Our universe is a diverse and vast space where we live as mere entities. The lifestyles, cultures, languages, likes and dislikes, define and categorize different people into different sections. The way we perceive and label these individuals is determined by these categorizations.
The adherence of certain personality traits or concepts to define something on a constant basis is known as stereotyping. Filmmakers often rely heavily on stereotypes, because they're a quick and simple way to establish a movie character's traits. In India, we have the constant need to identify and relate to certain aspects. Thinking out-of-the-box is something that doesn’t work too well with the majority. This is one of the major reasons as to why ‘hit’ Bollywood films usually subscribe to a pre-defined formula that can guarantee them instant success.
One such Bollywood film that gained momentous popularity is Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hain. Released in 1998, the film has the same impact it does today as it did back then. This is due to the fact that it was identifiable, entertaining, and contained just the right amount of melodrama to gain it stardom.
The first scene opens with Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) at his wife Tina's (Rani Mukherjee) funeral. Tina has died during childbirth, leaving eight letters to be given to their daughter Anjali (Sana Saeed) on each of her first eight birthdays. In the eighth letter, Tina reveals to her daughter the story of Rahul and his best friend in college, also named Anjali (Kajol). Via flashback, we learn that though Rahul and Anjali were very close, Rahul fell for the sexy Tina, while Anjali was left with a broken heart. Anjali then dropped out of school, but not before Tina was able to discern Anjali's true feelings. Through the eighth letter, the deceased Tina then asks her daughter, little Anjali, to re-unite the old college friends. Anjali is now however engaged to Aman (Salman Khan), and it is upto Rahul’s daughter to strengthen the love which was once lost and complete her mother’s dream.
The opening scene itself is a stereotypical one in which the woman is giving up her life to give birth to her baby, while dying in the arms of her lover. While dying, the dialogues are words you hear over and over again in a whole bunch of Bollywood movies. “Tum rote waqt bilkul ache nahin dikhte” says Tina to Rahul, a dialogue used practically in every Bollywood movie.
The main idea of the film is that of best friends realizing they are one another’s first love. This is a superhit concept which will never fail to please the majority. Tina is scared at first to come between Rahul and Anjali as she feels that behind this deep friendship, there is bound to be a deep bond of love present.
The concept of the topic ‘Ma’ been given to Anjali who is Mother-less, in an ex-tempo competition, and her father, Rahul, coming up on stage and speaking on her behalf, denotes the ‘hero saves the day’ concept, that people thrive on. During the ex-tempo there is a Sardarji in the audience who is shown to be a typical Sikh, hyperactive, jolly, and whose daughters name is Jassi. The name itself gives away her religion and caste since we tend to have typical notions of certain names belonging to certain castes.
The characters of the movie are basically stereotypical. We have the Dadi, who is extremely religious, believes in ‘Pooja Paath’ even during a Summer Camp, and wishes to have a daughter-in-law of whom she can complain about with her friends. She persuades Rahul to marry again as she feels Anjali cannot grow up happily with just a single parent. The image of the Dadi is that of a typical Indian Grandmother whose values are deeply imbibed within her.
However, at first, Rahul is reluctant to re-marry as he feels that “ Hum ek baar jeeta hain, ek baar marte hain, shaadi bhi ek baar hoti hain, aur pyaar bhi ek hi baar hota hain”. This is the general mindset of an Indian which is surprisingly still pre-dominant. In contrast to his older, more mature character, Rahul’s younger character is shown to be the typical ‘stud’ of the college. Self-obsessed, arrogant, and quite the ladies man, he is in search of the ‘one.’ He is embarrassed that he visits the temple every Tuesday, as it is seen as an uncommon ritual for men, followed mostly by the Indian woman.
Rahul’s best friend Anjali, is the perfect tomboy, playing basketball, wearing loose t-shirts, no sense of make-up or any ‘girly’ attributes, the works. Therefore, Rahul sees her more as his ‘guy’ pal rather than a prospective lover. In the earlier half she is this fun loving, free spirited, open girl, however towards the end of the movie, as soon Rahul falls for her, she is this vision in a saree, petite, coy and submissive. As soon as she dresses up and starts to look like an Indian vision of a perfect girl, he realises his love for her.
Tina in her younger days is the college ‘hottie.’ The girl who everyone follows, apes, and longs for. It is but obvious for the hero to fall in love with this kind of teenage girl as opposed to the tomboy, and this is exactly what happens.
During a scene portraying an English literature lecture, the teacher teaches the students Romeo and Juliet, the most clichéd love story. The book is referred to with the sole intention of passing subliminal messages which read- love conquers all. Two elements which are widely used in Bollywood movies are that of shooting stars making your dreams come true, and rain signifying heartbreak. Both these elements are very clearly present in the movie.
The ending is typical Bollywood melodrama, where the hero sweeps the heroine off her feet even as she is going towards her ‘shahdi ka mandap’.
All these stereotypes make us realize that we take in whatever we are fed with, and perceive everything the way we see it perceived by others. It would take a lot of in-depth analysis to actually notice the nitty-gritty stereotypes we encounter on an everyday basis. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Kuch Kuch Hota hain, but well, that’s just the hopeless romantic in me talking.