One star who doesn’t disappoint his audience during Eid is Salman Khan. In what has become an annual event since 2009, the festival brings with it a new Khan film that has always shattered box office records and set a benchmark.
The movie this year was Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai, starring Khan, alongside Disha Patani, directed by Prabhu Deva. Khan plays a disgraced cop who gets involved in a turf war in Mumbai’s drug peddling scene and Patani takes on the role of the love interest.
By now it is an accepted fact that the women in such “blockbuster action films” usually serve little purpose but to be objectified by the protagonist and occasionally break out into song-dance and if she’s lucky, she’ll perhaps have a memorable dialogue or two.
It has become so normalized for ‘heroines’ to have minimal screen time and no real role in the movie that reviewers are at a loss for words when it comes to describing them.
Patani’s presence is so inconsequential that they’ve taken to complimenting her clothing, the credit for which should actually go to the costume department.
Another film critic Rohitt Jaiswal writes in his review, “Disha Patani adds more glamour and cuteness in the film, she is looking adorable and very beautiful.” In one fell swoop, her entire role in the movie has been minimized to serve as eye candy. What does adding cuteness even entail, one could question, but we’ll leave that to the creative liberty of the reviewer.
“Disha Patani looks good and dances well,” writes another entertainment journalist while meting out praise for Randeep Hooda’s antagonist character and Khan’s delivery. Once again, the female protagonist, if she can even be called that, is reduced to the sum of her appearance, dancing skill and chemistry with the lead. One wonders why there is nary a mention of why she has not been given more screen time. Another review calls her character “dumb with daddy issues”.
However, it was critic Anna Vetticad’s review that stood out as a breath of fresh air amongst the otherwise absurd takes. “Radhe treats its ‘heroine’ as nothing but a body on display whose sole job is to give the hero someone to fall in love with, dance with and protect,” Vetticad writes, emphasizing what many others have sorely failed to point out.
The question is, can we even blame these people for writing such reviews? After all, Patani barely has a sizable role in the movie. Many who have followed her work have said that she even received the opportunity to act in only two movies — Baaghi 2 and Malang. Even then, she struggles to prove her acting chops.
Perhaps a more optimistic person would hope that reviewers could be more honest and hopefully influence Bollywood to do a better job in its portrayal of women. But let’s face it, actors are still starring alongside women who are half their age. Sexist stereotypes, racist tropes and overused storylines still exist despite much criticism because there continues to be an audience for it and the commercial success of these has stood the test of time.
Unless the audience undergoes a massive transformation and stops lining the pockets of these producers who go above and beyond to make terrible cinema, nothing will really change.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)