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The Role Of Bollywood In The Glorification Of Police Brutality

The problem of police brutality in India is that nobody considers it a problem” - Twitter

Cinematic posters of Bollywood films

It is no lie that Bollywood promotes a culture that brews out of internalized prejudices. The patriarchal and misogynistic dialogues, characters and storyline result in making the on ground reality as normal. The fight to change the norm as characters is presented larger than life on screen which has a mass appeal. Usually, an argument is made to look at the character only as reel. However, that does not what actually happens. The streets were filled with ‘Apna Time Aayega' t-shirts, the ‘Tere Naam’ haircut or Salman Khan’s infamous blue bracelet. This is disheartening to see the promotion of characters like ‘Chulbul Pandey’ from Dabbang as against ‘Sunny’ from Dil Dhadkane Do. The internalized prejudices are deepened every time someone hoots for Chulbul while taking a bribe.

What is reality is shown as ‘bad cop’, in Bollywood, it is perceived as ‘good cop’. By a generic idea, a good cop is someone who is honest to his job and upholds the integrity of the institution. On screen, the good cop is viewed as someone violent, sexist, corrupt and dishonest. So when a young individual walks out of the cinema after watching Akshay Kumar or Salman Khan thrash people, their perception is completely changed.

The police is glorified to a very large extent in mainstream cinema. Let’s take the classic example of Dabangg and Rowdy Rathore starring Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar respectively. In both films, the machismo characterized cops revolve around violence and corruption. Chulbul Pandey from Dabangg is widely loved and celebrated who opens the film by keeping the robbery money with himself instead of turning it in. The very title ‘Rowdy Rathore’ explains a lot instead of going into the film. Even in the Mardaani starring Rani Mukerji, she is shown as a superior, above law with a hyper-aggressive passion. These ‘good’ cops are shown beating the so called villains mercilessly to death delivering justice by themselves in those three hours. The violence is celebrated and applauded and considered brave. These films also go on to show the taking of law into the hands of these officers. The idea of justice is usually forgone in order to glorify the cops.

Now, how does this affect the reality? The narrative of police brutality does not exist in India. It is not viewed as a problem or a major issue. The police officers usually get away with their acts due to connections within the department or some external force. Some may argue that the police is harsh on the concerned to set an example. However, to what extent can the police go to set the example? In Tamil Nadu, the killing of Jayaraj and Bennix lead to large scale social media outrage due to the police physically and sexually harassing them in custody leading to death. It did not generate a condemnation by political parties or mainstream media. Even in the case of the encounter of Vikas Dubey, who was a local goon turned politician, an extra judicial attempt was undertaken. Understanding the critics who would say that a criminal deserved such a result but, it did seem cinematic as potrayed.

We must understand that the police are law enforcers and not empowered to deliver judgment towards any individual deemed a criminal or otherwise. Is entertainment worthy at the cost of ignorance towards an actual issue in reality?

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