In the mesmerising world of Bollywood, where dreams are spun and stories are immortalised, there's an enduring narrative that unfolds quietly. It's a tale of how baldness is portrayed in Indian cinema and the deep-rooted stereotypes it perpetuates.
Today, on World Be Bald And Free Day, we'll dive into this issue through the lens of individuals who have felt the brunt of these stereotypes.
Imagine the screen flickers, the auditorium hushes, and there they are, characters with bald pates. While Bollywood weaves enchanting tales and larger-than-life heroes, it often adheres to age-old stereotypes when it comes to bald characters. These clichés not only define the roles but extend to the jokes, the name-calling, and the subtle jabs, all of which have a tangible impact on real lives.
“I started losing my hair in my twenties, and the first thing that hit me was how people started teasing me, calling me ‘takli’. Eventually, close friends started using this as a term of endearment, but it just keeps chipping away at my self-esteem.” Says Ayushi K (34) from Pune.
Aakash, (28) from Bengaluru posted on a Reddit thread, “As a kid, you’re always scared of the big, bad, bald man on screen because he's the villain 90% of the time. Now, suddenly, I’m becoming that person, and it makes me anxious to just step out of the house. My hair loss isn’t something that is in my control- I’ve tried everything.”
These are the voices that have lived under the shadow of Bollywood's portrayal of baldness, facing the mockery and judgments that society imposes. They remind us that stereotypes are not confined to the screen; they seep into the real world, affecting individuals' self-esteem, relationships, and mental well-being.
Bollywood, with its immense influence, has, on occasion, perpetuated these stereotypes. Iconic figures like Shakti Kapoor and Kader Khan, renowned for their roles as bald antagonists, often became caricatures of villainy in Bollywood's golden era.
Their portrayals, though comical and engaging on screen, played a role in etching the stereotype of bald individuals as villains or figures of fun in the minds of the audience.
An anonymous 30-year-old laments, “When Bala was released, I knew exactly what would be in store for me. It's disheartening to see that Bollywood continues to reinforce stereotypes surrounding baldness, making us feel like caricatures rather than real people.”
In more recent times, the industry has made attempts to diversify its representation of bald characters.
From Akshay Kumar to Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra, and more recently, Shah Rukh Khan, many actors are embracing the bald and the beautiful. However, this has often been used as a tool to highlight a personality type, never as just an appearance.
One X (formerly Twitter) user wrote, “I never thought I would fall for a bald man, and then King Khan comes in and changes everything.”
Are we uncomfortable with the portrayal of a bald hero on screen? The dominant narrative often reserves the bald look for depicting sickness, criminal behaviour, or providing comedic relief. It's a reflection of the stereotypes we've grown accustomed to in cinema, but it prompts us to ask why.
What are the underlying factors that have led to this limited representation of bald characters in our movies? Why do we tend to associate baldness with specific character traits? How can we challenge and change these ingrained perceptions?
As the Editor of this platform that aims to break stereotypes and respects the magnitude of storytelling, I recognise the power of cinema and how it can perpetuate stereotypes, often without being aware of the real-life consequences.
Today, let's celebrate individuality and redefine our understanding of beauty, one that encompasses the natural and diverse aspects of the human experience.
It's high time we reshape the narrative, leaving behind the stereotypes and forging a more inclusive and accepting society.