It's Raining Testosterone On Screen: What The Box Office Tells Us

As cinema continues to evolve, the success of films with toxic male protagonists should not come at the expense of sidelining stories led by women or perpetuating harmful gender norms.

Ishika Thanvi
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Rashmika Mandanna In Animal Trailer

Cartoon caricature of Villains of Hindi Cinema by Prasad Bhatt

Cinema does not function in isolation from society. Either it acts as a reflection of the society or tends to change the accepted social order by displaying the truth. The Indian Film industry is known to be a multi-million-dollar industry,  producing the highest number of films each year in the world. There have been some very good films which upheld the need to purge the Indian society of patriarchy but the greatest number of mainstream cinemas have instilled the idea of male toxic hegemony.


Let's explore the nature of Bollywood's testosterone-fueled movies as blockbusters in 2023. Indian cinema, particularly Bollywood, has traditionally been a powerhouse of diverse storytelling, encapsulating the cultural richness and social dynamics of the nation. However, a noticeable shift has taken place in 2023, with an overwhelming dominance of testosterone-fueled blockbusters.

Bollywood Going Back In Time?

Movies like Gadar 2, Pathan, Jawan, and now Animal, all to be released in 2023, have not only hit the charts but have also made a significant impact on the cultural conversation.

These films portray protagonists who embody the toxic traits of hyper-masculinity, perpetuating stereotypes and reinforcing regressive gender norms. Characterized particularly by hyper-masculine narratives and toxic male protagonists, such movies have found unprecedented success at the box office.

Women Are Not Damsels In Distress 

In a majority of 2023's Bollywood blockbusters, female characters were disappointingly relegated to the role of damsels in distress. Rather than being portrayed as individuals capable of navigating their own challenges, women were often depicted as passive figures, awaiting rescue from the male protagonist. This regressive narrative not only undermines the agency of women but also reinforces outdated notions.


The blockbuster movie Jawan is one example of this trend, with female characters seemingly existing solely for their connection to the male protagonist, Shah Rukh Khan. From the little girl playing Nayanthara’s daughter to the Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone, the women in Jawan are relegated to the sidelines. Their roles revolve around making Khan's characters look better, acting like mere accessories to the male lead's journey.

Unrealistic Portrayals Of Men

In addition, male characters in these blockbusters often embody hyper-masculine characteristics that border on the unrealistic. From superhuman strength to an almost robotic emotional detachment, these portrayals reinforce harmful stereotypes about what it means to be a man. This not only distorts societal expectations but also perpetuates toxic masculinity, making it difficult for men to express vulnerability or showcase a diverse range of emotions.

A (Not So) New Norm

The success of testosterone-fueled characters in mainstream blockbusters has become a new trend, with almost every leading actor featuring in at least one such film. The box office numbers speak for themselves, indicating a substantial audience appetite for narratives centred around aggressive and dominant male characters. It feels like we are going back in time. 

Absence Of Women-Led Narratives


In the midst of this surge in male-centric narratives, there is a conspicuous absence of movies led by women in the mainstream. Female-led films often find themselves relegated to the 'indie' genre, struggling to compete with the overwhelming presence of testosterone-fueled blockbusters. This disparity not only limits the diversity of storytelling but also reinforces the narrative that female-led films are not commercially viable. This is precisely why we are witnessing a surge in women-led narratives on OTT platforms. Even if these narratives manage to reach the big screen, they tend to face poor reception. Examples include movies like Jaane Jaan, Ghoomer, and Khufiya.

Impact On Society

The prevalence of toxic masculinity in mainstream cinema can have far-reaching consequences on societal attitudes. As these hyper-masculine characters become role models for many, there is a risk of normalizing behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality and contribute to the rise of crimes against women. The entertainment industry's role in shaping cultural norms cannot be underestimated, and the current trend raises concerns about the messages being conveyed to the masses.

Bollywood Can Do Better

As Bollywood continues to evolve, there is a growing need for the industry to embrace diversity in storytelling and promote narratives that challenge regressive stereotypes. The success of films with toxic male protagonists should not come at the expense of sidelining stories led by women or perpetuating harmful gender norms. It is high time for Bollywood to reevaluate its approach to storytelling. 

Women are not mere accessories or emotional anchors in the lives of men; they are individuals with their own stories, struggles, and triumphs. By diversifying narratives and giving women characters agency, Bollywood has the power to shape a more inclusive and representative cinematic landscape.

Views expressed are the author's own.

Bollywood movies toxic masculinity Mega Blockbuster hypermasculinity female centric movies Male Dominated Films