Toxic, immoral and sexist: What re-watching Yes Boss after 22 years taught me
No, boss. Immorality is not ambition. And love doesn't really change a person's inherent nature.
- Total Shares
Two things that worked in favour of Aziz Mirza’s Yes Boss, released 22 years ago in 1997 this day, are Mirza’s ability to construct three main characters that are so flaky that they cannot be taken seriously, and Shah Rukh Khan’s dimpled, arm-stretched charm.
And I, like most of us of that generation, was floored by that.
Of course, Jatin-Lalit’s melody, Abhijeet’s buttery voice and Javed Akhtar’s soul-touching lyrics contributed immensely to that feeling.
But, 22 years later when you re-watch this quintessential SRK-brand romantic film, with 22 years worth of understanding and awareness at your back, you realise how toxic, immoral and plain sexist this film has always been.
And no, don’t let your misguided wokeness tell you otherwise, immorality is not ambition.
Rahul Joshi (Shah Rukh) literally has no conscience. He will do just about anything to get brownie points from his boss, Siddharth Chaudhry (Aditya Pancholi), and to ultimately get closer to his goal of heading an advertising agency. Siddharth is no better. He uses Rahul and his vulnerability to make him cover up his illicit affairs from his rich wife Sheela (Kashmira Shah), who practically owns everything, including the tux he wears when he takes other women to date. Enter Seema Bakshi (Juhi Chawla), an aspiring model who is ambitious only to the point she thinks she has a chance to succeed. Beyond that, she’s just going to give up trying and marry a successful guy and bask in his glory.
All the three have their priorities set and are unapologetic about it, too.
And here’s where the problem lies.
Because Mirza packaged it as ‘comedy’ we failed to see the toxicity behind such twisted characters. Had he had the courage to not sugar-coat it — say, like in Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly (2013) or Abhinay Deo’s Blackmail (2018), which, by the way, is a dark comedy — we, the audience, would have had the choice to decide if we want to side to any of these vile characters. Instead, we were told they are endearing, we were told to like them.
When two imperfect people make a perfect couple. (Photo: YouTube screengrab/DailyO)
That Seema by the end of the film turns into somewhat like the Student Of The Year trophy, with both men chasing her, was perhaps intentionally put to show a love vs lust tug-of-war in all its intensity. Yup, go ahead, treat women like commodities. Mirza isn’t the first one doing it, and he sure won’t be the last one either. That’s not considered sexism at all! That the only thing that can arouse Rahul’s dormant conscience is maa ki mamta is equally sexist. And the fact that Rahul only started to acknowledge his feelings towards Seema after he saw her be a ‘bahu’ to his mother — because, before that, she was just a package he was safekeeping for his boss — is sexism, too.
But then, we laughed. We sang. We cried. No harm is done. Right?
Rahul and Seema allegedly live happily ever after. He doesn’t get the advertising agency. She doesn’t get the bank balance. But they find love. Is inherent human nature so gullible?