Neha vs social media in revenge slap row

Neha vs social media in revenge slap row

Neha Dhupia, judge on the show ‘Roadies’, is in the eye of a storm for defending a woman who reportedly cheated on her boyfriend with five men

There was a time in Indian cinema when a hero could slap a heroine without creating any issue.  If you were a seasoned moviegoer, you could tell when a slap was coming up in a scene. The music would rise and the camera would begin zooming in on the technicolour faces of the characters.

With an increase in education and in people’s awareness of social justice, things began changing for the better. It was not something that happened overnight; the change was gradual.

But if one had to place definitive point in time for when the paradigm shift happened, a point from where there was no going back, it has to be October 2017, when reports of rape and other sexual allegations came out against media mogul Harvey Weinstein. He was convicted to 23 years in prison this week. This created what came to be known as the Weinstein effect, where women came out in hoards against their alleged accusers, naming and shaming them. The wave, dubbed alternatively as ‘Me Too’ and ‘Times’ Up’,  reached India too.

The most talked-about impact of the movement on the Indian cinema screen was on Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Arjun Kapoor-Kabir Singh saga. Arjun Reddy had released in Telugu in August 2017. The fact that it was a commercial success may not be surprising, but it was a critical hit, too.

But the response that ‘Kabir Singh’, which released in 2019 when the ‘Me Too’ anger was very much alive, got was very different. It, of course, became a huge commercial success. But it was completely panned by critics and feminists. The reaction was so intense that Vanga came out guns blazing against his critics.

But one particular scene from the film got more traction than any other, where the titular character slaps his girlfriend. The justification given for this by the director was that this sort of thing happens in true love.

But many who saw the scene said that it may set a dangerous precedent. Whichever side of the debate you are on, you probably realise that the ‘slap’ issue never really went away.
A very interesting turn in the conversation happened when Anubhav Sinha, who has become Bollywood’s poster boy for films on social issues, made a film that directly responds to Vanga. 

His ‘Thappad’, which is currently running in theatres, tells the story of a woman who seeks divorce after a slap from her husband. “It was just one slap”, many well-meaning people around her say, but she realises that this is just the culmination of a hundred patronising and passive aggressive actions that preceded it.

The most recent addition to the debate happened this week on the show ‘Roadies’, which is known for its strong langauge and frequently problematic content. In a clip that was widely circulated this weekend,  a contestant from the show was seen proudly declaring to the show’s judges (referred to as ‘gang leaders’) that he had slapped his girlfriend for cheating on him with five other people.

Neha Dhupia reacted strongly to this, saying he had no right to slap a woman and that it is her choice to sleep with how many ever people she wants. She added that there must be something wrong with the guy if the girl had to do something like that. Incidentally, she had previously  lauded a woman for slapping a boyfriend who had cheated on her. The internet erupted after watching the clip, slamming Neha for being a “fake feminist” and “hypocrite”.

Now, Dhupia’s opinions were not exactly great, but then, ‘Roadies’ is not a show that anyone gives points for its contestant’s good manners.

Social media should perhaps focus its energy on the actual crime here: it is a criminal act to use violence on a woman. There must be action against the contestant who slapped his girlfriend. While the act of cheating is nothing anybody should be proud of (Neha’s comments, many say, have this implication), it is not a criminal act under Indian law.

Focus, people!