The upcoming Masala rom-com, Ki & Ka, marks the first time Bollywood is attempting to shed light on the newest addition to the Indian family, the stay-at-home dad, and because filmmaker R.Balki is at the helm, the man who brought us Cheeni Kum and Paa, one expects this not to be another Dostana, a piece-of-shit film with an odiously backwards agenda. Arun Kapoor is the supportive “house husband” in charge of laundry loads and household chores while his successful yuppie of a wife (Kareena Kapoor) is the sole roti-winner of the home.
A byproduct of progressivism and the narrowing of the gender gap, the stay-at-home dad is now a reality in puritanical India. Derided by everyone and their stern aunties, he is the antithesis of everything Sansakari Indians seem to hold dear.
But it would be remarkably naïve to single out Indians for not being progressive in their views of familial dynamics when even first-world haven, America still hasn’t fully embraced this concept. More than half of American respondents from a recent PEW Research Center survey say children are better off if a mom is home and jobless while just eight percent say the same thing about dads. Comparing that with Indian sociologist Dr Sushma Tulzhapurkar’s findings about as much as three per cent of all Indian urban working fathers deciding to stay at home to look after the kids while their wives go out to work, and India seems to be making tremendous headway.
One stay-at-home dad, Sydney Corderio, says, “My wife has to travel a lot on her job. And not wanting our seven-month-old daughter to be brought up by a nanny, we both decided that it was best that I quit my job and take up being a full-time stay-at-home dad and become a part-time freelance copywriter. And, I am so far loving every minute of it.”
And Hollywood, the supposed Liberal bastion of America, doesn’t fare any better. The #OscarsSoWhite controversy might have brought to the fore the deeply entrenched, institutionalized racism in the Academy, but the portrayal and treatment of women in the American film industry is no cause for celebration either. Neither is the portrayal of fathers raising their children without a female nurturer.
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media released a report titled Gender Roles & Occupations: A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television wherein it was discovered that 21 percent more men in film are depicted with jobs than women and, even when women are employed, they tend not to be depicted with top positions.
This is a warped misrepresentation of the ground reality in America where sometime after the recession, 40 percent of U.S. households now have a woman as the leading provider. Yet Hollywood still wishes to box them in like it was the 50s. Meanwhile, a recent TV show, Guys with Kids, showed single dads as incompetent buffoons indicating that Hollywood’s views on single fathers hasn’t shifted in the slightest in thirty years, since the 1980s when blockbuster comedy, Three Men & A Baby, painted American single fathers with the same brushstroke.
Whether or not Ki & Ka will also fall into the trap of pandering to conservative audiences by making the house husband character the butt of all jokes will be ascertained on the film’s releasing day. I for one am hoping for the best, I hope Bollywood blazes a trail for Hollywood to follow. And I hope Bollywood rubs it in Tinseltown’s microaggression-heavy face.