Even as Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s June 21 release Kabir Singh continues to ring up big numbers at the box office, the film has earned ire for the misogyny of its central character. The debate intensified on the weekend when, in an interview with journalist Anupama Chopra, the film’s writer-director Vanga defended his film and the actions of its hero.

Vanga and the film have been criticised for letting the hero go unpunished after slapping his docile girlfriend in one scene, belittling a character by calling her fat, and threatening a woman at knifepoint to have sex with him.

In the 36-minute interview with Chopra on YouTube, Vanga dismissed criticism of the film as “pseudo” and its critics as “parasites”. He justified the hero’s temperamental behaviour calling anger the “purest emotion”, and said that a romantic relationship doesn’t pass muster if “you don’t have the liberty of slapping each other.”

In an earlier interview to Scroll.in, Vanga said that he was not bothered by “pseudo-feminists and pseudo-sympathisers”. He added, “There is not one place where I have showed women in a derogatory way. There is no bum or cleavage shot. I never asked my audience to look at the girl’s body.”

Kabir Singh is Vanga’s official Hindi remake of his own Telugu blockbuster, Arjun Reddy, which was released in 2017. The film, which is reported to have earned Rs 225 crore so far, follows its titular hero (Shahid Kapoor) spiralling down in a haze of alcohol and violent behaviour after his separation from his lover, Preeti (Kiara Advani).

The claim made by Vanga in the interview that opened the floodgates was the writer-director’s view that “physical demonstration” is normal in a romantic relationship, and those who believe otherwise have “never experienced it in the right way”.

Twitter users, particularly women, pointed out how Vanga’s comments are supportive of and promote gender-based violence and abuse in romantic relationships.

In the context of the interview, several women shared stories of physical abuse.

However, some Twitter users also turned on people criticising the film. Many sneered at the critics as “feminist”, a word that Vanga used in his interview.

Since Vanga defended his hero’s actions, some Twitter users believed that the interview settled the debate about whether Kabir Singh actually glorified violent male behaviour.

One user felt that people defending Vanga’s film were no different from the Kabir Singh’s hero.

Some Twitter laced their critique of Vanga’s comments with dark humour, starting with an observation on a most pressing horror faced by the country today.

While the debate continues, Vanga and the film’s legion of supporters were joined on Sunday by Telugu filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma.

Also read:

Find somebody to look at you the way women look at Arjun Reddy

‘Kabir Singh’ movie review: ‘Arjun Reddy’ recycled with all the highs (and lows) of the original

Sandeep Reddy Vanga on the hero of ‘Kabir Singh’ and ‘Arjun Reddy’: ‘His anger comes from me’