How Can The Portrayal Of Love And Romance In Bollywood Movies Impact The Quality Of A Relationship

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Counselling Psychologist - M.Sc. Clinical Psychology

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Counselling Psychologist - Ph.D. Relationship Psychology

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‘Dil Hai Toh Dard Bhi Hoga’: Exploring The Distorted Idea Of Love In Hindi Films

(If There Is a Heart, There Will Be Pain Too": Exploring the Distorted Idea of Love in Hindi Films)

Bollywood, the Indian film industry, has long been celebrated for its vibrant storytelling, colorful dance sequences, and of course, its portrayal of love and romance. These movies often transport us into a dreamy world of idealized relationships, where love conquers all and soulmates are destined to be together. But how does this portrayal of love in Bollywood impact the quality of real-life relationships? Let’s talk about the influence of Bollywood romance on our perception of love, the expectations it sets, and the lessons it can teach us about building healthier and more fulfilling relationships.

Romance movies take advantage of our naive and optimistic values of love and twist them into something irrational. Modern-day society has embraced a capitalist concept of love, in my opinion. The popular airport scene, for instance, which is repeatedly shown in movies and song sequences, makes us crave the same in real life where we imagine ourselves reuniting with our loved one at the airport as melancholic music plays in the background. In the year 1956, social philosopher Erich Fromm (1956) proposed the “effects of capitalism on love”, where he wrote,

Automatons cannot love; they can exchange their ‘personality packages’ and hope for a fair bargain. (..) Two persons thus fall in love when they feel they have found the best object available on the market, considering the limitations of their own exchange values.

Tara Maheshwari, the lead protagonist in the movie Tamasha (2015) is a smart, independent, and fearless woman who decides to take a solo trip abroad. Infatuated by Ved’s character in the movie, she waits for him for four years and finally decides to confess her love. She helps him with his insecurities and even puts up with his erratic behavior (because of his bipolar characteristics, which are obviously not clearly shown in the movie) which in turn gives rise to more dysfunctional masochism.

She is the woman who makes the man find his way wherein the man gets the ample screen time where we see him being lost and struggling to discover his career choices. In Tara, we see a similar ‘savior syndrome’ as we saw in Rockstar(2011), where Heer says to Jordan, “Aao mein tumhe bacha lungi” (Come here, I will save you). A syndrome arising from a savior complex where someone feels compelled to save other people – an offshoot of patriarchy, as many scholars argue.

It should be noted, that whilst Bollywood movies depict legendary love stories, they do not always truthfully or accurately depict them.

Romance movies across Bollywood and Hollywood tend to offer false expectations of love and relationships that can mislead individuals about the true dating experience.

Bollywood movies tend to glorify love so that their viewers tend to seek out that love story in their dating lives but may end up bitterly disappointed.

For instance, the hit Bollywood blockbuster, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na shows Jai, played by Imran Khan, and Aditi played by Genelia D’Souza, as two friends who are in love with each other but haven’t quite figured that out yet.

However, this movie can offer some quite damaging false hope for individuals who may hold on to hope for a love that could never arrive. Whilst Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na offers an endearing and lovable story, it is not always easy to go from best friends to lovers and the movie does not necessarily show the perils of dating your former best friend.

Another instance of Bollywood offering false expectations to individuals is the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which can send a damaging message to young girls.

Whilst there’s no denying that Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is a heart-warming Bollywood film, it may lead young girls to think they can only be desired romantically once they change their appearance. In the film, protagonist Rahul only begins to see Anjali in a romantic way years later once her appearance has been feminized.

24-year-old Ananya shared: “Growing up as a tomboy and watching Anjali change from a tomboy to a more feminine version of herself and then be desired really lowered my self-esteem and made me question my style and appearance.”

Thus whilst many Bollywood movies are endearing and heart-warming, viewers may get a false sense of hope, expectations, and depictions of romance once they watch them and take them too literally.

Setting high and unrealistic expectations

Bollywood movies are renowned for their extravagant song-and-dance numbers, exotic locations, and stunningly attractive protagonists. While these elements make for captivating cinema, they can inadvertently set high and unrealistic expectations for real-life romance. Viewers often find themselves yearning for the grand gestures and picture-perfect moments they witness on screen, leaving them dissatisfied with the ordinary realities of their own relationships.

Success story -

Raj and Simi, a couple in their late twenties, had their fair share of ups and downs. Initially, they were caught in the trap of expecting Bollywood-style romance in their relationship. But as time passed, they realized that true love wasn t about grand gestures; it was about appreciating the small, everyday moments together. They learned to set realistic expectations and found that their relationship became more meaningful and fulfilling as a result.

Failure story – Chasing an illusion

Conversely, we have the story of Aryan and Meera, a couple who believed in the fairy tale notion of "the one." Influenced by Bollywood s portrayal of soulmates and destined love, they thought that their connection would be effortless and perfect. When they faced challenges in their relationship, they grew disillusioned and started doubting if they were truly meant to be together.

Dreamy and disconnected from reality

Bollywood often presents love in a dreamy, surreal manner that is far removed from the complexities of real-life relationships. The character s perfect hair, impeccable fashion, and faultless dialogue delivery create an idealized form of romance that can lead viewers to disconnect from the realities of their own relationships. This can breed dissatisfaction and unrealistic fantasies.

Embracing imperfections and realities

While Bollywood romance may paint a dreamy picture, it s crucial to remember that real relationships are imperfect. Imperfections are what make them beautiful and real. Embracing the flaws and imperfections of your partner, just as you would hope they embrace yours, is a valuable lesson that can lead to more genuine and fulfilling connections.

Belief in fate and soulmates

Bollywood often perpetuates the idea that there is "the one" out there, and destiny will ensure you find each other. While this notion can be comforting, it can also lead to a passive approach in real relationships. Believing that love will magically fall into place can hinder efforts to communicate, understand, and work on a relationship.

How do relationships look realistically?

Real vs. Reel: Understand the distinction between Bollywood romance and real-life relationships. While it s okay to enjoy the escapism of movies, remember that real love is often messier and more beautiful because of it.

Communication is the key: Instead of relying on destiny, invest in open and honest communication with your partner. Talk about your needs, dreams, and fears. Building a strong foundation requires active effort.

Perfect love: Perfect love is a myth. Embrace imperfections in both yourself and your partner. Recognize that it s the journey of growth and compromise that makes a relationship meaningful.

Manage expectations: Manage your expectations and understand that love in the real world doesn t always involve grand gestures or constant excitement. It s about finding joy in the everyday moments.

Create your own love story: Instead of trying to fit into the mold of a Bollywood romance, write your own love story. Your unique experiences, challenges, and triumphs are what make your relationship special.

Emotional dependence

Bollywood often portrays intense emotional dependence between romantic partners, where they are each other s entire world. While deep emotional connections are important, an unhealthy level of emotional dependence can lead to codependency and a lack of individual growth within a relationship.

Perfect love and real conflict

Bollywood often skips over the mundane but vital aspects of a relationship, such as conflict resolution and compromise. Real relationships involve disagreements, misunderstandings, and the need to work through differences. It s important to recognize that perfect love doesn t mean the absence of conflict but the ability to navigate it together.

Bollywood s portrayal of love and romance can be enchanting and inspiring, but it also has the potential to set unrealistic expectations and disconnect us from the realities of real-life relationships. By understanding the difference between reel and real, embracing imperfections, managing expectations, and actively working on communication, we can build healthier, more fulfilling, and lasting relationships. Remember, while Bollywood offers a glimpse of a dreamy world, it s the authentic, imperfect love that we create in our own lives that truly matters.

Ms. Priyanka Walia
Ms. Priyanka Walia M.A. Counselling Psychology Counselling Psychologist 05 years of experience

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Ms. Muskan Maheshwari
Ms. Muskan Maheshwari M.Sc. Clinical Psychology Clinical Psychologist 02 years of experience

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Mr. Nishant Sharma
Mr. Nishant Sharma M.Phil. Clinical Psychology Clinical Psychologist 07 years of experience

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Ms. Akshita Bakshi
Ms. Akshita Bakshi Ph.D. Relationship Psychology Counselling Psychologist 05 years of experience

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