Abstract

The article draws on specific theories of hegemonic masculinity through the performances of toxic masculinity to conceptualize “angromance” (our term for “angry romance”) in recent mainstream Hindi cinema. It analyzes seminal discourses associated with sadomasochistic heroes in commercially successful Bollywood films Tere Naam (“In Your Name,” Satish Kaushik, 2003), and Kabir Singh (Sandeep Reddy Vanga, 2019). The attempt is to understand how these films, separated by nearly two decades, deploy standard conceits of Bollywood, which tend to normalize problematic and hypermasculine traits. The protagonists’ metamorphosis into tragic heroes during the course of the narrative also reinforces the denial of agency of the female protagonists. Such transformation invokes compassion toward the tragic hero, and is marked by a shift in his physical appearance, leading toward self-destruction, bordering on masochism. This performance of angst was manifested in the character of Radhe from Tere Naam and his styling through the course of the film. In the case of Kabir Singh, the leading man’s portrayal as tragic hero was remarkable for his unkempt looks, alcoholism, substance abuse, and increasingly misogynistic attitude. Quite evidently, both narratives draw upon characteristics from traditional portrayals of obsessive love on Bollywood’s silverscreen. In recent times, representations of misogyny and sexism in popular culture have received a backlash, particularly after the exponential rise in crimes against women. Our attempt is to comprehend how Bollywood assembles various masculinities to validate the performance of angromance and, subsequently, the limitations of such masculinities.

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