Bollywood, Bajirao & Total B.S.Mar 04, 2016
Bollywood is a dreamland. (Let’s be honest.) Enticing and luring, we all get sucked into its enchanting, magical love stories—no matter how unrealistic they are. Ultimately, Bollywood has shaped our lives and relationships, whether we realize it or not. Heck, as a young girl, I always felt that my own love life would end up like Amitabh’s and Rekha’s—just like in the movies. (Spoiler alert: My romances aren’t quiiiiiite playing out that way, or maybe they are !…but that’s another story for another post. Wink.)
Now, since Bollywood was such a huge escape for me growing up, it’s no scandalous secret that I’m Obsessed with a capital O. Falling into the Bollywood world wasn’t just a safe space for me; it was a stunning, captivating safe space. But now that I’ve grown older (and hopefully wiser), I’ve got to say—I’m not so fond of Bollywood’s secret sauce. Namely, the one that makes false promises.
Recently, I was fawning over Bajirao Mastani on the big screen with my girlfriend, surrounded by eager fellow Indians since apparently we’ve all heard about the latest buzz around this hit flick. The lights dimmed, and in an instant I travelled back in time to the days when I was that young, impressionable girl. Needless to say, I was immersed in the set, the sweetness of it all, and the costumes. (Oh my GOSH, the costumes! They were so elaborate and my jaw definitely hung open.) Bansali (the director) has an uncanny knack for engaging the audience immediately and produces movies that are impeccably stylish. I was hooked.
Afterwards, I was floored to learn that the movie was based on the true Indian love story of Bajirao and Mastani from the 17th century. Honestly, it’s shocking to me that back in the day, Mastani was able to withstand the harshness of societal judgements to pursue the guy she wanted. Granted, she was a warrior, and that in and of itself distinguished her from the rules of other women, but still.
Clearly, the strength and sheer courage of women isn’t some newfangled movement (thank goodness). But in Bansali’s film, what stands out the most is the lack of support. Mastani was isolated, alienated, shunned, and cast out, which aren’t unfamiliar feelings for lots of women today. Can you relate to Mastani? Do you feel her pain and struggles? Or are you anti-Mastani and think she deserved the life of isolation she ended up with?
What about Kashi? How do you feel about her? As for me, I can’t help but feel that deep, hollow ache of unfairness at the way Bajirao Mastani’s love affair played out. There she was, being the dutiful wife and doing everything “right,” while in return, she was neglected by the love of her life. Since husbands and kids were a woman’s universe back then, she no longer had an identity. She was a lost soul.
Now, fast forward to today. Can you still relate to Kashi? Do you see her as the victim in the whole mess? I left the theatre feeling powerless, and thanked my stars I didn’t exist in the 17th century. No one wants to be caged with nowhere to go, even though a lot of us create that world for ourselves without even realizing it. (As we all know, life can be a total b*!#?, but only if we let it.)
The reality is that true love burning out and withering away is so typical of Bollywood story lines. I’ve seen more movies about true love that doesn’t meet societal standards, riddled with torrid affairs and laced with hate than I can possibly count. It really makes you wonder what kind of mirroring is going on with it all.
I can’t say I was thrilled about the movie, even though I see the point to all the madness. It came down to this: If you can get through all the icky parts of life in a grounded and centered way, the learnings are worth a pot of gold—and maybe even a friendship with that wily leprechaun at the end of the rainbow.
How do you stay centered amidst the chaos? Self care and self compassion, though I’m betting you already knew I’d say that. When you can heighten your self awareness through periods of hardship, you’re giving yourself one of the best possible gifts in existence.
So while I still carry around profound love for Bollywood deep in my heart, I’m going to take a hard pass on the fanfare. Too many false promises. Too many pathetic endings. Why settle for something subpar when we can create our own endings? We make our reality, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to idly sit by and become some overdone Bollywood flick when I can write my own story. Join me?