Dear South Asian Movies, Let’s Stop Romanticizing Problematic Tropes

As someone who is of Indian descent, I love my culture. This includes South Asian movies. I will watch anything from regional Telugu movies to the latest Bollywood hits. However, the older I get and the more such movies I watch, I am starting to realize how some of the tropes in these movies can be problematic.

One of the issues I have with South Asian movies is how they are (mostly) very male-oriented. It is still rare to see a movie which has a female lead—although Hindi movies Pink and Queen are exceptions to this, and movies that I highly recommend everyone watches. For the most part, there is a male protagonist or “hero,” who always saves the day; he is the one who rescues the damsel in distress and fights off all the villains. While he’s at the forefront of the movie, the female-lead is usually seen in the background or during the songs, in which she is usually scantily clad and seen as just a “pretty face.”

My bigger concern, however, is the violence against women that many of these movies portray. A majority of these plots include a male-protagonist who continuously goes after the heroine, bothering harassing her until she finally “falls in love with him.” Basically, they romanticize the idea of stalking. They also send a message to men that, if they keep trying hard enough, a woman WILL eventually love them.

While this might seem like a small issue, the problem is that we as humans tend to get influenced very easily. Movies and television shows often give people ideas, and reel-life can turn into real life. It isn’t uncommon to hear of stories, especially in South Asia, of men who base their ideas of love and relationships off movies; and when it doesn’t go the way they expected, when a woman doesn’t just fall for them, some tend to resort to violence such as rape, murder and acid attacks.

Reel-life can turn into real life.

In a day and age where violence against women is still much too common, I think it is time that we reconsider these problematic trends that appear too often in South Asian cinema. Let’s keep in mind that, while movies are just a form of entertainment, they can also affect the way people think; let’s make these movies something that influence people positively, not negatively.

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Sai Sailaja Seshadri
Sai is a sophomore at Arizona State University studying Political Science and Pre-Law. In the little free time she has, Sai is constantly writing. Aside from Affinity, she is also the Editor In Chief for The Odyssey @ ASU and has contributed to magazines such as Thought Catalog, Elite Daily and Collegefession. She hopes to one day become a lawyer.

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