Flashback Films | Unmasking Toxic Masculinity In Ranbir Kapoor And Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar

Imtiaz Ali's directorial venture Rockstar recently returned to theatres, evoking nostalgia among fans. Watching it again after 11 years, we noticed its portrayal of toxic masculinity. The film was originally released on November 11, 2011. Keep reading!
Flashback Films | Unmasking Toxic Masculinity In Ranbir Kapoor And Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar

Flashback Films | Unmasking Toxic Masculinity In Ranbir Kapoor And Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar (Credit: Instagram)

With a guitar in hand, sitting on the terrace among prostitutes, Jordan croons, "Duniya ne humko diya kya, duniya se humne liya kya."
People say movies reflect our society. Sometimes they show real-life problems, other times they take us to make-believe worlds. It's a conundrum whether films shape society or society shapes films. Imtiaz Ali's classic Rockstar illustrates this idea. Featuring Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Aditi Rao Hydari, Kumud Mishra and more, it was originally released on November 11, 2011. The movie has experienced a resurgence in theatres recently, with fans flocking to catch a glimpse of Jordan passionately screaming his lungs out, 'Sadda Haq, Athe Rakh.'
In Bollywood, where larger-than-life characters and gripping narratives overshadow the subtler, more insidious themes lurking beneath the surface. This realisation struck us profoundly as we watched Rockstar after 11 years, through the lens of 24-year-old perspectives.
Right from the beginning, Rockstar defies typical ideas of masculinity as we witness Ranbir Kapoor's character Janardhan's metamorphosis into the mysterious Jordan. Starting out as a socially awkward and hopeful young man aspiring to make it big in the music scene, Janardhan's path is strewn with setbacks and self-doubt. Yet, it's his fascination with Heer, portrayed by Nargis Fakhri, that triggers his transformation into Jordan.
Jordan is a troubled musician grappling with fame, love and his own demons. Beneath the facade and musical prowess, lies a narrative, which we recently noticed and understood, that Jordan's character arc is riddled with toxic masculinity. Many people celebrated Rockstar for its cinematic brilliance and timeless soundtrack by maestro AR Rahman, but Ranbir Kapoor starrer has also sparked discussions about how the movie portrayed toxic masculinity and how we might not have noticed it before.
Jordan is so indecisive and impulsive, which results in harming Nargis Fakhri's character, Heer, due to his inability to make clear decisions. It was problematic from the beginning, but we fell into the trap. Despite Heer's repeated refusals, Jordan's possessiveness and letting go of Heer shattered both lives and it doesn't have a happy ending.
"Kis tarah cheenegaa, mujhse ye jahaan tumhe. Tum bhi ho...main bhi, kya fiqar ab humein."
If you ask us, what truly sets Rockstar apart and continues to resonate with audiences is its classic music album and the exceptional performances delivered by the cast, except Nargis Fakhri. The main character, Jordan, remains unhappy and destructive, without any real purpose. He is so overwhelmed by his emotions that he's willing to ruin everything, including himself. But at what cost?
In one of the scenes from the movie, Heer disguises herself as a boy to watch Jungli Jawani at a shady cinema hall in Delhi with Jordan. When she removed her disguise outside, Jordan remarked, 'Yaha mat kar, rape hojaega.' To which Heer cheekily said, 'Phir meri upar Jungli Jawan 2 banegi."
Additionally, Jordan's interactions with other female characters in the film show examples of toxic masculinity. This is evident in his disrespectful behaviour towards Sheena (played by Aditi Rao Hydari), as well as his inability to understand the enthusiasm of female admirers.
If we take a look closely, similar to Rockstar, Sandeep Reddy Vanga's films feature protagonists who exhibit disturbing behaviour under the guise of love and passion. While it come from different directors and narratives, they share striking similarities in their portrayal of toxic masculinity. All the characters, including Jordan, Kabir Singh and Ranvijay Singh (from the movie Animal) utilise their skills, taking advantage of their power to get what they want without facing any consequences. This makes abusive behaviour seem normal.
While these movies have achieved blockbuster success at the box office where the characters aren't real and no one is actually getting hurt, however, in the end, we just want to put it out in the world that seeing these kinds of behaviour in movies for so long has made people okay with it, even when it happens in real life.
"Tum logon ki is duniya mein, har kadam pe insaan galat. Main sahi samajhke jo bhi karu, tum kehte ho galat."
Sushmita Dey author

Switching between David Rose and Ali Sethi. Aside from being non-professionally addicted to books and everything cinema, Sushmita is interested in wri...View More

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