Open letter to the Indian film industry

Dear Indian Film Industry (IFI),

I am writing this letter with a heavy heart. There was a time when I loved you like crazy. Now all I feel is apathy. There are times when you still overwhelm me, but such times are like those solar eclipses. Rare.


Consider this scenario – The city is taken over by zombies. They are killing humans and terrifying them. The humans are on the run, stuffing themselves in whatever holes they could find. Over time, the humans create barricades making it more and more difficult for the zombies to find a prey. Then one fine day as the zombies are sitting and twiddling their fingers, a human zombie supporter (who thinks zombies are the messengers of God and sent to make humans pay for their sins) opens up a cinema hall for them. The tickets are sold in minutes. The zombies fill the theatre and guess which movie is playing there?

A Zombie movie!

The zombies watch the movie with enthusiasm and go back out with greater vigour to hunt as many humans as possible. The zombie supporter is happy.

Now replace the zombie with an average perverted Indian male who has a brain development of a two year old Neanderthal and who goes into a theatre to watch an Indian movie where women are either objectified to glory or where Indian culture begins at one end of a sari and ends at the other. The already deranged pervert is deranged further. His misplaced cultural values are further misplaced; his firm belief that women need to be tamed like an animal is further strengthened.


What do you think about these scenarios and the impact they leave?

  • Rahul and Anjali are college chums. Anjali is tomboyish and so Rahul never loves her but finds another seductive girl. Years later when God plunks the seductive girl off the planet, Rahul and Anjali meet again. Anjali has transformed into a Bhartiya Nari (true blue pastel colours sari woman who loves children). In the end, it takes the flurry of a sari by the pagli pawan (crazy winds) and the accidental display of Anjali’s blouse concealing that part of her anatomy of which Rahul was always unaware of, which makes Rahul discover the Indian woman in her, the woman whom he could love and dance with in rain.
  • There have always been Item numbers ever since Helen was discovered with extra long feathers on her head and back but nowadays if you leave all the leading ladies of Bollywood in a room and tell them that one of them will get to perform an item number in Salman Khan’s next movie, you will find loads of organs to be donated in 30 minutes and a majority of them will be eyes. Item numbers are the best way to parade women as objects. The filmmaker makes money and perverts get the kick to go out and fondle a woman after seeing an ‘item’ hanging from a rope amongst a horde of men trying to catch her skirt on the screen.
  • Veronica is a bitch. She goes to pubs, have sex with random men but she is lonely and has no good friends. Our Hero flirts with her, beds her and they are cool with their fun relationship. Enters Meera, the perfect Indian woman, and our hero falls in love with her. Girls like Veronica are just there to have fun. When Hero’s Mom arrives, he had to display Meera like a trophy because that is what every Indian mother wants – a daughter-in-law dipped in our creamy culture, ready to be devoured. The Hero wants this too because our rich culture is rooted somewhere deep in his ankle.
  • Adding more to Veronica – she goes to pubs and leads her life on her terms. And she is shown in a negative light. The director throws her at the audience like we throw a bone towards a dog and we lap her up. She gives us the psychological nutrition to believe that our culture still shuns girls who ape the west. Remember, we live in a country where we justify molestation of a girl who goes to a pub. In 2012. Veronica had to wear a salwaar-kameez finally in the hope that Maa would accept her. And Oh! it’s all right for our hero to ape the west. He can womanize and drink as much as he wants.
  • The actress have to flutter her eyes, bite her lower lip, sway her body, bite her index finger between her teeth and pinch the index finger on her left hand with the thumb and index finger on her right hand when our Hero is around. I understand blushing but this induces nothing but the strongest urge to *face palm*.

I am not entirely blaming our film industry for the way women are treated in our society and for our medieval mindset. That will be like blaming Pranab Mukherjee for replacing Pratibha Patil as the brand ambassador of SOTC. But he did play a part, no matter how minuscule. Our society is heavily influenced by movies and the biggest movie industry in the world should try to find ways to change the mindset of the society, not to make profits out of it. Showing women as ‘items’ and portraying any deviation from an ideal Indian woman as black are subtle dangerous projections which helps in strengthening the way women are treated in India.

It will not be correct to say that the Indian film industry hasn’t changed over the years. There has been a radical change in how we portray women in our movies by giving them positively bold roles instead of asking them to scream as the hero beats the villain to a pulp, all thanks to the new breed of responsible directors. But there is a darker end of the spectrum as well. In a bid to make money, the mainstream cinema has severely started objectifying women with an equal ferocity. The number of item numbers served every year is now more than the number of train accidents that happen in India.


In a nation which is as tasteless without its sexually oppressing Patriarchal society as Maggi noodles is without its special masala, is it so hard to understand the repercussions of an actress picking up her sari, doing pelvic thrusts and heaving her breasts simultaneously in front of perverts who then go out and look at every woman in the same light? Who then take every girl who goes to a pub as ‘available’ and someone who will enjoy the touch of any Changu Mangu? Who then go out and search for an ideal virgin Indian woman acceptable to his family, no matter that he lost his own virginity years ago? Is it so difficult to understand that an alarmingly huge population of India is not mentally capable of enjoying such a form of cinematic entertainment without obvious consequences?

No, it is not difficult. You just have to look beyond money.

Crestfallenly yours,

Once a fan.

64 comments on “Open letter to the Indian film industry

  1. I don’t know what to say anymore. Its sad that the country has come to this. Media, television and Bollywood have so much power over a nation, at least a majority of the masses. If only they could leverage this for the greater good, but alas. You have summed it up very well, especially the first few points citing examples from the movies. The way they portray women is shameful, but unfortunately I don’t see any other India ‘wood’ doing anything different – be it Kolly, Tolly its all the same. If she’s not shown gyrating, she’s a damsel in distress shown at the mercy of the hero rescuing her from sweating heavy bodies. Never as an independent identity with her own place in the movie. Movies like Kahaani are by far rare.

    • Movies and cricket hold our country together. Cinema has an overwhelming power on the way we think, the way we behave, the kind of clothes we wear etc. The industry is supposed to use this power to change the mindset of the society, instead they use it to fill their bank accounts.
      Yes, there are rare movies which show women in positive light but my problem are the mainstream movies. They have a wider reach and they are more polluting.
      Thanks for your comment Deepa.

  2. I am raising my glass of tea to a writeup that started in sarcasm and went on to put across a strong message. Things have indeed changed for worse and no one blinks an eye. The points you mentioned is exactly what I thought when I saw this Veronica movie.

  3. Standing ovation to this post. And am I permitted to whistle aloud (tapori style) on this blog? If women say this exact same thing we are labelled jealous and whiny. I’ve seen men swoon and go wow at those pics in the magazines and billboards, even when they know it is airbrushed. Everybody knows the existence of photoshop. But I dont see the real life expectations go down. I agree in adolescence we all have had our fantasies of dating/marrying Hrithik Roshan or Madhuri Dixit. But we grow out. This unrealistic portrayal is causing more harm and heartburn than anything else. You are bang-on on all the points. I rarely watch a bollywood movie these days. If I do it is of the likes of Delhi Belly or some such. I really wish they stop making movies altogether.

    • Haha! Thanks Wanderer. 🙂
      The problem with the citizens of this great nation is that there are times when they are not able to differentiate between the moment a movie ends and real life starts. They take their life to be an extension of a movie. It’s a vicious circle which strengthens their medieval beliefs.
      Yeah, a handful of good movies come out each year. I usually wait for a while to gather enough knowledge about a movie before buying a ticket with my hard earned money. Whenever I have gone with a whim, I end up watching trash like Cocktail.

  4. You, Amit, are my hero…okie…my blog wala hero theek hai?

    awesome awesome awesome write up…that Rahul Anjali thing is so so true rey..the other day MIL was watching KKHH…I was wondering the same thing..and Anjali was so much cooler before the interval na !!!

    • Haha! Thanks. *blushes*
      I remember crying while watching KKHH when I was in college.
      I watched it again a few days back and I laughed at those very scenes.
      Yes, I liked Anjali before the interval too. That whole bhartiya nari act after the interval was quite unbearable.

  5. When some movies goes through censor certification and when the officials recommend certain cuts, our film makers shed crocodile tears and claim that these scenes are reflection of the society. When you go out and see in actual reality, the perverts are influenced by society.

    Tomorrow, if Indian movies stop adding these extra Masalas, our indian people watch the foriegn culture movies and still continue committing same sins.

    Rape, Drugs, Alchohol and other activities were of same level even in absence of television, media, entertainment. Today at least we get to know what is exactly happening. But in the past we didn’t even if such a thing happened to our neighbor.

    I feel, the only solution is responsible government, responsible citizen and quality education can bring upon changes. Correct me if i am wrong.

    • Thanks for your comment Arun.
      I think you will not find item numbers and glorification of our false cultural outlooks in foreign language movies. Rape, drugs and alcohol are still shown in poor light in all the movies in all the cultures.
      What I am talking about is the brainwashing which goes on in our movies which leads men to think of women as objects, which plants false idea of an Indian woman to be homely only when she wears a sari or a salwaar, which shows working woman in poor light, which show subjugation as a part of life.
      When you drill a good idea for too long, it can have a very positive effect on the society and the same is applicable to a bad idea leading to a negative effect.

  6. *You deserve a Standing Ovation for this post*

    I have hated KKHH since the time I have seen it even though I am a Shah Rukh Khan fan (not sure if I am still a SRK fan). I couldn’t understand how he could love Anjali after she got a makeover! She was the same person before perhaps more fun!

    I am not watching Cocktail. The storyline of the movie was quite obvious from its promos. How often we see this kind of a storyline in TV soaps and films. A rich spoilt brat who sleeps with half the women in town falls for a salwar kameez wearing simple Indian girl.

    Sadly for the heroines of today their being part of item numbers is a matter of pride.

    Lets hope there are films which show women as strong independent characters than just objects of glorification!

    • Thanks. 🙂
      Well, I loved the movie when I saw it for the first time. I was in college then. You are supposed to like such stuff. I outgrew it pretty soon.
      Yeah, Cocktail is a stereotype which should not be entertained at all. It is too damaging.
      And yes, I don’t know what is it about item numbers which is so fascinating to the actresses?

  7. I agree with you and R’s mom. I loved KKHH when I saw it as a teenager. But today when I watch I see far too many loopholes. While Kajol immortalized Anjali and made her transition realistic to watch, it just fed to the stereotype. Typically speaking, Anjali had to turn into Tina (or something similar) to get his attention. Sigh…

    I never even ventured to watch Cocktail after hearing the reviews. Thank goodness I didn’t.

    There are some movies worth mention though. Just a handful. I m assuming you have watched ‘Ek Hasina Thi’ by Sriram Raghavan. It was nothing short of mind-blowing.

    I m not sure how much you’d enjoy it, considering langauge is also a barrier. But I’d recommend you to watch some good South Indian movies – particularly Malayalam and Tamil ones. I am not talking about the intolerable masala “enna rasacala” category. There are GOOD movies and strong characters, particularly female ones. It is good to see an actual woman character instead of a display creature. I’ve heard Bengali cinema is also good that way.

    • Yes, I have watched Ek Hasina Thi. The one with Urmila right? I loved that movie. There have been some very strong female oriented movies in the last two decades but somehow they do not get the attention which a mainstream movie gets and thus are not able to play a major role in erasing the stereotype.
      Yes, I have heard about the South Indian movies. They have bolder stories and a variety of themes. Unfortunately, the only movie I have seen is Khaka Khaka. 🙂 I will dig in and try to find some with subtitles.

  8. Ah, KKHH !! I was in college when KKHH hit the screens and I remember finding it just about okay, though a lot of scenes made me feel uncomfortable even then. Why did Kajol have to realize that she is actually in love with SRK just when SRK begins to fall for Rani? And that dialogue’pehla pyar bhulaye nahin bhoolta’…well, SRK bhulao’ed his pehla pyar soon enough, right?

    These film-wallahs go out of the way to portray that it is just not possible for a man and a woman to be just friends–they love to insinuate that eventually all a woman wants is to get married. Remember Deepika in Bachna Ai Hasino–after putting on the career-woman-unwilling-to-get-married-just-yet act for some time, she is shown having a change of heart and falling right in line. Ugh!!

    • I was in love with KKHH. I think that shows how a guy and a girl see different aspects in a movie. Now when I look back, I do understand that it had a lot of problems.
      Yeah, all that *they can’t just be friends* has been there for a long time. I do not understand it. And that is why I loved Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu. Now, that was real.

  9. Take a bow! This is something that has been plaguing my mind for quite a while now. Mainstream advertisements, cinemas and campaigns are all guilty of stereotyping women in both senses. Career woman, tom-boy, independent woman = loosing the love of your life (or) playing third wheel. Enter traditional clothes+ sindoor+flowers+career and independence pushed out of the window+eye batting+ willing to make babies right away, and our hero comes rushing back with wide open arms…
    I also salute directors who attempt to shift from the mainstream portrayals… I recently watched ’22 Female Kottayam’ a movie that reaffirmed my faith that all hope is not lost yet. I’m not calling it an epitome of anything, but it’s a start…

    • They are actuall like leeches, sucking on the mindset of our society and filling their pockets. I believe that they are accountable of brainwashing the citizens of this country in a way. A progressive woman is shown in a negative light in most of our media.
      Hmmm, lets see if I can get it with subtitles. Bollywood has also been dishing some good stuff off late and it is working too but mainstream cinema really has to grow up.

  10. I thought about SRK and Kajol as well. We should have protested right then. We should have never let these film makers take us for granted. Maybe Veronica and Meera would have never happened.
    Anyway, I hope the world is listening and I hope we see a love story where Veronica wins Boy from a Julie and not Meera!

    • I was in college and that era of SRK opening his arms and Kajol flying in them had just started. It took me some time to come out of it but yes you are right. No one protested at that time. Someone should have.
      Yes, I do hope that we do not get this Cocktail crap anymore.

    • The basic premise of Jism 2 is to show skin and earn money, I agree. I am fine with she-had-an-affair-and-paid-for-it but not with Indian-women-never-have-affairs and thus the girl in the story ‘paid for destroying our culture’. That will be crappy.

  11. indian women have always been portrayed like this in Indian movies. totally agree with you. very nicely narrated.

    there were few movies during 80s and early 90s which were absolutely outrageous. but that’s the mentality of the society as a whole and movies just cater to their demand or need. however, movies can play a major role to change this mentality.

    • Thanks Debajyoti. 80s was a black era for our film industry. The worst mainstream movies came in that decade. Its a decade I would like to forget if not for the amazing art movies which came out during that period.

  12. Pingback: And So Movies It Is Today…… | R's Mom

  13. Came here via R’s Mom’s blog. LOVED this post. Couldn’t agree more with what you say.

    **Standing ovation**

    It is time Indian cinema grew up, and those K serials too. I hope they soon start depicting the society as it is now, rather than showing values from the 1920s.

    • Thanks and welcome here. 🙂
      And I don’t know why but all your comments went into my spam and I was about to hit the empty spam button seconds before I saw your comment. Thank god for that.
      K serials need a post of their own. They are despicable.

  14. Exact to my thinking. Its really strange that we have so much people indulged in film that surely be more than the population of UK. Still these talented (so called) people are not able to make a lil impact on world cinema. I seldom thinks that I have to do something to bring about a positive change in society, then my mind always stops at one source i.e. making a movie for a positive change. Why does these talented people not think so?

    • We have very very few directors capable enough to compete with world cinema. We really need to set our own house in order before looking outside for competition.
      The talented people do not think about it because they are busy making money. Even when they try to go a different path, the pressure of staying in the race leads them to make compromises.

  15. *Applause* !!!!
    A very written post and so BANG ON!!!
    Came here through RM’s blog 🙂
    You are SO right about the influence of cinema in daily life and most importantly, that last line, “not mentally capable of enjoying such a form of cinematic entertainment without obvious consequences?”….this is the problem that the film producers/directors refuse to acknowledge…we still have a large number of uneducated, unemployed populace for whom moral ethics are those that are shown on screen.
    So yeah, if films show a woman who visits pubs as fallen woman, then every girl in our country who steps out of a pub is the next possible victim 😐

    Like before, a very well written post. Am now hooked 🙂

    • Thanks momofrs and welcome here. 🙂
      //if films show a woman who visits pubs as fallen woman, then every girl in our country who steps out of a pub is the next possible victim
      Exactly and more so because a large population of our country do not have access to such a lifestyle. And all they need is a confirmation that such a lifestyle is bad and our movies serve it to them on a platter.

    • That is the problem Bikram. People will keep watching trash as long as big production houses keep serving them to make money. Meaningful cinema works. Kahani, Paan Singh Tomar and Vicky Donor worked. So it’s not as if we will not appreciate good cinema.
      Thankfully there are people who understand the harm movies like Cocktail do. I do not remember the last Salman, SRK or Akshay movie I have seen in a theatre. I cannot waste my money on something that hurts my brain cells.

      • The problem is not if you watch a movie or I dont watch a movie , it does not makes any difference what so ever to anyone , IF a few dont see the movie, because millions more to see that .. Also

        I dont agree to that , about big production houses because , its business , they are in it to make money.

        If a half naked woman or a sleazy item number or some sleazy UNETHICAL way the so called romantic scenes are pasteurised, makes people walk in and buy that ticket .. then its business Sense, I WILL DO IT TOO.

        Its been YEARSSS since I went to see a HINDI movie in cinema as far as i remember I have just seen maybe a dozen hindi movies since I have come to UK a decade ago..

        I dont blame the big production , they make what sells, its simple market logic. We or the person who walks up to buy that ticket is to be blamed.. the shelf life of movies is few weeks or a month .. gone are the days of silver jubilees or the time when sholay ran for years..

        its time to make a movie and make quick buck because we as audience have dictated that term, so the fault lies in the audience not the maker. we wait for that friday release EVERY friday.

        people see sleazy posters, dont buy the ticket, simple. it will hurt the maker as he wont make money. do it once or twice they will change ..

        • Bikram,
          I will give you simple statistics.
          Vicky Donor was made on a budget of 5 Crores. It earned 50 crores, ten times its investment not to mention that the risk in such low budget venture was low.
          Rowdy Rathore was made on a budget of 40 crores and it earned 131 crores, 3 times its investment.
          I think making a low budget meaningful movie will rope in more money than making a crap mainstream movie. In addition, I can make 8 good movies in a budget of 40 crores and if they work, I can get more money in my pocket that what I get by making one stupid movie out of that money.
          If we keep aside this logic, I can still make a good big budget movie and earn profits. Examples are 3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par, Rockstar.
          I don’t believe you need to show skin to make big bucks, you need brain and a bit of humility inside you. And if the directors are true to the art of film making, money will follow. Eventually.

  16. Awesome post Dude… I never liked KKHH (except the 1st half). But Preity Zinta’s character in KANK was a pleasant surprise, particularly from Karan Johar…
    I was about to mention Kahaani too… But then I feel even that is not free from stereotypes… I wish they left the climax at the scene where she merges into the Durga Puja crowd instead of explaining ‘why she did it’ and then Amitabh going on to compare her to Goddess Durga.
    Guess for Indians to accept ‘Vidya Bagchi’, each and every action by her needs explanation n justification.

    • Thanks N.
      Yes, thank God she slaps her husband and leaves him. It was a perfect end.
      Kahani was all right I guess. Since it was a mystery, they had to reveal the motive. And yes, it was a very superior movie in comparison to the trash we get nowadays.

  17. “ culture dipped in his ankle.” I really had a good laugh. Sarcastic but well written. The films promote certain stereotypes. Anyone who wants to break it and create a different film, faces the challenge of distributing his film. I think with the alternate mediums slowly emerging, filmmakers will start making movies which is not the normal heave and thrust kind of movies.

    • Thanks Sabyasachi. 🙂
      I have read about how filmmakers have to make adjustments for the producers and distributors. Its a sad situation but there are many examples where directors have put their foot down and said No and the movies have worked.
      Yes, there are visible changes in the last 5-6 years and it is a very positive sign.

  18. i totally enjoyed reading this post. Tht is the truth.
    Yes even i think KKHH full of stupidities now,, srk all the preaching ” ham ek bar jeete hain ek bar marte hain pyar b ek bar hota hai or shadi b” n by the end of the movie he makes a complete fool of himself by 2nd tym falling in love n marriage..
    even in K3G, jaya bachan gets to know srk’s arrival as soon as he steppd out from plane..c’mon aisi konsi ghanti bajti hai k mother india ko sb pta chal jata hai. haahah
    but yes not to forget kahaani, taare zameen pr, 3 idiots. i wud like to watch movies of such kind.

    • I think in KKHH, Rahul’s mother explain the logic to Anjali that men make rules but they forget that Dil ke aage koi rule nahi chalta…something like that.
      Yes, our movies are full of melodrama. It is a form of nautanki which still works.
      Thanks for liking the post Sugar. 🙂

  19. I loved what you have written! Its brilliant !
    I have stopped watching Hindi movies! 😐
    The sexism and the objectification is getting to be a tad bit too much!
    And that stupid movie – KKKG! Its so full of melodrama! bleh! I never did like KKHH as well!!

    • Thanks pixie.
      Yes, I have stopped watching Bollywood movies as well. Unless there is a movie which is different, I usually give Bollywood a skip.

  20. a poignant post amit and kudos for putting it out right ! the trouble is we the very audience who know that the film makes a mockery of things also go on to make it a block-buster. Sigh – the filmmakers tap this idiocy and let their cash registers ring

    • Thanks Priya.
      Well, thankfully I am not one of them and there will be many like me. I haven’t seen any of the stupid blockbusters. I commit mistakes like Cocktail sometimes and I am ashamed of such mistakes.

  21. I love your open letters, Amit. I only end up watching lower budget Hindi movies these days, the ones that actually have a story or a lesson to them, aka the ones that seldom get a big release.

    But it’s a chicken & egg game at the end of the day, the film industry only wants to make what sells. And we all know what sells in India.

    • Thanks Shivya and same here. I too watch very selected Bollywood movies which I am very sure are different and well worth my money.
      Yes, I agree but there is something about the people of this country. They get brainwashed too easily. Someone should try brainwashing them for something positive for a change. Who knows, it might work.

  22. Taaliyaan aapke post ke liye,Dilli ke rapeculture mein bhi aise log hain jo dimaag rakhte hain , waise mein bhi Dill se hoon , “Dilli Badnaam hui Rapiston ke Liye”

    I really appreciate how you have noticed the IFI objectifying women , we women notice it all the time , Its rare for men from Indian Setup to think with Brain , Congrats and I appreciate your writings once again.

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