well. Recognition, admission and denouncement of problematic films is the need of the hour, especially in Bollywood.

Views are personal.


Also read: 5 Bollywood movies that should not have been made this decade


 

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8 Comments Share Your Views

8 COMMENTS

  1. There are a lot of points in this article which I don’t agree with.
    The thing that bugs me the most is the thing you said about Hum Aapke Hai Kaun.
    Madhuri Dixit was not forced into the marriage. She had a choice to say NO but she didn’t. Her family members in the film were not the type to force her into a marriage with her late sister’s husband. A major point to consider here is that she did not say NO to her family members for getting married because everyone (including her) thought that it would be the best thing for her to raise her late sister’s infant child. Her “decision” was in the interest of her family and NOT due to coercion or as “compensation”.
    Painting everything with the single view point of “anti patriarchy” and “feminism” is not correct. Cultural context needs to be taken into consideration as well as well as the “cultural mindset” prevailing at the time of the shooting of the film.

  2. It is time, we throw out the influence of the islamists, the christianity, the leftist liberatis, where they killed an opinion or way of thinking/idea, just because it did not suit their thinking….. I want such an India today, an India of the past, that is a Hindu India, where every shade of Opinion was allowed to coexist. Every work of art, every idea is a reflection of the times of the society… At different times one may disagree with it….But should it be killed, destroyed, just because one disagrees with it…. I think that is the height of intolerance….Unfortunately the liberals are at the fore front of this….

  3. Pls, don’t write something nonsensical just for the sake of writing a piece. This is the stupidest article I have come across these past few days. 👏

  4. Bhai tu kis dimension mein jita hai!!
    Jo ho gaya usko badal nahi sakte
    Whatever racist, chauvinist and non sensical has been shown in these films, was thought and shot several years ago. While there is no justification of these wrong portrayals and logics today, that’s precisely because we have become matured in our thinking than what it was 20/ 30 or 70 years ago. Act of maturity/ responsibility will be to not let such regressive things happen in movies or societies again and also to let thoughts of next generations mature even further, instead of just sulking over mistakes of past. British desh pe raaj karke gaye is baat pe aaj inquilab zindabad bolke kuch nahi hoga !!

  5. No ofence but what this article promts is that if one has to make movies than not only he / she has to keep in mind censors, general public views, rightists, leftists, liberals, and if after all this he is still with a commercially viable script than they have to also keep scribs happy also.

  6. This has to be the stupidest “liberal” move, as a liberal it makes me cringe. I would advise the journalist to not join the bandwagon: i am glad in india we can watch different things without getting hyper partisan over it.

    If anyone sees gone with teh wind, it only makes them realize how idiotic scarlett and generally the confederacy was. Now you this will become a political issue.

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