Types of “Izzat” in Bollywood — Black and white movies to Badrinath ki Dulhaniya

Lalita Pawar, as the evil mother-in-law, has screamed, punched and kicked every Bollywood heroine in their heyday! And the heroines put up with it coz “badon ki izzat”. From then to now the Bollywoodisation of izzat has come a long way. 

Here are a few types of izzat that Bollywood movies have been peppered with in all their misogynistic glory:

  1. Badon ki izzat

The most convoluted form of badon ki izzat is the respect for the nikamma pati and the torturing in-laws. The doe-eyed heroine told anyone who cared to listen that she put up with every form of abuse because her parents taught her to respect her elders. I haven’t for the life of me been able to figure out how this education did not include self-respect. But hundreds of movies and millions of cine goers seemed to agree that this was the ultimate show of respect.

2. Ghar ki izzat

For some reason, this always meant that nobody outside the immediate family came to know about your financial predicament. It meant that you borrowed to keep up appearances, starved as you entertained guests, and beggared yourself while trying to sponsor your son’s fancy education. Then there is the the ghar ki laxmi meaning the daughter-in-law who formed a big part of the ghar ki izzat. And in such movies the bahu would end of torturing the in-laws.

Basically, among elders and the kids, whoever wielded the izzat to their advantage abused the other.

3. Desh aur samaj ki izzat

It was amazing to see a one man army demolish a ton of villains to save the desh ki izzat. Or, winning a cricket match against the goras like they did in Lagaan was enough to restore the desh ki izzat. No wonder we grew up thinking of desh ki izzat as a lost commodity to be restored with gimmicky acts and failed to learn that we need to demonstrate respect for our nation by treating our country and countrymen well. No, I am not going to launch a swachch bharat lecture but you get the drift.

4. Insufficient dowry = pink pagdi kadmon pe izzat

If the heroine’s father took off his pagdi and put it at someone’s feet, it meant total loss of respect. I have never understood what it takes to believe that you have to pay someone a huge sum of money and then beg them to take your daughter because you failed to cough up a few thousand more. And am sure that there is someone who is reading this and chuckling right now but will not even ask their parents about the “gifts” involved in their wedding.

5. And finally the lutne wali izzat 

Of course, we all know that a woman’s izzat is ALL about hymen remaining intact (not only in the movies).

This type of izzat has three variations:

i. “Mujhe bhagwan ke liye chhod do,” when you are rescued

Those were the days when the heroines begged to be left alone for “god’s sake” as the villain tried to rape them. Since the heroines were virtuous and pure, the hero always rescued them and protected their izzat by not revealing the identity of the villains to the police.

ii. “Mujhe bhagwan ke liye chhod do,” when you are raped

Every six year old in the country knew or maybe continues to know that the hero’s sister (read laachaar behen) would scream this dialogue, then vomit, then cry copious tears as she cradled an infant as the hero seethed impotently. If there was an andhi maa involved then the laachaar behen was married off to her rapist, often at gun point, by said hero who knew that was the only way to salvage her honour (again izzat) and that of the family’s.

iii. “Mun kala karana or naak katana” when they have sex outside marriage

When the woman has sex outside marriage, whether she gets married to the guy or not, she loses all types of izzat — from ghar ki izzat to the samaj kya kehenga to the duniawale, everybody is affected by the rupture of a tiny tissue…Uff the nose gets cut and face is blackened to cope with this trauma!

Badrinath is a movie that tries to move away from that kind of misogyny by telling the audience that guys and girls need to fight against regressive customs from dowry to honour killing. It also tries to highlight that marriage is not the ultimate milestone in a man or woman’s life. But, it loses these lofty ideals somewhere along the way. Between glorifying stalking to laughing when some villains are trying to “looto a man’s izzat”, the film reverts to gender stereotyping. Oh wait a minute, no hymen equal to no izzat maybe…Maybe that is why they think it is ok to laugh at attempted rape or believe that rape is a gender crime and heinous only when it happens to a woman!

Either way, Badrinath talks about a different type of izzat when Alia Bhat says that love is not enough when they don’t respect each other. This is a significant development in mainstream Bollywood cinema — the notion that respect is mutual and separate from the notions of izzat we have been used to!

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