In the name of love, we have all romanticized on-screen couples. However, here’s a look back at the toxic ones.
In India, cinema and pyaar go hand in hand, but as they say, ‘Pyaar andha hota hai‘. Sometimes our love for cinema and our love for love overwhelms us while logic takes a back seat. Patriarchy, gaslighting, emotional damage, and other toxic behavior might end up looking look cute on-screen if you’re wearing love-tainted glasses. Movies have been giving us ageless love stories but are all love stories beautiful? An even better question is, are these stories healthy? There are on-screen couples that we ship and see ourselves in them. Maybe it’s time we see them for the kind of relationship they stand for.
As cinema continues to shower love and love stories on us, let’s revisit some of such famous on-screen couples who may look oh-so-cute but actually are oh-so-terribly-toxic.
Murad and Safeena – Gully Boy
The cute Alia Bhatt as Safeena saying “Mere boyfriend ke gulu gulu karengi toh dhoptengich na” in a local Mumbaiyya accent made waves when Gully Boy was released. However, is it justified to beat a girl up if she flirts with your boyfriend, or are there better, healthy ways of dealing with jealousy? Safeena even smashes a glass bottle on Sky’s (Kalki Koechlin) head when she gets insecure about Sky’s budding friendship with Murad (Ranveer Singh). To the movie’s credit, it doesn’t glorify her behavior, but the film does glorify the toxic on-screen couple. However, Safeena’s behavior is clearly toxic. Murad, on the other hand, overwhelmed by life and Safeena, just leaves. He comes back only when Safeena threatens that if he doesn’t, she will marry his friend. Thus continues the cycle of toxicity.
Rahul and Anjali – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) falls for Tina (Rani Mukherjee) because she’s modern, wears skimpy clothes, and applies make-up. Anjali (Kajol) is till then best friend material because she isn’t ‘girly’ enough for him. When Anjali tries to dress like Tina, he, along with Tina, makes fun of her. Cut to the part where Tina, who is now dead, leaves a letter for her daughter telling her that Anjali always loved Rahul. Rahul then reunites with Anjali, who is now girly with long hair, and wearing a saree. This time he flirts with her and dances in the rain instead of teasing her and laughing at her. The man clearly knows his priorities, just that they aren’t healthy.
Daya and Jethalal – Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah
The famous “Aye Haalo” Dayaben Tapu ke Papa Gada (Disha Vakani) and Jethalal Champaklal Gada (Dilip Joshi) are the ruling jodi on Indian television. Time and again, the TV show has depicted endearing moments between the two breaking the myth that people in arranged marriages are not necessarily bound by love. However, Jethalal casually flirts with his neighbor, Babita Iyer (Munmun Dutta) who is supposedly modern unlike his wife, Daya, who is a traditional Indian housewife. When it comes to duties and family, Jethalal prefers a traditional housewife. However, when it comes to flirting, he chooses the modern neighbor. He constantly removes his frustration on her by calling her names which the audience finds funny. While the wife has to stay devoted to her in-laws, Jethalal constantly gets enraged at the mere mention of Daya’s maternal family. I could go on and on, but you get the gist. This is a couple depicted as traditionally beautiful but is actually an example of what most toxic Indian marriages look like.
Joe and Love – You
Serial killer husband and wife, need I say more? Perhaps the creepiest of all toxic on-screen couples. The show doesn’t fully glorify the couple. In each episode, toxic romance is fully on display. However, the couple has still found favor amongst millennials. Joe (Penn Badgley) tries to make things right, but cannot keep his head straight every time he comes across a beautiful woman. From stalking someone to masturbating in the parking lot, he’s the textbook definition of creepy. Love (Victoria Pedretti), on the other hand, murders women who come close to Joe. She herself goes for an extramarital affair though with a college-going guy next door. The guy, Theo, himself keeps pining after Love even though she says no multiple times. ‘Wife murders and husband helps hide the bodies’ seems a perfect fit, except it’s not. Definitely not to be romanticized unless you want to end up in jail.
Kabir and Preeti – Kabir Singh
There has been widespread condemnation for the toxic masculinity and the meek stereotypical femininity portrayed in this film. However, a huge section of the audience still loves the toxic on-screen couple. From start to end, this couple is as toxic as it gets. Here is a man, Kabir (Shahid Kapoor), who instead of going to therapy, removes his anger on everyone else including his girlfriend, Preeti (Kiara Advani) whom he ‘claimed’. He forces her to decide between her family and him and gives her a short time frame to make such a huge decision. When she doesn’t reply, instead of dealing with his problems in a healthy manner by seeking help, he takes to drug and alcohol abuse this time. On the other hand, we have Preeti, a stereotypical female Bollywood character who will bear the anger of her partner because she’s in love. No matter how bad it gets, in the end, she will go back to him. There is a thin line between forgiving mistakes and enabling abusive behavior, she chooses the latter. From start to finish, Kabir Singh glorifies toxic relationships with a stereotypical narrative of gender, and in 2022, we can really do without it.
Alisha and Zain – Gehraiyaan
Remember when the teaser was released and we were all going crazy over the chemistry that Alisha (Deepika Padukone) and Zain (Siddhant Chaturvedi) had? The pair looked hot on screen. We were rooting for them with our fingers crossed. However, they were toxic throughout the movie. First of all, they were lying to their significant others instead of clearing things and breaking up. Secondly, so much damage could have been prevented had Alisha and Zain communicated with each other. Zain wouldn’t tell Alisha anything about the financial crisis he was going through at work. Anxiety-ridden Alisha could not understand the changes in his behavior and got insecure. In the list of toxic on-screen couples, they definitely get a spot.
Bunny and Naina – Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
We’ve all wanted to be a cool photographer like Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor) traveling around the world, living THE life. Naina’s (Deepika Padukone) quiet, shy, nerdy behavior had its own charm. However, they had cute chemistry but a toxic relationship. Bunny not committing to his family and running away was a clear indicator of how he was repressing his emotions. On the trek, he spends his entire time flirting with other women like a casanova. However, at Aditi’s (Kalki Koechlin) wedding, he meets Naina who is no more chashmish Naina. She is hot, outspoken, and an extrovert. This time Bunny falls for her. He sabotages her date with another man by insulting him. He comes back to Naina saying he wants to travel the world with her. Can doctors really afford an on-the-move lifestyle though?
Radhe and Jhanvi – Wanted
Salman Khan abandoned his adorable ‘Prem’ avatar long back. Now, he mostly goes for toxic masculine roles. He fights, he wins, that’s it, that’s the movie every time. Wanted was such a hit! It revived Khan’s career. However, the couple that the audience found so adorable was actually not. Radhe (Salman Khan) repeatedly insults Jhanvi (Ayesha Takia) but reaches the spot every time she needs to be rescued. Obviously, she can’t rescue herself. Mixed signals much? The more he insults her, the more the heroine keeps falling for him. The entire film goes back and forth like this until it is established that Khan is a police officer. He is a good guy. Happily ever after and so on.
Radhe and Nirjara – Tere Naam
While we are talking about Bhai, here’s another gem. This couple was toxic at 150 on a scale of 1-100. Radhe (Salman Khan) bullied Nirjara (Bhumika Chawla) the entire time. From ragging to harassment- he does it all. From intimidating her fiancé to threatening to beat up her father if she rejects her proposal, his trunk is filled with red flags. He literally abducts her! But hey, he beats up bad people. So, he is a good guy, okay? Even ‘toxic’ would be an understatement for Radhe’s behavior. He was abusive. Nirjara is again a stereotypical female character who is too meek to stand up for herself and eventually falls for her abuser because her father sides with him. They perhaps rank the highest in the list of toxic on-screen couples.
Michael and Kay – The Godfather
Before you start cursing at me, hear me out. The Godfather is one of the best movies in the world, without a doubt. We all rooted for Michael (Al Pacino) and Kay (Diane Keaton), okay? But eventually, they went their separate ways. However, was it beautiful to begin with? When Michael goes to Sicily, he marries Apollonia. When he returns, he goes back to Kay. They get married, only for Michael to focus fully on his business and neglect his family. Instead of solving things, they both repress emotions and halt healthy communication. Kay goes to the length of aborting their baby without informing Michael. When she finally informs him, he slaps her and they get separated. No matter, how much we wanted them to stay together, they ended up becoming a toxic couple. Their circumstances had a huge role to play in their misfortune, no doubt. But unfortunately, the marriage did get toxic.
Can you think of any toxic on-screen couples whom we romanticized? Let us know in the comments.
Also Read: 17 notable ghazals in Indian movies that always take us on a happy trance