The earlier conception of masculinity has now become anarchic. Now, men crying has nothing to do with their masculinity.
“Men walk this tightrope where any sign of weakness elicits shame, and so they’re afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of looking weak”
– Brené Brown
Men may have been arbitrary rulers for long who exercised their authority without any qualms about their being superior. But really, are they? Psychologists opine that unless all genders learn to feel, express and even display all that they experience in terms of their emotions in some way or the other, there would always be a deep void within them that can never make them complete. Completion in this sense refers to their being able to channel themselves most candidly and openly in every possible situation without any fear of being judged. And only then can they be successful too truly!
Sadly, it’s the unflinching macho image passed on from generations that most families make them look up to that they are expected to emulate and become eventually. And sometimes revere. Ever since their childhood, most of them are taught vulnerability equals weakness, and therefore men are not supposed to be exposed. It may be difficult to be vulnerable for many as there is a looming fear of feeling embarrassed or being hurt by someone’s response. Not many thus know that vulnerability, in reality, is a strength.
This aspect often reflects in other forms of life too, including the fine arts. Be it literature, painting, sculpture or theatre, there seems to be a one-sided cardboard depiction of men that the consumer applauds. Or so the creators believe.
Bollywood men are changing for the better
Many of us would recall how macho man Dharmendra in the 1960s and through the 1970s would wail in many emotional scenes and the viewers would giggle and snigger seeing him look ‘womanlike and outrightly silly.’ But because he was otherwise all muscle, brawny and sinewy, he got away with the trashy criticism, and his fans remembered him for all the virile and swashbuckling style.
Movies in general, and our Indian cinema too, in particular, have always shied away from giving us a side to the so-called heroes’ defencelessness. If at all, there is any reference to his weakness, the screenplay is quick to justify a believable reason as a backstory.
Just like off-screen in real life, men experience a slight hesitation and effort being vulnerable due to societal pressures of masculinity, our film heroes too, have never been man-enough to portray a rather soft side of humankind on screen.
Preconceptions about men and vulnerability
Crying for instance has always been associated with women, that too, in a pejorative sense. And if women have faced criticism for shedding tears, imagine what men go through when their families or friends come to know that one of the stronger genders among them is actually ‘weak’. Most men are told growing up that crying is not “manly”; or that feeling sad is not acceptable. A lot of them might have difficulty opening up to others about their innermost emotions, thoughts, and feelings. But how many of them know that when one holds back on expressing these emotions, they might continue to “mask”; their issues too and may eventually turn towards addiction to a harmful activity, such as, excessive smoking, extreme drinking, etc.
But that was then. Or may be a thing of the past decade or so. For in this modern day and age, many such stereotypical behaviour is forgotten making way for men to cry. Openly at that.
Crying is healthy
Crying can be a healthy way to process your emotions, and it can have a range of emotional and physical benefits. Hiding one’s emotions can make it harder to cope with the feelings and seek support.
In fact, modern day psychologists argue that not being able to cry could be one of the deadliest diseases on the planet, often still shrouded in a sense of shame.
Things are very different now
For far too long have men been forced to closet their emotions or risk being seen as weak. The earlier conception of masculinity has now become anarchic. Now, men crying has nothing to do with their masculinity.
Bollywood ever since it was forced to shed the formulaic narratives and get into ‘slice of life’ mould of cinema, has often shown men to make use of their lachrymal glands. That too, without any inhibition though in recent years, many of the top notch male stars are beginning to appear more compassionate. That sure is a great sign as the traditional heroes have started looking more believable now that they appear less filmi too!
The current flavour of Hindi cinema Kartik Aryan in his latest film Shehzada plays an Amritsar-bred lawyer whose biological father is a billionaire whereas his foster father is merely a middle-class worker in the billionaire’s huge empire. As he struggles to make a living, he realises his helplessness of not being able to get acknowledged by them let alone be able to hug his real parents. And guess what? In not one but a few scenes, he cries secretly though. Besides his dancing skills and his smart Casanova looks, his thin skinned and unprotected look is much appreciated by his audience, and not just his female following. The film isn’t anything great but men sitting in theatres can’t stop raving about him. Unreservedly!
Who would have expected the bicep flexing actor who rakes in Rs 500 crore at the box office every time his film hits the screens to show us his soft side on screen? Thankfully, he is not afraid to let go of his image and is open to experimenting too. In films like Tubelight, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan, the larger than life hero is seen crying copious tears in scenes of disappointment, loss and even love. A far cry from perpetuating his muscular looks, these scenes stand out on their own, all because of the star’s spontaneous outburst.
The Khans, who have been ruling the roost, hold sway among the cinephiles and have a responsibility too towards them. And they have been very accountable too, not allowing the constant barbs against them to either destroy their sense of well-being or retaliate in any way. Much before the advent of the new age hero, he was seen tearful and weepy in Akele Hum Akele Tum, a remake of Kramer Vs Kramer. In the recent past, he was seen sobbing in 3 Idiots and Dangal.
And so, the Badshah of Bollywood, SRK too was expected to wail in Bhansali’s Devdas or in Karan Johar’s Kal Ho Na Ho. And sure enough, the King of Bollywood cried, and that too, a lot. His wailful bawling impacted many among his loyal audience positively.
His most ardent fans loved his display of emotions in films such as, Fiza and Kaabil. Not in the least bothered about his Greek God image, he proved a rather fainter and feebler of his characters forcing his fans to accept his helplessness patiently.
The most unconventional star who, it seems, is keen on being labelled an actor than a successful star, Ranbir with his acting skills is first rate. What makes people sit up and take note of this talented actor is his ability to look exposed in sharp contrast to the onscreen manly figure that his fans love. In Rockstar he looks amazingly attractive to his female fans when his helplessness gets the better of him and he yelps and scowls in desperation when faced with failure. Though the film was patchy, his performance stood out!
Not a star who enjoys respect as an actor, Akshay Kumar in many of his films like including Airlift, and Brothers looked unguarded when he moaned and whined showing us his less tough physique!
Why just the aforementioned matinee idols, even our action hero Ajay Devgn played a mentally slow character in Main Aisa Hi Hoon but he received a cold response.
Mainstream cinema is changing, and how? Are men then coming to terms with their own beings too? Intimacy, for instance, requires every human to be sensitive, susceptible and liable to be assessed, evaluated, and weighed in a certain way.
Spouses or partners, often know men and their core exclusively, wholeheartedly and even unconditionally. In most cases, certainly men can put a finger on their own emotional issues better.
Thankfully, all that isn’t making them feel totally exposed for they realise that intimacy is not intimidating in any way. Bravo to that!