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Has Masculinity really evolved in Bollywood?

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

I read an article recently that talks about how masculinity has evolved throughout the years. It first talks about how, during the 90’s, men were shown as aggressive. Actors like Amitabh Bachchan in Sholay defined masculinity by showing how heroes like Amitabh show aggressive behavior all the time. Dharmendra, during this time, was also known for his aggression in movies. These movies and characters showed how masculinity was seen during the early years of Bollywood, where actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra were seen showing aggression. They were also seen as tough and rough.



However, the article goes on and says that masculinity has evolved now in Bollywood. In this decade, movies like Hindi Medium, Jane Tu Ya Jane Na, and Tanu Weds Manu show that men are not always seen showing aggression; in fact, they are seen as polite and calm. These movies showed a changing and challenging notion of masculinity, with men not showing aggressive behavior all the time.




However, I am going to disagree with this article that portrayal of masculinities has evolved in Bollywood. Yes, the article does give us examples of movies from this decade showing changing masculine behaviors. But the question is has masculinity completely evolved? Because, I have seen many movies recently in Bollywood that still show men as aggressive and toxic. One such big example is the movie Kabir Singh, which glorifies toxic masculine behavior. Kabir, played by Shahid Kapoor, slaps his girlfriend, shows extreme anger towards her, and many times shows typical masculine behaviors, one major being aggression. So the question arises: can we say that masculine behavior has evolved in Bollywood because this is a recent film, showing typical, aggressive masculine behavior.


Another example that I would like to give is of, a recent Bollywood movie called Darlings, starring Alia Bhatt and Vijay Varma. In the film, Vijay shows toxic masculine behavior, showing anger and hitting his wife many times, showing the typical toxic masculine behaviors. No way in this film masculinity is seen evolving in any manner.




Another example is of a movie called Secret Superstar, starring Raj Arjun in which he is always hitting his wife brutally, and shows aggression all the time. In one incident in the movie when his wife provides him with food and it is a little salty and not heated up, he throws the food on his wife and shouts at her. Another incident in the movie that shows toxic masculine behavior is when the wife sells her jewelry to buy her daughter's laptop, her husband hits her brutally again and again. The movie shows many incidents of toxic masculine behavior and the portrayal of typical aggression that men have. So, can we say that masculine behavior is evolving in Bollywood? I don’t think so, because still such movies are being made in this decade that show toxic masculine behavior and tell us that masculinities in Bollywood haven’t really evolved in any way.



What are your thoughts on this? Do you guys think masculinity has evolved in Bollywood? Or do you guys agree with me?


The article I was talking about:

Mehra, M. (2019, October 15). The many masculinities in Bollywood: 1960s to the present. Feminism in India. https://feminisminindia.com/2019/10/16/many-masculinities-bollywood-60s-present/



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5 Comments


Your perspective offers an important dimension to the discussion on the portrayal of masculinity in Bollywood. It's encouraging to see that while some films continue to depict traditional, aggressive forms of masculinity, there's a growing trend of movies that critique and challenge these norms, often through strong female characters. "Darlings," as you pointed out, is a prime example of this shift. The film's focus on Alia Bhatt's character, and her response to the toxic masculinity displayed by her husband, marks a significant departure from Bollywood’s traditional narrative arc. It aligns with the evolving discussion on gender roles in society, much like the themes explored in Barbara Beyerbach's analysis of teachers in film or Megan Boler's study on media representation. These…

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While some recent films may perpetuate traditional masculine stereotypes, there seems to be a growing diversity in portrayals as you have mentioned in this article. There has also been a growing trend where men are seen in supporting roles which was not the case before. How significant do you feel it is to acknowledge and analyze the range of masculine characters in recent Bollywood movies?

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I do get your point that we do see men now in supporting roles and men as docile and not aggressive, but according to me, if it has evolved, they shouldn't show toxic masculine characters. We still see toxic masculine characters such as Kabir Singh; it is very rare when we see men as supporting roles; yes, that does happen, but very rare. Men are mostly leading the movies, and women are seen in the supporting roles, so I do think that this needs to be changed, and if masculinity is evolved in Bollywood, then show a complete evolution of masculinities and don't glorify and romanticize toxic characters like Kabir Singh.

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Mahnoor Nasir
Mahnoor Nasir
Nov 26, 2023

I believe that although Bollywood might not have fully evolved in terms of portraying masculinity, there is an increasing number of films that critique this notion., For instance, the film "Darling" you mentioned. While it did depict a traditional husband, the main focus was on Alia's character and how she dealt with him while maintaining her high regard for women and preserving her identity. This is a shift from the past, where female characters challenging gender norms weren't as prominent. It's a positive change in mainstream Hindi cinema, which has often played into traditional roles, but now we see more daring portrayals of female characters.

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I totally get your point too. My blog was all about how I wanted to disagree with an article I recently read, which said that in Bollywood, the way masculinity is portrayed has evolved. To disagree with it, I gave examples of recent Bollywood movies that have shown toxic masculine behaviors. If masculinity in Bollywood has evolved, then why not completely finish the portrayal of such characters? These characters are then also glorified in a way and romanticized, such as the example of Kabir Singh I gave. Not only does he show toxic masculine behavior, but his behavior is also romanticized and glorified. So I believe saying that masculine behavior in Bollywood has completely evolved isn’t really right, but yes,…

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