SHOW ME YOUR SIX PACK, BRO!

If movies are an indication, the Indian man today must have a six-pack, be an accomplished dancer and project a sensitive, borderline vulnerable look. Three decades ago, he had to be tall and tough, preferably with a deep baritone and a hairy chest. He didn’t have to pump weights in a gym then but perhaps had to watch his weight if he was in the Bombay film industry. (The actors in the Tamil film industry did not have this constraint.)

I have not watched a movie in years but I hope today’s film heroes don’t stalk and harass the heroine as they used to in those pre-six pack days. Wooing meant that you press yourself— sometimes literally — on an uninterested woman, harassing her (almost always while singing a song) until she miraculously changed her mind and fell so deeply in love with you that she would stand up to her rich, dictatorial and often evil father who wielded sovereign powers over his adult daughter.

To the extent that our films now show the difference between wooing and harassment, we’ve made some progress in terms of redefining masculinity. To the extent that our films now show adult women no longer under the iron control of their fathers, families or clans, we’ve made progress in terms of redefining femininity.

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