The next year, nay the next decade is almost upon us and while the atmosphere in and outside the country doesn’t inspire one much to stay hopeful, it is only human to wish that things would get better. Being a cinema lover, some of these expectations of mine have spilled onto Bollywood. There is so much I want Hindi films to do differently in 2020, or in a lot of cases, chuck away altogether, but here are my top five.
Let women have the spotlight in their stories
When it comes to Hindi cinema, I will remember the year going away for its unique distinction of letting men highjack women’s narratives. This phenomenon though seemed more pronounced this year probably because there were very few women-centric films to begin with. So, it hurt more when women were side-lined from stories that were supposed to champion them. Can Bollywood hand the mic back to women? Perhaps with a couple of A-list women directors seeing releases next year (Meghan Gulzar with Chhapaak and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s Panga to name a few.) hopefully the narrative will rest with women characters at the heart of stories about them. But is that something we can only expect when women are steering a film?
When it comes to Hindi cinema, I will remember the year going away for its unique distinction of letting men highjack women’s narratives.
Get rid of the remixes
The nineties has been drained dry, with so-called music composers of the day giving creativity a miss and opting to bestow remix after remix on our ears. You can do better than this Bollywood, seriously. It is not as if we do not have composers who can belt good original scores. Amit Trivedi gave us some gorgeous albums in 2018, like Manmarziyaan and Andhadhun, while Vishal Shekhar gave an original score for War. The best album for the year was undoubtedly Gully Boy, which I can listen to any day over the “chart-topping” remixes. Film producers seem to be unwilling to let go of the remix wagon, which seemed cute in 2017, but not anymore. You know you are scraping the bottom of the barrel when Himesh Reshammiya’s songs are being recycled.
The unpalatable misogyny
I think it would be too much to ask for, if one expects the film industry to stop making movies that demean women. Although, there is a specific genre where one can expect to be regressive, but what does one do, when even romance films and comedies (I am looking at you Dream Girl) begin to pander to the masses, that too with innocence. This is not about the objectification of women in sex-comedies, but the sexism sold to us in the name of love in films like Kabir Singh, or comedies like Pati, Patni Aur Woh. The fault surely lies with audience, but then must Bollywood keep pushing misogyny aur way, until it is met with resistance, and intense and outright criticism? Can’t it even make an effort to tone down the misogyny gradually?
Ayushmann Khurrana can’t be the only one who gives a miss to playing an alpha hero (so far so good). We need other popular male actors to give toxic masculinity a miss as well.
More sensitive male characters
So, while we had the much controversial Kabir Singh this year, we also had films with some of the most complex and sensitive male characters on screen too. However, Ayushmann Khurrana can’t be the only one who gives a miss to playing an alpha hero (so far so good). We need other popular male actors to give toxic masculinity a miss as well. Agreed, that as long as a market for films that glorify masculinity will exist, which is massive, Bollywood will not budge from making films to cater to that audience. But then we can surely have more male characters in films that are realistic and sensible too, can’t we?
Inclusive casting, maybe?
The furore over casting choices had never been so pronounced as it was in 2019. It was women actors who were especially at the receiving end of social media ire. Young women playing older women, a fair woman being cast in the role of a woman with a dark complexion. Curiously there was little or no outrage when a leading actor with luscious hair played a balding protagonist, or when an A-lister was dunked in a drum of tan to make him look like an impoverished coaching teacher.
While skin colour or age shouldn’t be the only criterion for casting an actor the social media outrage does point a finger at lack of diversity in our films, that can be taken care of in 2020.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.