Five Anti-Feminist Bollywood Songs That Will Make You Cringe

Nutan Khandan 1965

Nutan literally worships the ground beneath her husband’s feet in Khandan (1965).

There is a careful line to be drawn in classic Bollywood cinema between love for a man and all-out worship. The songs below represent that unfortunate relic of Bollywood songs that transformed the excitement and bliss of romantic love into something plain unhealthy. We all know the genre I refer to. The trouble is, the songs are so good on a purely artistic level that we can’t help but keep playing them over and over again. Most of them were smash hits at the time of their release and continue to keep a significant slice of Indian audiences captivated, despite shifting social norms.

It’s easy to oversimplify this phenomena by saying, “it’s cultural” or “that was the way of thinking back then.” Yes, in India as in many countries, many women were raised to believe their ultimate role was in service to their husband and the framework for sexuality revolutionized worldwide in the 60s and 70s. But you can’t let it go at that for any similar explanation undermines the contradictory evidence within Indian history and the inherent wrong of this mindset. I don’t care if you lived in the 17th century or were born yesterday, we can’t raise our daughters like this. India is a country famous for electing the first female Prime Minister, for revering the strength and wisdom of its many awe-inspiring female gods, and where women become IT specialists and make salaries equivalent to their male counterparts. But there’s an uglier side too, and hopefully today we all feel a collective awkwardness when reminded of it in that great reflection of culture: film.

You’ll notice that all the songs on our cringe-tastic list are Lata Mangeshkar (half of them Nutan) hits, and it’s no surprise. Of course, it would be the heroine, not the bad modern girl left with an Asha side number, that would sing the song of self-flagellistic devotion. It’s a bad sign that some of these lines were thought to be representative of the “ideal” woman or wife–have we really improved anything by turning women into half-naked screens sirens instead? You decide.

Nutan just loves doing household chores and singing about her god-like husband in Saudagar (1973).

Personally, I have a violent reaction hearing some of these words come out of these actresses. Have a gander yourself and listen carefully to so-called Indian love of the 1950s and 1960s. Can you make it to the bottom of this list without squirming?

1. Tumhi Mere Mandir (Khandan 1965)

Cringe-worthy line: “Tumhi mere mandir, tumhi mere pujaa, tumhi devta ho.” (“You alone are my temple, you alone are my prayer, you alone are my God.”)

Gurrl, please stop it. This is seriously not healthy. Husbands should not take the place of God in your day-t0-day logic. How are you even functioning right now?

2. Aap Ki Nazaro.n Ne Samjha (Anpadh 1962)

Cringe-worthy lines: “Aap ki nazaro.n ne samjha pyaar ke qaabil mujhe…Keh rahi hai har nazar, banda parwar shukriya.” (“Your glances deemed me worthy of your love…every glance of mine says ‘Thank you, Lord.'”)

AAAAAAAAAAH. I’m in so much pain right now. So you’re telling me, you’re grateful that your husband “deemed you worthy” of his love? Help me. Check out our full translation if you’re in the mood for punishment!

3. Tera Mera Saath Rahe (Saudagar 1973)

Cringe-worthy line:”Tu kabhi mere khuda, mujhse bezaar na ho.” (May you never become angry with me, my revered God!)

Although this film is actually really good and takes some unexpected twists that make you love Nutan, I can’t deal with her in this song. She frolics around doing the chores with a pep in her step, just wishing and hoping that her GOD, oh wait, sorry, that man you married, will never be angry at her.

4. Hum Tere Pyaar Mei.N (Dil Ek Mandir 1963)

Cringe-worthy line: “Is tere charan kii dhuul se ham ne apnii jiivan bharii…Ab in charano.n me.n dam nikle bas itnii aur tamannaa hai.” (“I put sindoor on my forehead from the dust at your feet…now I have but one more wish, which is to die at your feet.”)

OMG, calm down, girlfriend. You are legit scaring me. I don’t care if you’re being figurative, go take a cold shower and re-evaluate yourself!!! Our English translation of this monster is here.

5. Dheere Dheere Machal (Anupama 1966)

Cringe-worthy line: “Mujhko karne de! Karne de! Solah sringar! Koi aataa hai!” (Oh let me, let me, let me adorn myself and put on full-make up! He is coming!”)

OK I get it, we all try to look good for our man, but it’s the sheer frenzied desperation here that bothers me. Do you think your man gets that crazy to straighten his tie and brush his hair when he hears your painted toenails pattering on the ground in approach??

So how’d you do? Survived? Well done! Sorry about my rant, I just prefer a little equality in a relationship. For a rebuttal (and there are plenty to choose from), be sure to read our post on Mukesh’s “Koi Jab Tumhara Hriday” just in case you were afraid it was only women who knew how to grovel. Did we miss any cringe-worthy gems that always rankle your bones? Let us know in the comments!
-Mrs. 55

25 thoughts on “Five Anti-Feminist Bollywood Songs That Will Make You Cringe

  1. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at your article this morning, it is all very true. However, the worst part is that there remains a substantial number of males young and old who also subscribe to this archaic view of life. There leaves no role that is normal for women to live up to since Bollywood has become not just an escape for a few hours at the movies but a role model for society. If a woman is sickeningly sweet she she is wrong if she is bad she is wrong. The healthy moderate lifestyle and balanced view is not normal as it should be. Drowning in a sea of unnatural characters is not good for anyone but it has clearly had a profound affect on the thinking of Indians and how to live their lives.

    • It’s true women fall into classic stereotypes in many a great Hindi film, and thank goodness for those that broke the mold. For me, Nargis often portrayed a strong-willed woman (even if melodramatic), but she too was often restrained by archaic dialogues. And I completely agree–whether or not anyone in “real life” always subscribed to that view, repeatedly encountering these biases in movies was highly influential!

  2. The trend which is seen in the songs as mentioned by you, is a result of a stereotypical male mindset complimented by a submissive female. And there are quite a number of anti feminist songs to pen down. Sadly the trend is still shown and appreciated in bollywood movies nowadays. Check out this movie, “Cocktail”. The ultra modern independent girl turning into a love begging submissive girl. She changes her way of life, attire so that her guy accepts her. Thats so not the concept you wanna portray infront of the public…..

    • haha actually I have not seen Cocktail yet! It sounds…interesting…hmm. The submissive woman has been highly prized in Hindi films for generations–agreed, definitely not a concept we should perpetuate to the extremes!

  3. Ok, so PC guy that I am, I agree wholeheartedly with you. I just hope that my wife has not read this blog (unless she is “annonymous”, God forbid) otherwise she may stop singing songs dedicated to me 🙂
    Seriously though there are many other examples of this worshipful devotion from the other side of the aisle apart from the classic Manoj Kumar hit that you mentioned. How about sEthing like this by Dev Anand in Nasli Aqli:
    Ek but bunaonga aur Teri main pooja karoonga

    • Hahaha yes, there are plenty songs on the male end of the spectrum that involve “love” turned worship! Love should be a partnership–and too much idolization is probably unhealthy regardless of who’s the object of devotion.These songs aren’t necessarily bad in a figurative sense, but unfortunately, as in the case of husband worship in some of these films, actual day-to-day power mismatch creates real tension that can lead to oppressive situations.

  4. Yeah…there’s a problem when loving devotion translates into outright servility. I find the line “Jab pyar hua is pinjere se tum kehne lage azad raho”… pretty problematic. It’s like conceding that you live in a cage, and then saying ‘but I like my cage’….She refers to it as a ‘pyar ka pinjara’ but still, not very well thought out by the lyricists. I didn’t think the last song was so bad….her love and devotion is reciprocated (it appears to the same degree) by her husband….He says that he thinks that he’s not worthy of her….it’s alright if anyone thinks that he or she is not quite worthy of there partner in terms of character or moral fibre or whatever, provided that gender isn’t the basis for that assessment of superiority/inferiority. It’s fair to say that in many of the songs/films of that period gender was very closely tied up with, and intrinsically linked to the devotion accorded to one’s partner (husband)…but this wasn’t always the case….Often it was something of a mixture….u love and be devoted your husband cause he may have qualities which make him loveable…but then when u go well -beyond that and confer demi-godlike status on him, always believing yourself to be in the wrong when there’s a fallout, that obviously creates oppressive conditions and can potentially be very destructive.

    • Hahah yeah the line you mention from Hum Tere Pyar Mein is evocative and concerning. Honestly, I love this song and always have–the melody is sweet and Lata sounds like an angel! But when you focus on the lyrics alone…there’s some very very weird dynamics at play. You’re right about the line being crossed–it’s all fun and games until your real disenfranchised life reflects the sentiments you express in a moment of passionate devotion. It can be a slippery slope both ways.

      • Thats true. Towards the end I was actually talking about the song ‘Dheere Dheere Machal’… I also think that ‘Hum Tere Pyar Mein’ is a nice song…notwithstanding the ‘pinjara’ and all….”Ruk jaa Raat” is an even lovelier song from the same very melodramatic film ‘Dil ek Mandir’.

  5. “Jo tumko ho pasand, wahi baat kahoonga” –
    film – Safar ; singer – Mukesh; actor – Feroz Khan.
    Lyrics equally (& some more) grating to my nerves & cringe-worthy, despite the good melody. Get a spine, man !

  6. On a slightly related note, the namesake of your blog was a pretty anti-feminist movie (as much as I love Guru Dutt and your blog:)). I distinctly remember a dialogue that practically endorsed wife-beating.

  7. I agree that no husband deserves a worshipping wife. A relationship should be based on equality. The faithfulness and devotion of the wife should be balanced by that of the husband.

    However, I want to play the devil’s advocate. In traditional India, marriages in which the wife devotes herself completely to her husband rarely lead to divorce. The wives are always supportive of the husband and they stay at home to take care of the children and look after their upbringing. Today, with the sexual freedom they enjoy, many wives don’t devote themselves as much to their homes and seek divorce too easily instead of trying to find a solution to their problems with their husband?

    What does Mr. and Mrs. 55 think about this? Would it have been better for Bollywood to portray the wife as the traditional homekeeper and husband lover rather than the modern independent woman that has emerged from the sexual revolution?

    • Perhaps they rarely lead to divorce because the woman is powerless, not because she does not desire a change in the relationship! I think, as with most things, a balance must be struck that allows both parties to feel comfortable and in control of their own lives. Bollywood has often portrayed a marriage “ideal” that is far from idyllic–at least from the woman’s point of view. However, moving in the opposite extreme is not quite the answer. Great points and thanks for reading!

  8. I must say that this is truly one of those posts that has stayed with me throughout the past few weeks. There are so many layers & contextual ‘eras’ to the term “anti-feminist”. As a woman, I would’ve preferred that you used the term “anti-Individual” instead of feminist because, ‘feminisim’ Narrows your reach & meaning. The lyrical sentiments are against Individualism.
    Movies are ‘famous’ for their excessive stereotyping – be it gender, class, caste, language, religion, ….. The subliminal message for women, though, is always about loyalty & purity.
    However, instead of the above, would one rather have today’s “Sheila ki jawani”, “Beedi jalay ke”, “Munni badnaam hui” [to name just a minuscule few] as feminist protagonists ?
    I hope not.
    At the end of the day, movies reflect society & are reflected back on society. What each one of us Imbibes/learns from these, is what matters. Can we become better individuals rather than adopt/perpetuate on the darker, murkier, shallower values ?

    Your post also made me realise what a Truly sexist, anti-feminist song This is [irrespective of the context which enforces another favorite Bollywood stereotype !] : — “waada tera waada” from Dushman

    I would vote This post as the one that has stayed with me But also rankled me the most. Even now, there is a ton of stuff I could add ….except that I don’t want to spoil mine or anybody else’s New Year :-)))

  9. A very interesting note. I concur with you overall. Another song that comes to find, also cringe worthy, is “Na jaoyo saiyaan, chura ke baiyaan”. This one not by Lata. A beautifully composed and rendered song but yes, the lyrics could not be more submissive. Although I am a guy, I do like to sing some of these Lataji songs. I sometimes change the lyrics slightly to fit a guy’s perspective. The end effect is not bad, albeit amusing.
    I have to disagree with you a little bit on whether Dheere Dheere Machal falls in the category of your article. I can easily see a “desperately in love” guy identifying with the same emotions—maybe not the “sola singaar” but certainly the emotions. On that note, of late, I have observed plenty of guys spend a fair amount of time pruning in front of the mirror (:-)

  10. Pingback: Hum Tere Pyar Mein Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi | Mr. & Mrs. 55 - Classic Bollywood Revisited!

  11. One more brazenly anti feminism songs for this list- Bhala Hai Bura Hai Jaisa Bhi Hai Mera Pati Mera Devata Hai from Naseeb Apna Apna (1986)

  12. Pingback: Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi | Mr. & Mrs. 55 - Classic Bollywood Revisited!

  13. Cringeworthy:

    Zaroorat hai, zaroorat hai, zaroorat hai
    Ek shrimati ki, kalavati ki,
    !!! Seva kare jo pati ki. !!!

    Here’s a mother singing to her little son:

    Dari-ki-dari-diri-daar, hai kal itvaar,
    Ke munna jaayega bazaar.
    !!! Do paise ki dulhan lega, !!!
    Chhe paise ka haar.

  14. Tbh Bollywood DOES take it to extremes. I just got into an argument regarding Naseeb Apna Apna. I said this movie was shit and the other person said this is what a ‘Bharteeya Nari’ is. The songs in the movies are sooo… It’s humiliating to see.

  15. Interesting topic! After all, some view and consider their lovers thus. What is wrong? Films, accepted, are made for public consumption. Hence a degree of restraint could have been exercised in equating their lovers to Gods or Goddesses and Something that is peerless. Taste differs from tongue to tongue and thought varies from person to person. Personally i deem Lata jee as my Mother and I adore Meenakumari jee. As said, we don’t raise our daughters or want our sisters to be subservient to their life partners. The songs here are sung by the ones who look at the other thus. So be it.

  16. Hi, the most interesting thing is how I came across this post while I was searching for the anti feminist or pro male chauvinistic or in other words pro domestic abuse nature of the movie Mr and Mrs 55!
    I just saw the 3/4th of that movie on YouTube and I couldn’t bare to continue with its mindless drivel on how women should be happy being subservient to men and yeah take a beating or two because it comes with the package called marriage and on top of it, should not even dare to think about the D word yup the taboo Divorce even if you are in a abusive relationship!
    Hmm, as you can see I really am angry with the movie and myself because I believed the general reviews about how funny and romantic the movid was, well my bad! And yeah totally disappointed in Guru Dutt too for that matter, this was my first film of his I decided to watch unfortunately may be last too as I can’t bear people treating women so badly …
    Anyway all said and done, may I ask what’s your opinion on the movie and why you chose the name of such a movie for your blog?

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