There's a pattern to Bollywood's latest heartthrob Kartik Aaryan's movies. The young actor, who has garnered quite a fan following among the country's youth seems to be playing different versions of the same character over and over again. From his debut Pyaar Ka Punchnama to his recent hit Pati Patni Aur Woh, that featured a monologue on marital rape (which was later deleted), critics have slammed him for portraying misogynistic characters in his movies. But is his consistent choice of roles a mere coincidence or is there a method to his madness?
Bollywood has a long history of discrimination towards women--be it in the depiction of female characters or the treatment of women in the industry. However, it seems like the tide might slowly be turning with movies like Thappad, that tackle important issues like domestic violence with sensitivity. But the problem is that for every Thappad there will be a Kabir Singh, and for every actor trying to make Bollywood a better place, there are actors like Kartik Aaryan, whose sense of humour includes domestic violence jokes.
Kartik had recently posted a TikTok video featuring his sister on his Instagram page, which appears to make light of the issue of domestic violence. In the now-deleted video, Kartik's sister, who is walking around with a belan in hand, serves him some food. Kartik appears to be displeased with how the food tastes and then proceeds to 'throw' his sister off the balcony. He captioned the video "No compromise on food quality."
Several people, including actor Sona Mohapatra, have called out the actor for trivialising an issue as serious as domestic violence. Taking to twitter, she said that it was not funny but ridiculous how he ‘throws his sister out of the balcony for making bad rotis’. “It is a slap in the face of those women who are trapped inside their home due to the coronavirus lockdown, suffering domestic violence,” she added. She also re-tweeted a tweet that read, ‘Acting in misogynistic films is one thing, bhai ye ab khud ese scripting aur directing bhi kar rahe hain (now he is writing and editing these films as well)?’
Kartik's video seems especially tone-deaf because it comes at a time when there has been a sharp rise in cases of domestic violence due to women being stuck with their abusive partners during the lockdown. According to a report by the National Commission for Women, a steep rise in violence against women has been registered during the lockdown period. Earlier this month, the NCW had already raised alarm about a two-fold increase in the number of gender-based violence cases reported to them within the first week of lockdown, and their latest reports show no signs of improvement since then.
It seems like Kartik could care less about the responsibility that comes with being in the public eye. With 'jokes' like this, he's telling his 16 million followers that it is totally acceptable, and even funny, to treat women with violence if you didn't like the food they cooked for you. The people that have come to his defence, insisting that the video is 'just a joke' are also part of the problem.
But if Kartik's video was supposed to be funny, then we'd rather not have a sense of humour.