Film critic Rajeev Masand conducted his annual roundtable last week with Bollywood actors Ratna Pathak Shah, Vidya Balan, Zaira Wasim, Bhumi Pednekar and Swara Bhaskar.
Although many things were discussed, the highlights included conversations regarding the rise and success of women-led films, strong female leads and the widespread misogyny within the industry. Compiled from Buzzfeed India, here is an accumulation of some epic dialogues that that the stars brought to the table… literally.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns actor Swara Bhaskar started by opening up about being harassed as a young actress, “I have been molested, cat-called and eve-teased on my set. I’ve even been groped during promotions.”
She continued, “There’s a certain mentality around actresses, especially if you come without a family name, where men try their luck to see ‘how far she will go’…”
Speaking about body image, Kahaani star Vidya Balan expressed how she was tired of questions about her weight, “I turned to them and said if the only criterion to get a role in certain films is that I be stick thin, then I choose to say no.”
She added, “I told them that they probably need to change their perspective about things.”
Tallying on to that, Bollywood’s ‘secret superstar’ Zaira Wasim spoke of her “don’t’ care” attitude with social media comments. “Ever since I’ve come back on social media, people have been asking me to lose weight. Some comment saying ‘You will look so much better if you lose weight.’ And I’m like ‘shut up, I don’t need to’.”
Moving the conversation on to the topic of objectification, Ratna Pathak Shah low-key disparaged actresses for being part of misogynistic films, “A woman that decides to act in a film like Dabbangg, in which she is a complete object of lust, also needs to stand up and say no to these films.”
Swara further shared how she was shook by the deeply ingrained misogyny in the country’s audiences. “We were shooting with crowds who were probably told that Salman Khan is going to be there. When it came to the scene where Anaarkali is being molested, the whole crowd was cheering and whistling.”
Discussing females within the film industry, the Toilet: Ek Prem Katha star Bhumi Pednekar gave reasons on why women are opting for better roles. “Men don’t have the courage to experiment because there’s such a set image of them having to be ‘macho.’ But women go through so many different emotions and we’re aware of them. That is why we enjoy playing characters that are challenged and insecure,” Bhumi explained.
In conclusion, the table collectively agreed that a change needs to occur and men need to be raised right. “To all the mothers listening to us, maybe it’s the way we bring up our boys?” said Rathna. Bhumi agreed and Vidya stated, “They shouldn’t feel entitled. They think they have a right to get a woman when they want, however they want.”
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