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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Assassination Nation: Relevance to Bollywood & Indian Entertainment

Assassination Nation is a shocking dark comedy/thriller which is set in Salem, Massachusetts.

The narrative devolves into chaos and violence after a computer hacker discovers and leaks personal secrets about many of its residents.

Unapologetic about the gory violence, explicit sexual references and profanities, the movie is a powerful dialogue about today’s America and potentially a dystopian nation.

Whilst this hard-hitting film is set in the USA, the issues tackled are relevant to the Indian Entertainment industry and the country as a whole. Filme Shilmy explores.

Assassination Nation: A Review

Cinematically, Assassination Nation scores big points, especially through to its technical aspects. The outstanding camera work, crisp editing and pulsating background music.

One must applaud Sam Levinson for his creative prowess especially when it comes to certain sequences.

At the beginning of the film, we see a toddler cycling on an empty road wearing a mask. A few residents look into the camera wearing these masks.

These masks are symbolic of the rampant hypocrisies of people today. Tropes like these really make us question, “is this real life right now?”

As such, the movie portrays numerous evils which exist in our society, though slightly exaggerated at times.

These issues include sexual harassment, rape, cybercrime, Transphobia and toxic masculinity among others.

If you thought 13 Reasons Why is shocking and Black Mirror frightening, then Assassination Nation combines the two and leaves us in deep thoughts about our surroundings especially on the web.

Social media almost becomes a character, almost like a narrator. It becomes a witness to all the events unfolding in the film.

Undoubtedly, Assassination Nation is a movie that will stick in your mind for years to come. It compels the viewer to question the status quo of society and the double-standards which exist.

Relevance to Indian Entertainment and India as a whole?

Assassination Nation is not just limited to America, but also the Indian entertainment industry and India as a nation.

A rise in Female-Centric Bollywood films

This movie is not a completely female-centric film per se, but the main characters are four high-school students Lily Colson (Odessa Young), Bex (Hari Nef), Em (Abra) and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) who fight back the system.

These girls include Em, a black girl and Bex, a transgender girl. This is an endeavour to make it a diverse and politically correct group.

Having said that, South-Asian representation would’ve been appreciated.

Of recent in Bollywood, we have seen several all-female cast movies, i.e. Veere Di Wedding (VDW) and Lipstick Under My Burkha.

However, the key difference is that the premise of Assassination Nation is more serious than Veere VDW, although Lipstick carries quite a few social undertones.

The last serious film with a predominantly female cast in Bollywood was Pink and this movie snowballed into becoming a campaign – signifying that No means no.

The girls fight back in Pink and so do the four protagonists in this film.

Lily is slut-shamed, publicly humiliated and sexually harassed because her nude photos are exposed.

But rather than crying or moping over it, she fights back and stops at no cost.

#MeToo Movement in India

One of the scenes that stick with us from the film is when Lily talks about how all her life (at just 18-years-old), she has only faced humiliation and orders.

As such, the line is thought-provoking as it conveys how girls are punished for the rules created by society.

Despite Lily coming from a reasonably well-off family, she and her three friends set out to fight the society’s so-called conventions and system.

In a way, the character is perceived to be saying #TimesUp. Hence, we see her encouraging other girls to join her in fighting back.

An issue tackled in this film is rape and sexual harassment – two ‘taboo’ problems that have been buried under the carpet for a very long time.

Subsequently, the #MeToo campaign has been gaining momentum in the Indian entertainment industry.

Many men and women have exposed individuals who have abused their powers and sexually harassed or abused them.

At the same token, the film aptly exhibits the dangers of trial by media as a result of allegations, especially regarding paedophilia.

This has been a major topic whilst in the discussion of the #MeToo movement in India, as many celebrities have encouraged that matters of sexual harassment are taken to a court of law rather than just made into a media witch-hunt.

Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity is a pivotal element of Assassination Nation.

Mark (Bill Skarsgård) is the ‘alpha male’ who we see pumping muscles in the gym and leading the other schoolboys to attack their ‘perpetrators’.

As he suspects Lily in the leaked nude photographs, he and his gang pin her down in a confrontation.

This is an example of misogyny, which begs us to ponder whether such incidents happen in today’s society.

Furthermore, Mark along with his gang and other men have don masks and taken up arms to find Lily who is wrongly accused of being the hacker.

They spare no mercy at capturing them and torturing them in the most inhumane way.

The toxic masculinity is not just limited to being an alpha male. It also extends to being a stereotypical ‘man’ hence every member following each other like a sheep.

Misogyny is no secret to Bollywood.

Stalking a non-interested girl has been a prominent plot in films like Darr and Raanjhanaa. More often than not, this has been romanticised into a ‘love-story’.

We have also been privy to stereotypical heterosexual men who are the protectors of women especially in Sunny Deol and Salman Khan Films.

Hindi cinema has adhered to such regressive tropes, that it has become customary.


Transphobia in Assassination Nation stems a lot from toxic masculinity.

For instance, Diamond (Danny Ramirez) hangs out with the macho crowd and after having sex with Bex, he tells her to keep their hook-up a secret as she is transgender.

It is only recently that we saw a relationship between a heterosexual man and a transgender woman in Netflix’s Sacred Games.

Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who has a love affair with Kukoo (Kubbra Sait).

Though the affair commences as a sexual one, Gaitonde is unafraid to acknowledge that he is in love with Kukoo – despite that she is a transgender.

We even see Kukoo speak out in pain of being a mere consort to gangsters like Ganesh Gaitonde, but this does not impact his love for her.

Despite Gaitonde being an ‘alpha male’ we see a more compassionate side to him.

Given that Section 377 has been cleared in India, perhaps more such LGBTQ+ appropriate stories would help to make the Indian entertainment industry more progressive?

Final Word

On the whole, Assassination Nation transcends from being just a film to becoming a movement.

From what we’ve explored, it tackles global issues which are not restricted to America and many of these have been portrayed by the Indian Entertainment industry.

Through cinema, we are enabled to learn and observe the world to live in.

Hopefully, this can help us to improve society.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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