In Bollywood, there is only one area of film-making where both men and women are treated equally, and that is in gender stereotyping. In its hundred and four years of history, Indian cinema has evolved a lot when it comes to technique and content, but the one vice it cannot get rid of, is sticking to the outdated cardboard cutouts of male and female characters.

We as Indians have a definite image of an ideal man and woman. We idolise strength and masculinity in men and beauty and submission in women. So an actor is not a hero until he beats up at least a hundred goons to uphold the values of our culture. And the female actor should always be dependent on a hero for safe keeping of her dignity. She should always be ready choose family over career. She should not mind the hero’s casual stalking after all, his love for her is true and he intends to marry her. Doesn’t matter if it is 2017.

So an actor is not a hero until he beats up at least a hundred goons to uphold the values of our culture. And the female actor should always be dependent on a hero for safe keeping of her dignity.

But are the movie makers to be solely blamed for this age-old flaw in the characterisation of film leads? The cine goers flock to the halls to watch such movies repeatedly. Film makers stick to such stereotypes because it is still profitable. This fact can be reinforced by merely looking at the box office collection of movies which stick to these stereotyping and those who choose to break these moulds.

Films like Tumhari Sulu, Bareilly Ki Barfi and Piku are like a breath of fresh air. The lead characters in these films are not only relatable, they are on point in the depiction of new-age Indian men and women. These films are a part of a rare breed of movies where women are sexually and financially independent, and men don’t mind women taking the driving seat. But how much money do such films make? This gaping difference in profits hinders in way of the change that we want to see.

Typecasting of men and women also gives rise to a bigger problem off-screen. Discrepancies in paychecks, male actors have meatier roles, so naturally, their pay-checks are bigger.

With each passing generation, these stereotypes are becoming larger than life. Earlier a hero could fight a bunch of goons and come out victorious. Now the hero can lift cars and defeat an entire army by himself. This alfa male and beta female characterisation has gone beyond being ridiculous. It is now outlandish. People do not relate to these characters anymore. For them, these perfect characters come from the superhero realm, where the man has unlimited superhuman power, and the woman’s beauty and waist-size are always perfect. Washboard abs, crease-less plastic skin and perfect hair and make-up in every situation. Seems like the public wants to live out a fantasy in their seats.

This alfa male and beta female characterisation has gone beyond being ridiculous. It is now outlandish.

So, unless the spectators willingly shun the movies which encourage these gender stereotypes, movie makers will keep out mass producing such characters.

At the end of the day, films are made to make money.

(Pic Credit: Bollywood Hungama)

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Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are author’s own.

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