Kartik Aaryan’s superhit film Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is now available on OTT for viewing. Minting more than 180 crore rupees at the box office, the film has been hailed as an out and out entertainer by viewers and critics alike. But is the film worth praising for all its aspects? Should we not talk about the problematic parts of this blockbuster as it would upset the anti-nepotism brigade of fans rallying behind its lead actor and just because it is better than most recent films?
In a drought-stricken year when big-budget Bollywood films like Samrat Prithviraj, Bachchan Pandey, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Dhaakad and Heropanti 2 tanked in theatres, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2‘s success says out loud that the audience is only interested in investing in entertainment this year. The success of Alia Bhatt’s Gangubai Kathiawadi earlier this year, which won over the viewers with sharp dialogues and an underdog story, further underlines this fact. The bias towards southern masala films like Pushpa: The Rise, KGF: Chapter 2 and Vikram can also be traced back to viewers’ quest for entertaining films that are low on drama and preachiness, but heavy on action or comedy or entertainment, or all three.
So it makes sense that fans of Hindi films are defensive about Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. This horror-comedy is everything the viewers want right now and nothing they don’t. And very conveniently everyone has decided to ignore the blatant fat-shaming and sexism that the film, co-written by Farhad Samji and the movie’s director Anees Bazmi, dish out.
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Here are some Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 jokes that the writers should have simply tossed into the trash can:
Fat-shaming a little kid: A boy in the film is repeatedly fat-shamed by Aaryan’s Ruhaan. On one occasion Ruhaan, a visibly grown-up guy, asks the little kid who says he has seen a person the rest of the family presumes to be dead, “Tu suar hai na Potlu?” when the kid looks confused, he adds, “Tu sure hai na Potlu?” As if this wasn’t enough, Ruhaan then says, “Jee karta hai ise palko pe uthau, lekin kaise? Bhari jo hai itna?” A reminder, this is just one of the many such sequences in the film.
It is 2022 and Bollywood thinks fat-shaming jokes are still funny. Sadly, if the audience even smirks at them or doesn’t call them out, then there is no way film writers will be giving up on fatphobic jokes in future.
Equating women to chudails: Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 was heavily marketed as the return of Manjulika, but she isn’t the only chudail in this sequel. In one scene, a living breathing female character in the film is equated to a chudail, and we are expected to find it funny. One character in the film tells his wife, who is dressed as a witch, “Teri saas theek kehti thi, gharwali thode din baad chudail lagne lagti hai.”
It is not just equating wives with witches, the film also passes generic sexist remarks about women like “Sach kaha hai kisi ne, aurat na marne ke baad bhi peechha nahi chhodti.” Another gem from the great Rooh Baba, sigh!
The Bengali women and black magic trope: Where does one even begin with this one. How has this trope made it to a film made in post-Rhea Chakraborty case era! Have we already forgotten how she and women from West Bengal were stereotyped as practioners of black magic? Didn’t women vehemently oppose this stereotyping and demonisation of Bengali women? Do we need films to further reinforce this belief, fully knowing the kind of damage it can do to a person’s reputation, purely on basis of their regional identity?
Aside of these problematic themes, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is indeed an entertaining watch that doesn’t require you to exert many of your brain cells. It is also a pleasant surprise that Tabu’s name leads the credit role in the beginning of the film, even before that of Aaryan. However, it is also possible for viewers to enjoy a film and call out its problematic aspects so that filmmakers can course-correct themselves.
Since Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 is such a hit, it won’t be a surprise if the makers of the film have already started penning its sequel. Hopefully, they will stay away from sexist and fatphobic jokes in the next one.
The views expressed are the author’s own.