Throwback Thursday: Raja Hindustani Is About A Sexist Man Who Needs His Woman To Bow Down To Him And That Hasn’t Changed 24 Years Later
In our society, men have an upper hand in relationships, like in most things. It’s the woman who is expected to leave her home and move to her husband’s house. Most Indian families expect the woman to take her husband’s last name and adapt to his lifestyle. These are just the basic most ways but the very dynamics of the relationships are such that they benefit men more than women.
This week, I watched Raja Hindustani starring Aamir Khan as Raja and Karisma Kapoor as Aarti and it has been very evident that the ball has remained stays firmly put in his court. Not literally, figuratively. In fact, the only time she had an upper hand was when he was crushing on her and didn’t have her. Wait, that sounds a lot like my love life. Maybe a bit like yours too. Wait for it, as you get to know Raja better you will realise that he is the typical Indian male. Even though the movie released in 1996, 24 years later the men haven’t achieved much in terms of evolution.
Aarti is a rich man’s daughter and has an evil step mother who is after her dad’s money. Quite typical. She is also a typical princess. You’ll see. She wants to go for a holiday to Palankhet to discover her late mother’s memories. Her dad sends her off with two assistants, one of them is evidently gay and the other is a woman who dresses like a man. Now this princess and her two maids land at the airport nearest to Palankhet and scolds them because there is no car waiting for her. They spot a taxi, the only taxi in the horizon and go on to get him to take them to their destination. This is how our male protagonist enters the film. A hot-headed, sarcastic but seemingly nice-hearted Raja.
Of course, he gets smitten looking at this light-eyed, fair-skinned woman with gorgeous long hair. Basically, a woman who checks all the boxes in the beauty standards laid down by our society. He continues falling for her over the course of the next few days she is there, all the attraction purely based on looks. Because a lot of men refuse to look beyond our bodies and apparently, that’s A-okay!
Till now Raja is established as a short-tempered man who likes to get into fights but this scene reveals the narrow-minded side of him. Aarti goes shopping and buys a pretty red dress with a hemline just slightly higher than Raja’s sense of entitlement over her. When a bunch of guys start eve-teasing her, he fights them off and later goes on to tell Aarti that he doesn’t like her wearing such clothes.
Just when I was beginning to like Raja and Aarti, they decide to act so shitty. If you’re wondering what Aarti did in all this, let me give you a glimpse of her wonderful ideology. She is angry with Raja and scolding him for fighting those shady men off. She says that eve-teasing is very common and we must learn to ignore it. I mean…what? A woman trying to normalise such behaviour only increases the audacity of men doing it. I am with Raja on this. But not with him trying to outfit-shame Aarti.
Aarti gives him a stern answer and says she will wear what she wants. That’s the last shred of self-respect you’re gonna see in Aarti. In the next scene, she dresses up head to toe in Indian wear and apologises. From here on you will never see her in western clothes anymore, especially not after she gets married to Raja who doesn’t like her wearing such clothes.
When Aarti’s dad finds out about their romance, he insists Raja should come to Mumbai and live with them. But Raja refuses and says he will not change for anyone. Very normal, right? How can a man move cities for a woman? If Aarti wants him, she has to leave her city, home and lifestyle because she is the woman. If a woman marries a man and moves to his family home, it’s normal. If a man is asked to move, it suddenly hurts his ego. Which is why, when his father gifts them a fancy af house right there in Palankhet, he gets really insecure and shows a terrifying side to Aarti. You can see the aggression building up in him. Of course, again Aarti bows down to his ego and he feels better.
Next they go to the milestone birthday party of Aarti and her father, which is going to fuck everyone’s life. Aarti’s stepmother and other changu mangus (extras) play mind games and politics to make Raja feel as small as possible. And it didn’t even take them a lot considering how delicate his ego really is. Raja goes on to get drunk, publicly humiliate Aarti and even pull her by the hair. He almost even beat up her father because control over emotions – what is that novel concept?
He fucks off from the party leaving his wife behind who discovers the next day that she is pregnant. She wants to go to Palankhet but the doctor advises her to avoid travelling. Her step mom goes with the intention of breaking their marriage and tells Raja that Aarti wants divorce. He doesn’t even bother to go see her or speak to her face to face. He gets angry and just sits doing nothing except cultivating a beard.
Meanwhile, Aarti has already gone through with the pregnancy and delivered the child. When Raja finds out, he goes there to abduct the child because, we don’t know. When Aarti sees him, she faints in disbelief and Raja kinda leaves her there.
At the end, they find out that it was the step mom who broke their marriage and still it takes a lot to convince him to fix things. What a fucking manchild! The entire responsibility of making the marriage work is on Aarti’s shoulder while Raja continues to hold on to his ego, anger and immaturity.
ALSO READ: Throwback Thursday: We Revisited Akeli Na Bazar Jaya Karo And It’s A Song About Harassment And Non-Consensual Touching
Along with this misogynistic main plot, you will find a lot of LGBTQ shaming. Aarti’s two former assistants are teased for not conforming to stereotypical gender roles. The man who seems to be gay is teased as “naram” or soft. The woman who is apparently straight but dresses like a man is teased as “garam” or hot (as in hot-headed). She wears shirts and has short hair and somehow that is enough for so many people to mistake her as a man. In fact, she eventually gets married to Raja’s best friend who asks her if she will become a woman and marry her. If you’re wondering what that meant, in the rest of the movie you will see her dressed in patiala suits and long hair. This is wrong on so many levels!