Bollywood bubble: Why are lead characters mostly male, upper-caste, Hindus?
The recent Zoya Akhtar release, Dil Dhadakne Do, which had cinema-goers flocking to the big screens, makes us question whether Bollywood is only making flicks which portray India’s niche audience, predominantly the upper class.
The picturesque offshore film portrayed the lives of super rich Punjabi Indians and their first world problems. Critics felt the film was detached from India’s third world reality because it is “difficult to give a damn about the people in the film” and deemed the movie ‘shallow’, reported Quartz India.
However, the director, was of a different opinion. “The Indian audience doesn’t want to watch poor people,” she said in an interview, dismissing all notions that her films are targeted towards the elite.
“What about Slumdog [Millionaire]? Didn’t you watch that even though it was about a world we were not a part of? At the end of the day it is about experiences, emotions that work for all of us,” Zoya said in an interview with Scroll.
The Hindu reported an analysis of lead characters in almost 300 films released in 2013 and 2014 which revealed that only six lead characters belonged to the lower classes. This was in contrast to Tamil films, which saw a high rise in backward caste in the same time frame.
In 2014, only three Bollywood films saw a shift in lead roles; Mary Kom, a biopic whose lead character was a member of the Kom tribal community; Highway, about a distraught criminal from the Gujjar community; and Manjunath, a real-life account of an Indian Oil employee who was murdered for speaking out against a corrupt oil dealer.
The year before that in 2013, three film releases featured backward castes. The films were; Bandook, the story of a lower caste man’s rise to political power, Kangana Ranaut’s Revolver Rani, and Deepika and Ranveer’s Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela.
But it’s not just about the lack of lower class films in B-Town, the most common characters featured in these movies are Hindus. According toThe Hindu report, Christians, Muslims or Sikhs were hardly kept in mind for roles when writing the script.