Bollywood has songs for every mood. My Spotify has various playlists, and they are filled with hours of songs that allow me to daydream of every possible scenario my mind can conjure up! I am sure that other Spotify users can agree with me that Spotify always has the best suggestion songs.
Sadly, one playlist left me more pensive than in a happy mood.
Have we romanticized leaving our families for too long?
This playlist consisted of songs that were for when a South Asian girl performs her bidai. A bidai is when a girl says her “goodbyes” to her family and takes her new steps into her new family, aka her husband’s. Some cultures and religions actually have a part where the bride throws rice behind her as she leaves her maternal home. The rice signifies her thanking her family for feeding her so well and giving her so much love. While these ceremonies are beautiful and always are filled with emotions. Many brides will cry quite heavily during these times.
I have always been excited to get married. I never really factored in crying when I “leave” my family mostly because I am NOT leaving them. If anything, I am gaining a family. The notion that a girl leaves her home in order to join another is still odd. The fact that this is still normalized through Bollywood movies and songs is beyond me.
Stop treating daughters as a possession
Most of these songs blatantly state that a woman is not at home in her own home. Ultimately, her home is her husband’s home. This not only depicts how deep the patriarchy is but also removes agency from women who wish to not get married or settle down with a man. Home should be where you feel safe, and instead of focusing on finding a daughter her “forever” home, South Asians need to focus on creating a safe home from the beginning.
The notion that a woman ultimately leaves her maternal home is outdated and needs to no longer be a norm.
From Sridevi to Alia
In Chandni, Sridevi dances to a song that literally translates to her not wanting to leave her maternal home because her in-laws are not the nicest. The way the mistreatment of the daughters-in-law has been normalized through movies and songs has been rampant since the beginning. In Raazi, Alia’s wedding song speaks of how she will be apart from her father for a long and that she needs help to overcome this difficult time.
The notion that a woman has to leave her family behind is somewhat odd. When a man does not have to leave his household, why should a woman sever ties in such a way?
While older movies have normalized these departures, it shocks me when this concept is portrayed in our current Bollywood movies.
Influential media – the narrative in Bollywood needs to change
While movies are a way to get our mind off the tedious everyday tasks, it would be great to normalize healthy relationships where women get married without being seen as strangers post marriage. Their maternal home is one of their forever homes.
I strongly believe that the media’s narrative shapes people’s thoughts more than one believes. It’s crucial that narratives either highlight women being able to go back to her parents’ if her husband or his family are not respecting her or abusive in any way.
Bollywood references come a dime a dozen. This makes it imperative for these stories to break the narrative we once held.
Regardless of what many believe, I feel that media shapes the way we perceive certain events, and normalizing the notion that daughters are strangers is the notion we need to dismantle.
Expectations are sky high
Certain songs even narrate what kind of wife a man would like and vice versa, which focus on skin color and attitude. A woman needs to be fair-skinned and saanskari (well behaved). Normalizing such aspects and making them the standard has lead to women turning to lightening creams.
Bollywood songs have emphasized fairness in most songs, the term “gori” which loosely translates to fair-skinned one is in practically every romantic song.
Is this truly the patriarchy?
Given that India has made asking for dowry illegal, one would think that these songs are simply lighthearted. However, many still pay their spouse’s family a hefty amount or “gift” it to them. Thus, referring to daughters as strangers in songs perpetuates this notion that they are a burden.
Movies are more accessible in certain communities, this can be a great educational tool for some! Uplifting women in songs is easy, and movies, such as Saandh Ki Aankh, show how it can be done easily!