The Kabir Singh movie has given us enough grief already. Many said that there is nothing wrong in such a movie. So, some time back we asked you if there has been a Kabir Singh in your life.
You replied. We heard you. We heard 517 of you. Sandeep Vanga, are you listening?
Five hundred and seventeen of you have had a Kabir Singh in your life.
We asked if you have ever been emotionally abused by a Kabir Singh in your life.
We asked if you have been gas-lighted by your Kabir Singh. That is, being told that it’s your fault that he is a Kabir Singh and only you can, as ‘his’ woman, fix him. That, it is your duty to fix your Kabir Singh. That you enduring him is essential to keep his immense energy from being destructive to his self and others.
416 of you said yes.
Four hundred and sixteen of you said that you had been emotionally abused, manipulated and gaslighted by a man as toxic as Kabir Singh.
Four hundred and sixteen!
Two theatres full of you who have had to endure emotional abuse, manipulation and gaslighting from a partner who was supposed to love you.
We asked if you have been verbally abused by a Kabir Singh. We asked if you have had offensive and hurtful words hurled at you. Most likely out of ‘love.’
332 of you said yes.
Three hundred and thirty-two of you said that you had been verbally abused by a Kabir Singh in your life.
We asked if you have or had a Kabir Singh who dominated aspects of your personal and professional life. The one who controls who you meet, when you meet and how you carry yourself everywhere.
Who consequentially distances you from the people and things that matter to you so that he remains the sole source of validation, support, and ‘love’ for you.
347 of you said yes.
Three hundred and forty-seven of you said that you have been dominated over and controlled by a Kabir Singh.
The director of Kabir Singh, Sandeep Reddy Vanga doesn’t think it is love if you don’t have the liberty to slap your partner. You have heard it as kids. That he’s behaving like this only because he likes you.
Kids grow up learning that. Women got into marriages thinking that wife-beating is okay.
We don’t additionally need an Arjun Reddy and then a Kabir Singh as a platform for Sandeep Reddy to glorify partner abuse.
We asked if you have been subject to physical assault or abuse by a Kabir Singh,
192 of you said yes.
One hundred and ninety-two of you said that you had been physically abused by a Kabir Singh
Cut to the 90s. Movies made stalking and obsessive behaviour romantic. Pre-requisites to win the love of ‘your’ heroine. The same behaviour, when done in ‘style’ by a ‘good looking’ hero with the backdrop of romantic songs, is perceived by the audience as love, and when done by a creepy villain is correctly perceived as bad.
We asked if you had been stalked or suffered obsessive behaviour by a Kabir Singh who thinks of himself as the hero in the movie of your life.
303 of you said yes.
Three hundred and three of you said that you have had a Kabir Singh stalk you and indulged in obsessive behaviour.
Think of movies like Ranjhana. Threats of suicide or actual self-harm turned out to be romantic. Manipulative behavior aimed at coercing you into accepting him as your hero.
We asked if you had a Kabir Singh who did that to you, 245 of you said yes.
Two hundred and forty-five of you have had a Kabir Singh who gave you threats of suicide or self-harm to win your love.
We do not teach consent to our boys. They grew up and made movies that teach boys that consent is irrelevant. They drill the idea ever so romantically that when a heroine says no, she actually means yes.
This is rape culture.
Made by these men and boys.
Normalized abusive behavior. Followed and perpetuated by women and girls.
Rape culture gave birth to many Kabir Singhs of our lives.
Rape culture is what makes people stay calm when an on-screen hero Kabir Singh asks a woman to strip at knife-point.
We asked if you had a Kabir Singh who doesn’t take no for an answer and feels entitled to your body.
277 of you said yes.
Two hundred and seventy-seven of you said that you have had a Kabir Singh who refused to take your NO as an acceptable answer.
Rape culture imbibes the idea in men that there no need for consent in a relationship, you can do whatever pleases you. Because she is your ‘bandi’ (your girl). More like ‘bandhi’ (prisoner).
They can do whatever they want to your body because they love you.
We asked if you had a Kabir Singh who sexually abused you, 189 of you said Yes.
One hundred and eight nine of you.
We asked if such a Kabir Singh raped you, 57 of you said yes.
Fifty seven of you.
I’m sure your Kabir Singh was as cute as Shahid Kapoor. I’m sure your Shahid Kapoor was as toxic as Kabir Singh.
I’m sorry that this movie, under the mask of free speech, reminded you of your Kabir Singh. It is not acceptable.
I am sorry for those who endured the audience’s love for Arjun Reddy, had now gone through another round with Kabir Singh.
It is not acceptable that the director of the movie, strangely bearing a close resemblance to Kabir Singh and Arjun Reddy himself, made you relive your trauma of having a Kabir Singh in your life.
It is not acceptable that so many people are coming out in defence of such a movie.
Apologists of the movie are broadly speaking, of 2 kinds, ones who see nothing wrong with Kabir Singh’s character, and the others who do, but defend the movie with certain arguments.
The women who responded to our survey have had a Kabir Singh in their lives.
Those who think it is okay to be a Kabir Singh, 517 women disagree – a drop in the ocean of women who have a Kabir Singh in their lives.
If you believe that there is nothing wrong in portraying and glorifying a character like Kabir Singh, then you are a part of the reason why way more than 517 women had to endure a Kabir Singh in their lives
The second kind who admit that Kabir Singh is problematic but defend the movie regardless argue:
1) Kabir Singh is just a portrayal of many real-life toxic alpha males.
No. It’s not just a simple portrayal. There is a difference between portraying a negative character as-is and portraying it in a way that makes the audience love or empathise with a disturbing character, and not for grey area mistakes, or for otherwise positive attributes but for the problematic aspects. This maligned portrayal actually makes the portrayal dishonest. Many leave the theatre with a different feeling about Kabir Singh than the feeling the real toxic men of our lives give us. This is greatly damaging to both current victims of abuse and survivors.
a) This movie would make many sufferers of abuse go a few steps behind in identifying signs of toxicity. They would end up furthering their comforting need to see grey where it is all black. “It hurts when he holds me so tight but I know that the intensity is only because he loves me”
b) Others leave triggered by normalisation and glorification of the same behaviour they were traumatised with. Their progress away from toxicity gets invalidated every time someone cheers Kabir for another exhibit of toxicity.
There is no outrage against all the misogyny in the character of Nawazuddin in Raman Raghav. Because he is portrayed as a psychopath. You can admire the character sketch and the actor, you can shudder to think of such a human being. But you will leave the theatre without feeling angry at the film makers because they did not distort how you are supposed to feel about psychopaths. One could truly make a grey character, as are both Nawazuddin and Varun Dhawan in Badlapur and let the audience feel how one should feel about a grey character.
You said that its;
2) Kabir Singh Movie is Free speech
No. If your speech insults the existence of a group or community that are already hurting, then its not free speech. Its hate speech. Kabir Singh is hate speech.
No, there are no dialogues that explicitly advocate for patriarchy or misogyny. But Kabir Singh’s misogynist actions wrapped in his hero image, and everyone else’s inaction, speaks louder than words. Glorification of a toxic and potential rapist who treats all women like they are trash is straight up misogyny.
Misogyny is hate speech.
Hate speech is not free speech. Such hate speech better be kept away from theatres.
You said that;
3) Toxic movies like Kabir Singh do not cause any real harm
When I was a child, I saw many kids around my age declare their name as Ramjaane, wear clothes like he did and imbibe his toxic behaviour. When I grew up, I saw men around my age change their hair style and act like Radhe of Tere Naam. Then I saw worshippers of Ranjhana. And there will be more Kabir Singhs just as there are Arjun Reddys. The thing that connects these movies is the glorification of bad characters.
Such movies shows young boys that it is absolutely okay for them to be Ramjaane, Radhe, Ranjhanaa, Arjun Reddy and Kabir Singh.
Such movies tells young girls that it must be love when it comes from someone like Ramjaane, Radhe, Ranjhanaa, Arjun Reddy and Kabir Singh.
Consider Anurag Kashyap. Characters in his movies not heroes or vilians. They are not black or white, they are shades of grey.
They represent real people, typical or exceptional.
How you feel about those characters has more to do with your moral compass, your personality and experiences.
There is no attempt to make you like a character despite of it’s flawed self.
So if you already love shooting people around, you are going to identify with many criminals in Gangs of Wassepur and maybe replicate their behaviour in real life.
But mostly you are going to watch the movie for its portrayal of weak, vulnerable everyday criminals who are not in perfect ‘black’ in portrayal.
Mogambo was an exemplary villian. You like him without feeling the urge to push people in your life into boiling lava pits. You liked Gabbar without feeling the urge to whiplash every Basanti into dancing for you.
Kabir Singh causes harm in real life because it tells both men and women that abuse is love, that self destructive and abusive behaviour towards women is the natural consequence of an intense heart break.
That being an alpha male of your medical world (top notch student, surgeon, ‘rebel’, ‘charismatic’) makes you entitled to pick any girl you want and trash any girl you don’t.
That the chosen female of this alpha male has only one role – to be the source of stability catered for his chaotic energy.
You also said that;
4) Your outrage is selective on Kabir Singh
People love to point out that there have been many bad characters before (curiously their examples seem to be of female vilians) but there was no feminist outrage towards them.
Be it Kajol in Gupt, or Alia Bhatt in Apna time ayega, women are capable of bad or downright criminal behaviour and portrayal of the same is fine. We are yet to see any of these movies glorifying these characters. Alia Bhat is a grey character and beautifully portrayed as such. If you saw Ranbir Singh glorifying her toxic behaviour, or the audience loving it when she smacks the bottle on her head, then let us discus outrage together.
Kabir Singh is not some distant Mogambo or Gabbar. It’s a reality that hits too close to home. We have been saying that since forever.
Five hundred and seventeen of you have said that too.
With all disrespect, f*ck you, Sandeep Reddy Vanga.