Kartik Aaryan has a problem, and men need to call him out. Yes, misogyny and Bollywood are old friends. Yes, Bollywood seems incapable of learning that rape jokes are not funny.
But Aaryan's characters — latest being from Pati Patni Aur Woh — embody a specific brand of hatred for women: the everyman's misogyny, the poor, sweet guy who has stayed where he was on the evolution scale, while women have gone and learnt these newfangled concepts of equality and free will.
And, all the good, sweet guys of the world, you need to call it out.
Kartik Aaryan has done similar roles over and over again, and also said in interviews that he sees nothing wrong in them.
The trailer of his latest film Pati Patni Aur Woh, released on Monday, promises the tired repeat of Bollywood's done-to-death "infidelity comedy", peppered with casual sexism and crass jokes. But what it also brings back is the Kartik Aaryan Genre of Misogynistic Monologues, something the actor owes almost his entire success to, and which are getting progressively cringier with every new release.
In the two Pyaar Ka Punchnamas, Aaryan told us women are the root cause of all evil and it is impossible to keep them happy. In Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, he told us women are gold diggers and it's a man's job to look out for his bros.
In Pati Patni Aur Woh, he tells us men have to "achieve sex" from their wives through means fair and foul, and it's very sad that society then calls them rapists.
"Biwi se sex maang lein toh hum bikhaari,
Biwi ko sex na de toh hum atyachaari,
Aur kisi tarah jugaad laga ke usse sex haasil kar lein na toh balaatkari bhi hum hai."
(Ïf you ask your wife for sex, you're a beggar. If you don't have sex with her, you are depriving her. And if you manage to get sex from her through a jugaad, you are dubbed a rapist.)
Bollywood's misogyny comes in several shades — the alpha male who is so alpha he is obviously a control freak, the handsome rake who's so handsome he is a rake, the honourable father, the protective brother.
But Kartik Aaryan's characters don't seek to be any of these. He is not the hero. He is the ordinary man. He is the guy-next-door. Dear good guys of the world, he's supposedly you.
He seeks to elicit neither admiration nor awe, he's going for your pity. He is always the victim. Of women who want money, of women who want agency, of women who want respect and equality. Things his mother — invoked in almost all his movies — didn't ask for. She gave unconditionally, she sacrificed. This is all he is used to. Why can't the women around him just do the same? Why must they question, why? Their lot is to do and die.
The makers of his movies, and Kartik Aaryan himself, have often justified his movies by saying that they are popular, that they strike a chord. That chord, dear good men of the world, is being struck with you.
Why are men okay with being portrayed like this? What is this abject victimisation? Women around you are not out to ruin your happiness. If you feel a disconnect with them, if you don't understand some of their demands, surely, you sit down and have a conversation with them, instead of going on a drunken, abusive rant with your band of bros?
The Kartik Aaryan brand of movies first establish a scenario where a man is troubled, and then suggest a way out — never try to address the problems, don't work on issues with your partners, drown your sorrows in booze and go to sleep with the comforting conclusion that every woman except your mom is the villain.
The joke — the crass, sexist, and thoroughly unfair joke — is on the men here. That they have the emotional range of a teaspoon — to quote an intelligent girl — they don't know how to deal with problems, are immature crybabies incapable of maintaining healthy relationships.
And dear good men of the world, you need to reject this, loudly, clearly, unequivocally. No Rajjo nor Chintu should be the standard-bearer of your hopes and dreams and angsts. You deserve better.
Till you start demanding it, gender equality in Bollywood, like Chintu Tyagi in Pati Patni Aur Woh, will continue to wait for achhe din.