Why does Bollywood show only Hindu men and families as toxic?

Bollywood films have gone unbridled for too long in their prejudiced portrayal of Hindu men as weak and abusive husbands/fathers compared to such characters from other religions. 

Take, for example, films like Laxmii (Righteous Aarif slaps bigoted father of Rashmi), Atrangi Re (Hindu family kills their daughter and her Muslim husband), Indoo Ki Jawani (Hindu men are perverts, only Pakistani men are worthy of Hindu women), Toofaan (Girl’s father is bigoted), Gangubai Kathiawadi (Ramnik Lal sold her to a brothel, men like don Rahim Lala and tailor Afsaan Razzaq treat her respectfully), Goodbye (Mudassar understands Tara more than her father Harish), Tara v/s Bilal (Tara is better off with fake husband Bilal than Karan), Afwaah, Dolly, Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitaare, Bombay Rose and pk among so many others.

These negative stereotypes must be called out because it has perpetuated many crimes against Hindus. Many Hindu women who manage to survive the horrors of Love Jihad relationships share how their perpetrators would claim that Hindus were not the right men for them

To make things worse, such films also insinuate that Hindu families are incapable of understanding the aspirations of their daughters/daughters-in-law, and therefore, these women should walk out of such households to be truly liberated. 

This suggestion is a brazen attempt to break up the Hindu family, the core institution for the practice of Sanatan Dharma.  

“What is being shown in Bollywood films has little resemblance with the ground reality. It seems that Bollywood is presenting alternate facts to camouflage the real ones,” says journalist Swati Goel Sharma, who has spent years tracking and reporting such cases on the ground. 

“There are broadly two takeaways with the trend.

1 – The fictional tales seem to be whitewashing the realities of such relationships in which thousands of Hindu women have suffered dreadful tortures.

2 – this is the same one-sided interfaith relationship propaganda pushed by the Pakistani film industry that is in firm control of the Pakistani Military through its propaganda arm, Inter-Services Public Relation,” she adds.

It is worth pointing out that in Pakistan, where kidnappings of minority Hindu, Christian and Sikh girls by Muslim men are happening regularly, one struggles to find even one case where a Muslim woman has married a non-Muslim man without getting him to convert to Islam. 

Even when such events are reported daily, Bollywood ignores them as an inconvenient reality. Their films show that only Hindus tend to have abusive behaviour towards women, while Muslim families treat their women much more kindly. 

Take, among recent examples, Gully Boy (2019) and Darlings (2022), starring Alia Bhatt. Both have female protagonists from conservative Muslim families rebelling against conventions. However, the catch is that these women resolve their problems by involving their families. It is suggested that these families can put their daughter/daughter-in-law’s interests over long-standing practices. 

Another example is the Tanishq commercial in which a Hindu bride lives happily with her Muslim in-laws, who are so progressive that they conduct a Hindu Godh-Bharai ritual during her pregnancy. This ad was widely criticised for showing a rosy (and misleading) picture of inter-faith relationships. Some netizens even asked why the ad couldn’t have shown a Muslim girl finding love in a Hindu home. Wasn’t this idea whitewashing the realities of Love Jihad?

Most importantly, why couldn’t Hindu men and Muslim women as couples be promoted as ideals of harmony and diversity?

The dangers of such lop-sided portrayals aren’t limited to violent inter-faith relationships alone. Here are some more dangers to the community:

  1. More injustices towards Hindus – If the popular perception towards a group of people is that they are evil, then it is likely that these people will be subjected to abuse and violent attacks by extra-judicial elements. Who can forget the lynching of Palghar Sadhus in broad daylight and the national media turning their faces away from covering this incident? Could this diffidence come from the notion that every saffron-clad man is a criminal, as Bollywood portrays them?
  2. Breaking families – Repeatedly insinuating that parents cannot understand or support their daughters is a nasty trick Bollywood has played for years. The Urduwood cabal did not heed that such narratives corrupt young minds, who will think of parents as enemies and shun home protection for a stranger with suspicious credentials. 

    When a film (Bombay) showed a Muslim woman rejecting her parents to elope with a Hindu man, its director Mani Ratnam was severely injured in a bomb attack by offended groups in Chennai.
  3. Higher insensitivity to victims of violent inter-faith relationships – Love-Jihad cases are making worrying headlines in India and other parts of the world. Both men and women are victims of such relationships. They need help to get over all that trauma and start life afresh. The need of the hour is to spread awareness about such crimes instead of dismissing them as fake rumours.

    Is it still acceptable to show that the modern woman is unsafe only within the Hindu household and that she should marry into other religions to be safe?
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I watch how Bollywood engages with and represents Hindu society. A non-Marxist film critic writing in English.

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