A Reddit community which dissects and condemns all things wrong in commercial Bollywood films did not spare Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 for its fatphobic jokes and body-shaming, the horror movie sequel to 2007’s movie of the same title.
The post read, “So, is nobody going to talk about body-shaming jokes and fatphobia in Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2? And this time, a young boy is being body-shamed, not an adult.” While it is condemnable for the Bollywood industry to make body-shaming jokes, become defensive and justify its fatphobia for “light-hearted humour,” as disconcerting as it sounds because there is no need to deconstruct everything after all and watch the film for the “fun” of it, one needs to discuss the problematic side to this movie as well.
Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 Fatphobic Jokes
Contrary to the Reddit thread, which eventually became a community of people speaking in circles – like all opinions on social media, it is true that there were times when even a feminist audience felt guilty for laughing in the movie theatre at the film’s fatphobic jokes, solely for the “fun” of it. It is also true that as one enters the lanes of Mumbai’s dense Aram Nagar, one stumbles upon countless actors hoping to make it big in the industry. However, only after the casting assistant scans their “look” – to decide whether it is good enough to meet the sacred beauty standards of the Bollywood industry, does the “imperfect” part of the Bollywood aspirants return to where they came from because they were not “fit” for the role.
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This obsession with ensuring that people look a certain way is not just confined to the audition rooms but also normalised in Bollywood films. To go back to debutant director Atul Manjrekar’s 2018 film, Fanney Khan, a movie that takes on the problem of fat-shaming and encourages body positivity, one might say that the film instigated conversations surrounding the body. However, the movie failed to showcase and illustrate how plus-sized people are continuously shamed in everyday life be it in the family, popular culture or otherwise.
While it is nauseating to see celebrities attacked for their “unconventional” body types, mainstream Bollywood has almost deliberately kept failing to encapsulate the mental stressors of a plus-sized individuals.
Fat-shaming extends to the men in the industry too. Actors like Fardeen Khan have been battling physical ailments and as a result, ended up putting on weight. His pictures were immediately sent across the internet to be laughed at. Abhishek Pathak’s 2019 film, Ujda Chaman, was also full of crass humour. Featuring Chaman’s baldness and Apsara’s weight into a pair that really hit off, the film was so insecure about its humour that it depended on background laughing scores. The film in its attempt to start conversations around patriarchal beauty standards became tokenistic as soon as it hit the screens.
When films like Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 show a scene in which a young boy is being subject to family body-shaming, it triggers nearly 75 per cent of Indian children from the age group of 15 to 19 years. At least 32 per cent of the lot felt that they had always associated beauty with the physical appearance of their body, warned a student of Sir Padampat Singhania Education Center, Kanpur in a report by The Print.
The impact of body-shaming is perennially damaging and physically it slows down children’s metabolism when they skip meals and eat less than the normal amount. The Bollywood industry must note all of these factors before cracking another fatphobic joke in its films. “If average Indian audiences cared enough about body shaming, Kapil Sharma would’ve never made it on the tv screen,” said a comment in the Reddit thread.
Views expressed by the author are their own.