For many South Asians and Bollywood cinema enthusiasts, Bollywood movies have had a major influence on their relationships, dating expectations and lives in general.
Bollywood cinema is a multifaceted and complex film industry that has been key in teaching and entertaining individuals.
One of the primary ingredients in Bollywood cinema is without a doubt – romance.
But are movie romances something we should be learning from or taking with a pinch of salt?
DESIblitz considers the impact of Bollywood romance movies on modern dating lives and relationships.
Bollywood Romance Depictions
Throughout the ages, Bollywood movies have depicted love, relationships, and dating in numerous ways.
Romance is infused within the very core of Bollywood movies, where the guy gets the girl, and they seemingly live happily ever after.
Not only do the depictions of couples impact our perception of what dating is like but they impart important lessons on what romance can sometimes entail.
Romantic Bollywood classics like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) introduced the ideal concept of romance for many 90’s kids, introducing a love story that battles against arranged marriage.
The film not only included the legendary young love story between Raj and Simran, but it also showed us through the single aunt played by Himani Shivpuri, that it’s never too late to find love.
33-year-old Deena Rai, who was only 5 years old when the film came out, said:
“Growing up watching DDLJ for the first time, I immediately wanted to find a love like Raj and Simran’s because it gave me hope that love could rule over tradition.”
DDLJ has no doubt gone down as one of the classic Bollywood romance films with an unprecedented impact on individuals who are still seeking the Raj to their Simran and vice-versa.
However, not all relationships have been depicted in such a legendary love story in Bollywood with other movies highlighting the adultery and miscommunications that can occur in marriages.
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna shows individuals that marriages can have ups and downs and that not all marriages exist in a bubble of perfection.
Whilst the movie takes on a delicate subject matter broaching extra-marital affairs, it is one of the few hit Bollywood movies that highlight the imperfections that can exist in the realm of relationships.
40-year-old Leena Shah said: “I remember there being a hubbub when the film first came out, but I thought it was brilliant as it was an Indian film showing the true dynamics of marriage and was definitely ahead of its time.”
It should be noted, whilst Bollywood movies depict legendary love stories, they do not always truthfully or accurately depict them.
Romance movies across Bollywood and Hollywood tend to offer false expectations of love and relationships that can mislead individuals about the true dating experience.
21-year-old Tanisha Sagoo said: “Though Bollywood movies showed dating and love to be a fairy-tale, I soon realised that wasn’t reality and that I shouldn’t expect my dating life to play out like a movie because it’s not real.”
Bollywood movies tend to glorify love so that their viewers tend to seek out that love story in their dating lives but may end up bitterly disappointed.
For instance, the hit Bollywood blockbuster, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na shows Jai, played by Imran Khan and Aditi played by Genelia D’Souza, as two friends who are in love with each other but haven’t quite figured that out yet.
However, this movie can offer some quite damaging false hope for individuals who may hold on to hope for a love that could never arrive.
Whilst Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na offers an endearing and lovable story, it is not always easy to go from best friends to lovers and the movie does not necessarily show the perils of dating your former best friend.
Another instance of Bollywood offering false expectations to individuals is the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which can send a damaging message to young girls.
Whilst there’s no denying that Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is a heart-warming Bollywood film, it may lead young girls to think they can only be desired romantically once they change their appearance.
In the film, protagonist Rahul only begins to see Anjali in a romantic way years later once her appearance has been feminised.
25-year-old Anaya Shah said: “Growing up as a tomboy and watching Anjali change from a tomboy to a more feminine version of herself and then be desired really lowered my self-esteem and made me question my style and appearance.”
Thus whilst many Bollywood movies are endearing and heart-warming, viewers may get a false sense of hope, expectations and depictions of romance once watching them and take them too literally.
Lack of Sex Education
Though Bollywood movies hit the nail on the head in terms of entertainment, they miss the mark on capturing intimacy truthfully.
Sex has been a taboo in Bollywood movies since the dawn of time, with movies toeing the fine line between romantic moments and sexual tension.
Whilst Bollywood romcoms do include intimate moments, there is no real teaching around the passionate moments of dating and relationships like sex.
However, this may be due to many Indian actors not wanting to engage in intimate scenes on camera.
For instance, in an interview with Jonathan Ross, Shah Rukh Khan admitted he had a no-kissing policy in his contract and explicitly said:
“Personally I’m awkward kissing on screen so I don’t do it.”
Instead, Bollywood films choose to hint at romantic passion with the use of heavy rain or flowers blooming.
Take the 2006 romance movie Fanaa for example, where rain is meant to capture the more intimate moments, yet seriously lacks in doing so as the outcome appears awkward.
Bollywood films not only fail to capture the notion of sex as pleasurable but instead, the act is reduced to something shameful.
For instance, in the 2005 film, Salaam Namaste, sex is framed as damaging as the plot surrounds an unwanted pregnancy.
Instead of teaching viewers about safe sex and sex for pleasure, the movie frames it as a consequential act with underlying comedic tones which erase the seriousness of such topics.
There is no real explanation surrounding safe sex practices which is surprising considering the movie infers through comedy that the act of unprotected sex caused a baby to be conceived.
Bollywood movies include scenes with longing looks and actors sniffing each other which is supposedly meant to be sensual.
22-year-old Gia Patel said: “Bollywood movies teach us nothing about proper sex education in fact movies like Salaam Namaste made me scared to have sex because it sent out a message about accidental pregnancies.”
Sadly, hugging in the rain whilst staring sensually into each other’s eyes doesn’t quite cut an accurate depiction of romance.
Most Bollywood movies tell their viewers nothing about the reality of casual sex during dating, first-times, and sex for pleasure.
Whilst there is no denying that Bollywood cinema has given us some of the greatest movie love stories, there is still a lot of catching up to do to depict the modern reality of the dating world.
There are still fundamental gaps surrounding the current nature of relationships.
Bollywood has a lot of catching up to do regarding the modern dating lives of individuals as many of the older movies do not reflect modern dating and many would be considered problematic nowadays.
Many cinematic viewers rely on these movies to guide them, influence their lives, and teach them important lessons.
The power that movies can have over individuals’ lives is paramount, therefore they must watch movies that enhance them and not mislead them in life.
Though Bollywood is working towards more reflective and insightful narratives, there is still much work to be done.