It’s almost the end of the decade, and if you thought that the Indian masses will stop enjoying films that glorify emotional abuse and domestic violence by now, you’re sadly wrong. According to Google’s new year in review feature, India’s most-searched movie of 2019 was none other than Kabir Singh.
In a year that gave us movies like Gully Boy, The Sky Is Pink and Article 15, this data shows that no matter how much we try to push ‘good’ cinema, it is ultimately movies like Kabir Singh that are going to capture the attention of the Indian masses.
What’s even more shocking is that Kabir Singh beat Avengers: Endgame, the Marvel superhero movie that not only made Rs 450 crore in India, but made a record-breaking $2.798 billion worldwide. In comparison, the former made Rs 380 crore worldwide.
The movie, which was a remake of the 2017 Telugu flick called Arjun Reddy. Ever since its release in June 2019, the movie has been mired in controversy and has triggered extreme reactions from movie-goers as well as the film industry. This could perhaps be the reason behind the movie being the most-searched.
When the movie hit the silver screens, several people took to Twitter to call out its glorification of toxic relationships. Director Sandeep Reddy Vanga, who directed both the movies, was quick to defend it in the press. In an interview with Anupama Chopra, the director made preposterous statements about the concept of true love to justify Shahid Kapoor’s toxic character. He dismissed criticism of the film as “pseudo” and its critics as “parasites”. He even called critic Rajeev Masand a “fat man”.
But it was one particular statement that really triggered netizens. “When you are deeply in love and deeply connected to a woman (and vice versa), if you don’t have the liberty of slapping each other, then I don’t see anything there.” He felt that the way critics have ‘attacked’ the film was unjustified, and only proved that Bollywood hates him. “Probably they (critics) never experienced love in the right way,” he added.
Besides Vanga, the actors of the movie have also gone out of the way to defend the film and it’s deeply flawed characters. Shahid Kapoor, who portrays Kabir Singh, told a leading daily, “If you think cinema is an educational institution that you’re taught what you should or should not to do, that’s your choice. Cinema is meant to mirror life. I’ve seen situations like this in life. When a couple fights, if a third person views it, they’ll have a different idea. Fundamentally, they’re in love. I’ve seen independent women date simple boys, and vice versa. That’s how life is, it’s unpredictable.”
Shahid even went as far as to say that “every Kabir needs a Preity in his life”, reinforcing the problematic notion that the onus of ‘fixing’ toxic men falls on ‘good’ women. “No one brought up Baazigar when SRK kills Shilpa Shetty. No one said anything about putting a commode seat on Sonam Kapoor’s neck in Sanju. Sab Kabir Singh ke peeche kyun pade hain?” he said. But what he failed to understand is that those characters were never glorified and accepted as Bollywood ‘heroes’.
Will there ever be a shift in what the Indian masses enjoy watching on the big screen? We don’t know. All we can hope for is that for every Kabir Singh, there are 10 more Gully Boys– and maybe the Indian movie-goer will have a change of heart someday.
Besides movies, Google’s year in review data also revealed that the most-search topics in India were the ICC Cricket World Cup and the Lok Sabha elections. As far as movies are concerned, after Kabir Singh and Avengers: Endgame, Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker and MCU favourite Captain Marvel earned the third and fourth spots respectively.
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