Bollywood Is Obsessed With Categorizing Women
People have complex personalities. It is hard to categorize them as black or white or to put them in a clear-cut binary. But it appears that Bollywood films are unable to understand this straightforward idea, as a result of which, throughout the years, they have only provided us with two types of female characters: the nice girl and the evil girl.
The nice girl is someone who preserves the Indian sanskaar, to use cinema terminology. She is a hard worker who frequently sacrifices her desires and needs for the family. She is also the perfect daughter-in-law and wife, fulfilling all the religious rites. The bad girl, on the other hand, is a person who disregards social conventions and lives life on her own terms.
Let’s begin with an illustration. There are two ladies with two separate personalities in Cocktail. They are restricted to binary choices and their personalities do not function in a grey area. Veronica is the wicked girl, while Meera is the nice girl. Veronica is the free-spirited one, whereas Meera is the sanskaari woman. The good girl often prevails in the unstated conflict in all good girl vs. bad girl films. Cocktail is no different. Bollywood easily ignored the fact that the boyfriend had an extramarital affair with the good girl while making sure that the good girl was the only one who received proper treatment in the film.
Aitraaz is another illustration. Because she decided to terminate the kid in order to further her career goals, Sonia is presented as the bad girl. The way the movie depicted Sonia as a terrible girl for putting her job before the kid was problematic, even if she was wrong for cheating and for fabricating a case of harassment against Raj. She was made into a villain for having ambition. Priya, however, was depicted as a virtuous girl who had a happy ending.
Let’s discuss Kuch Kuch Hota Hai as well. While Tina is the exact opposite of Anjali’s tomboyish personality, When requested to perform a song, Tina responds with a bhajan, cementing her reputation as the virtuous girl. Anjali wasn’t shown as the bad girl, but Rahul dislikes her because of her tomboyish demeanor. Funny enough, he married her after she started acting like the “nice girl”.
The presentation of girls as either nice or bad has the flaw of entirely erasing the fact that women are human beings with their own agency and individuality. It simply goes on to reinforce the idea that there are only two types of women: nice and terrible. Being a multifaceted, complicated person with flaws takes away a woman’s agency. Another troubling aspect is that the virtuous girl always receives the cake. The portrayal simply serves to push women against one another.
The good girl/bad girl stereotype only serves to reinforce the notion that women’s primary function in society is that of carers. Women feel guilty for simply deciding to put their wants ahead of others since being independent and enjoying life on your own terms is viewed as a quality exclusive to the bad girl. In the traditional Bollywood conflict between the good girl and the evil girl, it is always the women who come out on top.
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