According to psychologists that is. As per them, even those of us who think that we do not stereotype, do so automatically: based on race, nationality, profession, sex, etc.

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Let's look at our films... All of us who have seen enough Hindi movies would agree that Bollywood has, in the name of creative liberty and usually under the guise of comedy but not always, encouraged stereotypes that play on the perceived mannerisms of different classes and communities.

The earliest examples that comes to mind is of the buffoonish South Indian music teacher played by Mehmood in “Padosan” (1968) as well as the depictions of the poor as honest, hard working but weak and the rich as evil, powerful, exploitative, in films too numerous to mention.

Not to mention that Sardars are dumb and loud, Gujaratis eat dhoklas and play garba for no reason whatsoever, Marwaris are pot-bellied misers, Goans are laid-back Feni guzzlers, all South Indians are from Madras and all Parsis are eccentric.

Of course stereotypes still abound except that they have become less caricaturish and thus more dangerous: homosexuals are pansy, Muslims are terrorists or super patriots, white girls are easily available bimbos... This does not necessarily imply that films are conspicuously responsible for creating stereotypes, although they can and they do. Close your eyes and imagine a courtroom, and unless you have visited enough and more real courts, the reel courtroom is what will come to mind.

Reality is that we have never seen a judge in any Indian court say ‘order, order’ while banging a gavel. Most of the times though films only emphasise the stereotypes that exist in society.

One should however point out that cinema has the ability to influence and pigeon hole, and thus film-makers should be careful about what they portray. Differences can be shown and jarringly, without being condescending or insulting. And comical stereotyping is acceptable provided it is not targeted.

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The Critic’s Corner

2 years ago