Rough Cut

Bollywood's dirtiest secret: The non-gentleman's code of dishonour

Here are a few rules of the game, which is one of the most vicious, especially so for being played out in public.

 |  Rough Cut  |  6-minute read |   28-04-2016
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"I had let myself stop being angry enough, had been tripping around like Pollyanna thinking that goodwill was everything. Rage had always been my friend, and I had neglected it. Rage had kept my back straight, rage had seen me through the fights and the slights. Rage had propelled me from my no-mark comprehensive to university, it had been my strength and solace."

In an alternative universe, I would recommend the fictional and somewhat psychotic heroine of LS Hilton's new page turner, Maestra, to all the women in Bollywood. Only it involves some extremely gruesome murders and alarmingly acrobatic sex, which given Bollywood's new sanskari censorship cannot even be made into a delicious movie.

Also read: Why we are obsessed with the love lives of our Bollywood stars

But if there is one thing that the careers of women such as Kangana Ranaut, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma and Deepika Padukone have shown us, it is this - no matter how successful a woman is, how hard she has worked, how talented she is, eventually she will be judged by the men she has been with.

kangana-story_042816022754.jpg  Kangana Ranaut and Hrithik Roshan.

So Kangana is a three-time National Award winner, but does it matter to Bollywood's sexist men? No. They will name and shame her for having had relationships that she was ready to speak up for, but they were not. They will release supposed emails, allege doctored photos, and suggest dalliance with drugs, in every effort to destroy her reputation.

Also read: What Hrithik-Kangana's break-up says about extramarital affairs in India

So Anushka is not just a terrific actor, but also a producer of increasingly edgy movies, but oh no, does it matter to the world? They remember her only when Virat Kohli goes out to play - and God help her if he does badly. She's blamed for it.

anushka-story_042816022809.jpg  Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli.

Priyanka Chopra. Now star of Quantico. Sexy villain opposite one of the biggest commercial stars in Hollywood, The Rock. Padmashri. Winner of two National Awards. But can there be a single profile and single mention of her that does not allude to a relationship with one of Bollywood's biggest male stars? Ah no. Because how else do you reduce 15 years of her hard work to her sexuality?

priyanka-story_042816022822.jpg Priyanka Chopra

Ditto for Deepika Padukone. Star of several Bollywood movies, now acting opposite Vin Diesel. Again a woman who came to Mumbai with nothing but guts and grit, a famous last name notwithstanding. But is there ever a time when her name is not hyphenated with the man she once dated, and was very open about dating, Ranbir Kapoor? Oh no, that would mean treating women as equals in an industry that specialises in non-gentlemen.

Also read: Why Priyanka, Deepika will come to regret their Hollywood roles

deepika_042816022836.jpg  Deepika Padukone

Also read: Why we look down upon Virat-Anushka type of relationships

And what is the non-gentleman's code of dishonour? Here are a few rules of the game, which is one of the most vicious, especially so for being played out in public.

#1. Never admit to sleeping with your co-stars:

This applies to both married and single men. In Bollywood, single men behave like good little mama's boys.

They are so good that sometimes they get to the age of 50 as virgins and announce it loudly and proudly on national TV.

#2. If it does somehow get known that you have slept with a co-star, ensure she is painted as either promiscuous or deranged, which in Bollywood is often the same thing.

This is a time honoured tactic from the days of poor Parveen Babi and continues till now.

#3. If a film is about to release and focuses on your romance with a co-star, stop at nothing to spread rumours of a relationship.

This works wonders when it comes to pre-release publicity, especially if your film is a disaster, as it so often is.

#4. If your film does badly, blame the woman in your life. If a series of films does badly, get rid of her, quickly.

Even if you don't, your family and friends will helpfully do so. Because of course it cannot possibly be your fault, you golden boy, you.

#5. If you marry a female actor, make sure she stops working immediately.

Knowing as you do the perks of male stardom, how can you possibly allow your wife to work in Bollywood? She can turn her attention to interior design, jewellery design, fashion design, or just renovate your home. And if she really really wants to return to work, milk it for all its worth by portraying it as a grand comeback, preferably opposite you.

#6. If your trophy wife happens to outstrip your coolness quotient, ensure it rubs off on you.

Instagram, tweet, Facebook her work at every opportunity. It makes you look like the big man.

#7. If you are a married man with a glad eye, use your family as a shield.

Bollywood loves good dads. It makes the industry think it's progressive. So trot out your lovely looking children at periodic intervals. It will help them in their inevitable movie careers later.

In a new HBO movie on the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill sexual harassment case, a young woman calls up Hill, then a law professor, and persuades her to speak up about her experience with Thomas. You owe it to future generations of women, she tells Hill, who is initially reluctant. This man will become a Supreme Court judge and influence thousands of judgments concerning women's rights, she says. Hill is convinced and then of course endures a traumatic Senate hearing in which she is made to repeat all the offensive statements Thomas made to her - and equally humiliated because he didn't actually suggest that she sleep with him, or actually sleep with him. Hill persists as long as she can, but then gives up. Thomas is made associate judge and the case is forever inconclusive.

That was 1991.

It's sad to see that things haven't changed even quarter of a century later, either in the US where a potential president can get away with demeaning women, or in India, where a powerful Bollywood actor can go all out to destroy a woman whose only crime it seems was to call him a silly ex.

Writer

Kaveree Bamzai Kaveree Bamzai @kavereeb

Consulting editor, India Today Group

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