Not more Kabir Singh or Arjun Reddy! I want an 'angry young woman' in Indian cinema now!

Why do we accept men with temper issues but not women? Why are women always the calming comforters, but never the raging protagonist? When will Bollywood ever grow up?

 |  3-minute read |   13-06-2019
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A man with severe anger management issues, a serious drug and alcohol addiction problem and an outright arrogant human being, but with a heart of gold — Shahid Kapoor’s Kabir Singh is everything Bollywood, pop culture and literature at large has always presented us with. Kabir is essentially a flawed man, like Hamlet or Othello, like Mr Darcy and Mr Rochester, like every Raj or Rahul.

Like every angry young man.

Kabir Singh is a remake of the Telugu hit, Arjun Reddy, starring Vijay Deverakonda, which means it is mandatory to watch that in order to get into the skin of the character. The protagonist (Arjun or Kabir) is an extraordinarily meritorious medical student, an outstanding footballer and angry — for no rhyme or reason.

No, truly.

He has a caring family — a particularly loving older brother, a dadi who has spunk, and a set of friends who, even during the most adverse situations, do not leave his side.

angry-young-women_061319021212.jpgDisplaced anger: Why do we readily accept men with temper issues but not women? (Photo: Movie posters)

Arjun gives all of them ample reasons to hate him, leave him, give up on him, constantly pushing them away with his rude, obnoxious jibes — but they never do.

He then finds love in Preethi Shetty (played by Shalini Pandey), his junior in medical college, and you can almost instantly see how destructive, borderline toxic, yet strangely exciting this union is. He’s over-protective, she’s quite the damsel. His anger still isn’t contained — it only seems to spurt out at the worst moments. For example, when a lovesick Preethi pleads with Arjun to let her stay for one last day before college ends and he’s to leave the hostel and he ends up slapping her for not taking no for an answer. Or when he’s meeting her parents — the father rejects the relationship based on caste differences, and he ends up verbally abusing him.

And as a viewer, I’m sitting there, wondering, ‘Is this guy for real?’

Medical ethics go out of the window when he performs surgeries under influence — successful surgeries, yes — yet potentially disastrous. His ego comes in the way of love, even though he spends months slowly punishing and poisoning himself for letting Preethi go. Yet, as the audience, it is this man whose life we end up investing in — ultimately hoping he finds love and more importantly, peace.

As we have invested in all the classically flawed men through the ages, growing up believing this is how men ought to be.

But women — women dare not.

Is Indian cinema really changing, if even after a hundred years of existence, we do not allow women the same flaws the men so proudly wear on their sleeves?

Is the Indian audience really changing if we still seem to be foaming at our mouths praising Shahid’s performance in the Kabir Singh trailer — but fail to question if the remake could have been reinterpreted and reinvented to give us an angry woman instead?

The truth is, it could have been.

Full marks to Shahid’s performance, but perhaps a Priyanka Chopra or an Alia Bhatt could've been cast. Alia, who showed us what she could do with Safeena in Gully Boy, thanks to the trust that her director, Zoya Akhtar, placed in her.

But then, so caught up are we in the 'angry young man' limbo that we cannot imagine women doing anything but help douse that fire — holding them close to our bosoms, calming their burning souls with our feminine embrace, whispering into their ears, “There, there...”

The End!

Also read: Why we're rooting for ‘gully girl’ Alia Bhatt in 'Gully Boy'

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