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Kabir Singh: Glorification of Abuse, Toxic Masculinity, and Misogyny in Bollywood


Kabir Singh is a Hindi film that was released across cinemas in 2019. The film starred Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani as Kabir and Preeti respectively. Although the film was a big box office success, it is not wrong to say that the film itself is one of the most problematic desi media products to have been showcased as part of the Bollywood cinema.


The male lead, Kabir, is shown to be a medical student in his senior year. The film starts off with Kabir projecting his anger issues during a football match that he is playing to represent his college. These anger issues remain a highlighted aspect of Kabir’s character, and later in the film also seep down into all dimensions of his personal as well as professional life. The film takes a turn when Preeti starts college at the same place as Kabir. Kabir, who is an intelligent but hostile man, starts referring to Preeti as ‘his own.’ When Kabir and Preeti meet for the very first time during the film, Kabir ends the conversation by kissing Preeti without even asking for any sort of consent. This is also the scene after which the rest of the film proves to be an extremely triggering and uncomfortable watch.


Throughout the entirety of the film, Kabir continues to treat Preeti as akin to property, or rather, somebody he owns. The first fifty minutes of the movie are based off of Kabir instructing everyone to stay away from Preeti, and simultaneously also dictating Preeti on what to do at college. For example, there is this scene where Kabir enters Preeti’s classroom, disrupts the entire class, and then instructs Preeti to sit with a ‘healthy’ girl, stating that a conventionally pretty girl like Preeti should befriend someone exactly opposite, someone healthy. There are two very evident problems with this representation: first, it equates being healthy to being the opposite of pretty, which tends to reinforce the same conventional south Asian standards of beauty that have long been gatekept by so many generations; and second, it is also reinforcement of the fact that women are never in positions of power or capable enough to make their own decisions for themselves. It is also surprising that while Preeti was shown to be a medical student herself, she was also portrayed as someone who absolutely needed Kabir to get through college. Preeti’s character hardly had any prominent dialogues in the first half of the film, which again, shows how the writers and directors simply sidelined her character, placing Kabir in the spotlight throughout.


Not only did the film absolutely misrepresent the definition of love, but it also deceived the audiences into believing that Kabir Singh was a hero. To simply break it down, neither was Kabir in love, and nor was he a hero. He was simply somebody who had extreme anger issues, could not handle his rage, could not take no for an answer, was abusive, dismissive, an alcoholic, and someone who had no regard for women around him.


During the second half of the film, when Preeti’s father learns about Kabir and Preeti’s relationship and refuses to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to Kabir, the apparent ‘hero’ is seen not only abusing Preeti, but her entire family as well. He threatens to harm both Preeti’s father and sister, and gives her an ultimatum of six hours, where she should choose to marry him. Here, the protagonist goes one step further and also slaps Preeti out of rage. During another instance in the film, Kabir pulls out a knife on a woman who refuses to sleep with him. Towards the end of the movie, the creators had normalized the protagonist’s violent traits and attributes to an extent where they wanted to showcase that it was no longer a problem.


When asked about his film’s problematic stance on love and romantic relationships, director Sandeep Vanga responded by saying: “If you can’t slap, if you can’t touch a woman wherever you want, if you can’t kiss, can’t use cuss words, I don’t see emotion there.” For us as viewers, it is extremely important to understand that casting off screen is just as important as casting on screen. While reading the director’s stance on the entire situation, I felt that the way the movie was executed started to make sense. What is most troubling about Kabir Singh is not just the flawed representation itself, but also the fact that the entire team of the movie, including the director, writer, and the cast, got away with it with applaud and appreciation, without realizing the impact that they had left on the audience or the society as a whole. I think it is high time that we, as audiences, stop uplifting media content that tends to normalize or glorify toxic masculinity, misogyny, and abuse as legitimate forms of courtship. Such films and shows are extremely detrimental to the society at large, and leave a long lasting impact for the future generations to consume as well.

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8 Kommentare


I completely agree with this post, I think that part of the reason for the movie's huge success were its songs. Even though the movie was extremely problematic and encouraged abusive relationships, the viewers loved the songs and enjoyed them throughout. Bekhayali and Kaise Hua were just some of the top songs from the movie's album. Apart from this you can clearly interpret from the director's statement that his own ideas and mentality has been reflected into the movie. This is the same as white directors hiring white people for their casts and not representing others. This movie is a perfect example of how the directors and producers quite literally make a media piece what it is. Also Preeti's shy,…

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Antwort an

Thank you for saying this. I love this comment so much because it elaborates on one pointer I think I had missed as part of my writing. Yes - the ending of the movie was simply as deceiving as the rest of the film itself. I still fail to understand why Kabir had to face no consequences whatsoever, despite being one of the most problematic Bollywood male leads ever written or directed. And yes, the film also reinforced the idea that women should have to stay in relationships where they are not valued or respected, simply because they have been tied by the burden of having children with their partner. The more I think about Kabir Singh as a movie,…

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Kabir Singh is definitely the movie one could not go without mentioning when we talk about glorifying toxic masculinity. It also reminded me of the instance Kiara, the lead was seen saying in an interview that for her it’s a love story and love is the only thing that will allow you to forgive certain behaviours in life. This is such a flawed portrayal of love and I wonder what kind of love is it when one cannot even find peace within it. This glorification of the violent behaviour of men also reminds me of the recent Pakistani drama, aired on ARY: Kaisiterekhudgarzi, which to my surprise reached millions of views. Not only does it fantasize the cruel love of…


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Antwort an

Hi, thank you for commenting. I absolutely agree with whatever you said. I have been watching cropped clips from the Pakistani drama you mentioned, and I have to say, I was extremely disturbed. The way that show tries to normalize harassment is beyond me. I hope actors and artists around the world start to recognize that the kind of projects they take up have a long-lasting impact on the audiences that very closely follow them. And this impact is obviously extremely detrimental to the society at large.

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Mujeeb.khan
Mujeeb.khan
10. Dez. 2022

Films like Kabir Singh undoubtedly set a dangerous precedent in the narratives of gender equality, domestic abuse, and harassment. The fact that film is a highly influential medium with an enormous reach must be addressed. However, I cannot claim to know whether films like Kabir Singh, which degrade the female narrative, should be made or not since doing so would jeopardise our fundamental commitments to free speech and expression. The fact that such misogynist characters are glorified and have an aura of charm about them, tempting the audience to follow in their footsteps.


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Antwort an

Hi Mujeeb, thank you for commenting. I feel that while censorship and bans are definitely not the answer, I also feel that there should be some kind of check and balance to make sure that films like Kabir Singh are not celebrated, in the very least. The way this film was appreciated to be something that it is absolutely not is what triggered me the most. The entire team of Kabir Singh tried to portray the film as the typical happy ending love story, when throughout the film, I could not wrap my head around the fact that love was so misrepresented here. Romantic relationships are not supposed to make you feel the way Kabir made Preeti feel over the…

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The problem with such movies are that they give free license to other men to act in a similar manner in society without any consequences or reprimands. With the already rampant number of females who experience harassment and abuse daily, movies such as Kabir Singh tell men that such behavior is normal and only through such behavior will they achieve their goals or the girl. The anger Kabir displays when he is refused by a woman for sex is portrayal of how men believe they are owed sex by women for just being men and such violent behavior like the pulling of a knife on a woman who refuses to give consent in some way normalizes use of force on…


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Antwort an

Hi Khadija, thank you for commenting. Yes, this is exactly the kind of impact movies like Kabir Singh have on the audiences at large. The fact that Preeti was shown to be so submissive and also so naïve is beyond me, considering the fact that she was studying at one of the finest medical colleges with Kabir. I don't understand why, throughout the film, it was portrayed as if she was any lesser to Kabir, or almost secondary to him. What is most shocking is that, in spite of constant struggles and movements like the #MeToo, films like Kabir Singh still flourish in the entertainment industry. I think it is high time that teams of such films realize the kind…

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