By Nidhi Kinhal
The gutter of the male saviour complex is strong with the new Akshay Kumar-Bhumi Pednekar film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.
Just watch the latest song released for proof. ‘Hans Mat Pagli’ is a typical “oh look at this dude falling so head over heels in love” kind of a song. It has all the familiar elements: Sonu Nigam, black-and-white slow motion shots, pretty landscapes — except, it is creepy max. It seems like Bollywood still hasn’t learnt that stalking is not romantic. Here, Akshay Kumar is seen following Bhumi Pednekar, and pulling all the tricks in the book to click pictures of her. Without her consent.
Here are some of the things he does for success: Follows her auto in a bike, hides behind a wall with his phone with the camera app open, wears a monkey cap and pretends to serve chai, boards a train she’s in, and as if there was any stone unturned, climbs a goddamn tree for a shot and slides down, all dreamy and heroic.
Bhumi Pednekar is visibly uncomfortable throughout the song. If the trailer is anything to go by, they get married later. Sure, we’ve seen these before. Be it Raanjhanaa or Ekk Deewana Tha, these stalker “heroes” have informed generations of what is acceptable in the name of love. Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, for all its women’s empowerment mottos, takes it a disgusting step further. Why just follow her incessantly when you can use modern technology to preserve your beloved’s beauty, amirite?
What we do know is this — that stalking causes fear and suffering for the victim, and what we don’t know (or we don’t realise) is that it’s hard to report and prosecute anywhere in the world. In the US, more than 15 percent of women say they have tolerated stalking. A US Department of Justice report said that 3 percent of victims reported stalkers to the police over 15 times.
Like this case that Slate talks about, where Helen Pearson had to endure five years of harassment by her neighbour, Joseph Willis, all because she turned his offer, of a date, down. Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Willis, who obviously couldn’t handle rejection (and the phrase “no means no”) thought it’d be fun to relentlessly stalk her — he slashed her ties, sent her threatening letters and even left a dead cat at her door. Naturally, Helen complained to the police 125 times and they didn’t take her seriously even when he stabbed her several times in 2013. Until now, when they apologised for dereliction of duty.
Stalking cases in India are terribly common. The media is also a strong influence behind how stalking is treated and viewed. Remember the Indian man in Australia who said he was inspired by Bollywood movies to escape conviction?
Anyway, we really suggest you don’t do this to yourself, but if you want to see how infuriating this business is, head over here.