Art & Culture

When 'Chikni Chameli' Katrina Kaif talks about gender equality

Vichitra Amarnathan
Vichitra AmarnathanDec 07, 2016 | 14:18

When 'Chikni Chameli' Katrina Kaif talks about gender equality

At a recent conference on gender equality and violence against women, Katrina Kaif spoke on why women should not take it lying down. One listened because her words amounted to this: "...even educated women succumb to the pressure of societal norms and remain silent on issues which should be raised."

Well said, Katrina Kaif! And Radhika Apte, and Sonam Kapoor and plenty of other actresses. It seems to be a trend in Bollywood. The actresses, alas, can't take it anymore.


Kaif, in particular, was referring to "educated women, who remain silent in the face of violence, because they are afraid to confront societal norms". Commendable.

But what I picture is a woman in skimpy clothes surrounded by numerous men gaping at her lasciviously and dancing suggestively, to which she responds with even more suggestive moves set to the tune of "Chikni chameli pauwa chadha ke ayi... bidi chillum jalane aayi"; or "I know you want it, but you never gonna get it... Sheila ki Jawani."

So what?

Does she not have the right to speak about gender equality? Does she not deserve to be treated as an equal? Of course, she deserves every bit of it. As much as any other person. But that's hardly the point.

The point is that she and her peers in Bollywood actually have an important responsibility. At the stage their careers are in, they can, and should, be influencing how women are portrayed in the media because this has a huge bearing on the extent to which women are objectified. And this objectification is at the root of violence and inequality.

The image of a Bollywood actor or actress influences millions.

Every job is just a job, but in the same breath, every job has its own sphere of influence. Not all of us are politicians, activists, lobbyists or evangelists. Does that mean we have no influence? That assumption not only means everyone else is powerless, but also reeks of passing the buck.


And here, we are talking about actors and actresses who have a mass following.

Tell me, is that not power? Tell me, does responsibility not come with it?

The image of a Bollywood actor or actress influences millions. Isn't that the very reason Katrina Kaif was asked to speak at this conference? So, shall we stop and ask: Why Katrina Kaif - who is more than a decade-old in the entertainment industry, economically independent, educated and intelligent - known for her hair, lips, weight loss and dancing?

Why does Radhika Apte state that "the conventional idea of beauty is boring... and there is pressure on actors to look a certain way," and then adopt those very conventional standards of beauty? Why would she shed clothes for a film because "the script demands it"?

And when Kajol says "by the time you’re 30, you know who you are inside. You learn to laugh at things you can’t change; you learn to be yourself," and comes back looking much fairer, let's ask if she gave a fair chance to her own words?

Talking about gender equality and empowerment is Bollywood's new cool, but when will our actresses walk the talk?


I think with the resources, influence and potential our actresses possess, they can avoid succumbing "to the pressure of societal norms and not remain silent on issues which should be raised".


Last updated: December 07, 2016 | 14:18
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