RDS_190708 Kabir Singh criticism escalates-1562600389428
Image Credit: PTI

What you need to know:

  • Kabir Singh criticism escalates, director trolled on social media
  • Tweeps are unhappy with the character and say the movie is "regressive".

Bollywood movie Kabir Singh continues to stir controversy while being a money-spinner at the box-office. It has made Rs225 (Dh8,264,700) crores in two weeks, one of the highest earners of 2019.

Since the release of the movie on June 20, the film has been found to be “misogynistic” and “regressive”, especially by social media users. And things have taken a turn for the worse because its director has decided to defend his creation, rather vocally.

What is the issue?

It all essentially stems from the anger management issues plaguing the main protagonist of Kabir Singh played by Indian actor Shahid Kapoor, a father himself in real life of a young daughter. Singh slaps his “girlfriend” in a scene, for what he considers to be a betrayal by her refusal to stand up for him.

And Indian tweeps were furious, as they placed it within the context of India’s ongoing battle with the escalating violence against its female population. A 2018 survey by international news agency Reuters showed that India was considered the most unsafe country for women globally.

Director defends the movie

Tweep @hragarwal posted: “...what a movie. I feel like slapping the director and this [is] my emotion towards him. #KabirSingh #WeSupportSandeepReddyVanga #Bollywood.”

Sandeep Reddy Vanga, director of the movie has left online users outraged after he defended the idea of hitting your “lover”, in an interview with Indian author and journalist Anupama Chopra.

He said that he had not expected the film to do as well as it did. However, he found the criticism “bizarre”.

“When you question their belief system, people get angry. I think that’s what happened. It is not even healthy criticism – it’s very pseudo.”

Vanga’s controversial statement according to social media users was: “When you are deeply in love, when you are deeply connected with your woman or vice versa, there is a lot of honesty in it. If you don’t have that physical demonstration of it, if you don’t have the liberty of slapping each other, then I don’t see anything there.”

He further added that people, women particularly, who are against Kabir Singh’s character “have not experienced love in the right way... it is new to them.”

The film Kabir Singh is a Hindi-language remake of the 2017 Telugu-language film, Arjun Reddy, also directed by Vanga.

Arjun Reddy was also accused of being male-dominated and sexist, but the criticism it received was on a much smaller scale, according to online news reports.

According to the Gulf News review of the film by Manjusha Radhakrishnan, the movie depicts “an emotionally damaged and cocky man-child, who isn’t instantly adorable... He’s violent and virile, determined to destroy himself over a messy break-up.”

Social media disgusted

While some users praised Vanga for his “bold” comments, most were outraged with the director’s idea of love. #WeSupportSandeepReddyVanga was trending on social media as people used the hashtag to express their pro or against opinion on the issue.

@TappyKothapally posted: “The interview irked me even more than the movies. His sheer arrogance and ignorance is baffling.”

@shishirsinghai6 posted: “[Kabir Singh is a] Shameful character...one of the most disgusting cinema of this era.”

Tweep @amitsati posted: “Shahid do you agree with this guy? I think you should feel sorry for sharing such a video on twitter and apologise publicly.”

Tweep @FuschiaScribe posted: “An ex-partner punched me in the eye to the extent that my eyes are of different shapes now. Banged my head against the car window during one fight and twisted my hand that left marks on my forearm. So don’t tell me that physical violence is a form of love. Because it isn’t.

“Shame of the director and all supporters of films such as #KabirSingh and #ArjunReddy. Violence is not love. Keep repeating it till it gets instilled in your heads. Every woman who has faced violence will tell you that it is not love that made her husband or boyfriend hit her. Listen to the women, listen to their stories of violence and abuse.”

Tweep @zainabb101 posted: “I actually saw women defending Kabir Singh and being like ‘OMG their love was so pure, these feminists just need something to criticise’. Like how can one be so shallow and tone deaf?”

Tweep @ranveerdepikas made a reference to one of the opening scenes of the movie where Kabir threatens a woman with a knife to coerce her into spending time with him.

He posted: “And what about threatening someone with a knife to have sex?”

@Adizamybaee agreed and posted: “So is that okay to cheat on your fiancé with any random guy? Cool, not justifying that knife thingy. But hey, don’t close your eyes while watching a movie.”

Personal accounts of violence

Indian journalist at The Economic Times Shephali Bhatt (@ShephaliBhatt) shared her experience of being stalked by someone in college. She posted 21 tweets in response to the director’s comments.

She posted: “I knew a Kabir Singh in college and I shudder at the thought of revisiting memories from that time of my life, all thanks to him. Didn’t think I will muster the energy to put this out but Sandeep Vanga’s interview triggered stuff even watching Arjun Reddy for context couldn’t.”

She discusses an incident that began at her college freshman’s party, which disturbed her entire college life. Her story, is similar to incidents shown in the film.

In one of the tweets, she said: “Every day after that, boys flocked outside my classroom, one guy pointed towards me, showing someone “this is that girl who he is after”. I would be standing in the corridor on the first floor and someone from the ground floor would yell my name disparagingly.

“And I would quietly step inside my classroom, hoping no one heard that. Telling myself – ‘Nothing happened. Everything is fine. You will leave after two more classes and tomorrow all this will magically be over’.

“Every time that man harassed me, some people around me found a way to normalise his behaviour. They couldn’t fathom why I thought this guy was dangerous, why I was so scared for my life when he was around.”

She ends by urging people not to “normalise sexual harassment and violence...” and to listen to victims.

Her post was liked more than 1,700 times and many people agreed with her.

@iJasOberoi posted: “Every damn body needs to read this thread. If you’re a man be sorry if you even for a second made a girl feel like this! Let’s NOT NORMALIZE such sickness....”

@indian_nocturne tweeted: “.... Vanga is wrong. Mutually destructive relationships are not true love, but just that - destructive.”

Haters will hate, say supporters

Despite the outrage, there were those who defended Venga for his statements and blamed “feminists” and their agendas for the criticism the movie was facing.

@veerangdk posted: “...There is something called consent. Preeti never once rejects or even remotely brushes his advances....”

Many shared scenes from previous Hindi movies wherein actors are seen slapping actresses.

Bollywood director Ram Gopal Varma, defended Vanga in his online post: “Amazing thing about @imvangasandeep is that his story and its characters are the exact opposite of what the film industry always believed, what the audience will love and relate to ... #KabirSingh’s monstrous success proves that he knows the actual reality of the audience.”

In defence of the actor?

The actor Shahid Kapoor shared the video interview from his official handle and he trolled.

Tweep @26roses1 wrote: “You deserve best actor award for you have done your bit to fortify the misogyny in the country that is deep rooted and to normalise the violence committed on women - keep it up. It goes well with the time we live in.”

@mogojdholai added to the debate with her tweet: “Also... how does someone who did Haider, do a film like Kabir Singh? You’re talented enough to land lots of great roles without glorifying misogyny....”

However, Kapoor’s fans quickly came to the celebrity’s defense and praised Shahid his acting and performance in the film.

Many thought he did the role complete justice.

@ranveerdeepikas tweeted: “No one is dragging Shahid, he’s an amazing actor but if the movie shows violence as love then it deserves to be dragged.”

@astheticallyFM wrote: “Most of us became fans of Shahid Kapoor. Not Kabir Singh. There’s a difference.”

Kapoor himself has not issued any statement on the matter.

Readers’ views: Have you seen the movie? What do you think? Share your opinions at readers@gulfnews.com.