Trigger Warning: Mentions of Rape, Violence, Sexual Violence
“Mere umaar ke, naujawano!”
The hero enters, covered in a cloud of smoke. A beautiful girl, in a white salwar kameez sits atop a cabinet much like a trophy. He walks into a house, with a swagger and a background score befitting the Hindi film heroes of the 70’s and the Rajinikanth movies of yore. But this is no hero. When Kabir Singh tries to sleep with this personification of the ‘primordial virginal‘ beauty, and when she says no, he whips a knife out and threatens to rape her.
And this is the first 6 minutes. Sigh.
I didn’t want to watch this movie with any preconceived notions or biases. I promise, really. But the irony isn’t lost to me when the film begins with the grandmother narrating verses of prayer written by Saint Kabir. Adorably narrating her grandson’s childhood obsession with a doll in a white dress, the background score mimics a children’s story being told. The other elderly women laugh along lovingly. I descend into the terrible realisation that watching this film for the next 2hr 50min is going to be quite a task.
In April, the National Commission of Women (NCW), which functions to receive complaints of domestic violence from across the country, reported that in the month of March alone, the number of cases of domestic violence complaints had doubled. According to the Crime in India Report (2018), published by the National Crimes Research Bureau (NCRB), every 1.7 minutes a crime was recorded against women in India, every 16 minutes a rape was committed and every 4.4 minutes a girl is subjected to domestic violence.
Domestic violence is most often attributed to intimate partner violence, and the lockdown has greatly increased its frequency. Thanks to social distancing, women are trapped with abusive partners, and are unable to access their regular safe havens. This impact can be seen just by how many of these hotline numbers have changed to emails/WhatsApp services.
Also read: I Am A Man And This Is How ‘Kabir Singh’ Is…
The UN Women have declared domestic abuse as a “silent pandemic”, happening across the world, with the WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, stating in May that countries “are reporting up to a 60% increase in emergency calls by women subjected to violence by their intimate partners in April this year, compared to last”.
Twitter too has started to acknowledge the rise in the same. In a collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) and NCW, they have launched a search prompt that appears if a user starts searching certain relevant keywords, such as #domesticviolence, #dowry, #dowrydeath, #genderviolence, #genderbasedviolence, #lockdownviolence, #maritalrape, #POSH or #महिलाहिंसा, #घरेलुहिंसा, #महिलाअत्याचार, #दहेज, #दहेजहत्या, #दहेजप्रथा, #बलात्कार, #भ्रूणहत्या, #कन्याभ्रूणहत्या, #वैवाहिकबलात्कार, they will receive the prompt.
What Does Kabir Singh Do To Such Already Existing Deplorable Condition?
The toxic masculinity from the character of Kabir Singh, drips the entitlement that he believes he embodies. Kabir, played by Shahid Kapoor, is a violent, patriarchal, drug-abusing sham of a doctor who spits on the face of his Hippocratic Oath daily, complete with the shroud of genius that Sandeep Reddy Vanga has attempted to veil him with. His deplorable behaviour and anger management issues do not only extend to Preeti (played by Kiara Advani), but to his friends, his patients and even domestic help. His outbursts and vehemence are all attributed to being a “phase”, but in reality, the signs were already there.
What alarms me is the nature of the film consuming masses. This movie has repeatedly been slammed for being the most misogynistic film of recent times, and is laden with perverse displays of abuse portrayed as a “raw, intense romance”. Kabir Singh raked in 370 Crores. Both Kapoor and Vijay Devarakonda, the latter who played Arjun Reddy in the Telugu original of the same name, have tried to justify their choice of film. On a Pan-India actors’ interview with Film Companion, Devarakonda draws lots of negative attention for his flimsy shrugs. His arguments during the discussion about an actor’s moral responsibility when choosing projects, are as follows,
“I think the world is fucked. By making a better film, can I save it?
I just see it going downhill.”
The following reviews are from women, on Google Reviews:
His downright disregard for the mere thought of social responsibility as an actor is one that most take, trying to disconnect their work from the impact it has on society, with Shahid Kapoor justifying his role by saying that, “…it’s a reflection of members of society” and “there must be someone with that kind of love.”
A year after its release, we are now in a time where billions around the globe have been subjected to lockdowns to prevent spread of COVID-19. As offices close, exams get cancelled and people work from home, artists and art forms have proven to be the most promising/necessary industries to keep the middle/upper middle classes entertained. Since going outside is no longer an option, OTT platforms and online retailers have never had better business.
In times like these, is it truly justified for actors of the star quotient like Devarakonda and Kapoor, to be taking up projects that they know and are fully aware, glorify and promote misogyny in relationships?
Have we normalised sequences of physical violence, sexual coercion and controlling behaviours in cinema? Do we agree, that if masked with soulful Arijit Singh vocals, characters like Arjun Reddy and Kabir Singh are agreeable for the mass audience?
Is it morally acceptable to be a part of such a narrative, being the star face for men and women who commonly think that such actions or the likes of this “love” is socially acceptable, and more importantly, the “purest form of love”?
We may be able to tell the impact of a year of Kabir Singh only when the data is released post lockdown.
Featured Image Source: The Indian Express