Do you really need a Bachchan to sell feminism in Pink?

We must realise that making celebrities endorse the movement in the first place is troubling.

 |  4-minute read |   19-09-2016
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The Amitabh Bachchan baritone is to Bollywood what Morgan Freeman's (aka Our Lord God) voice is to Hollywood.

It is instantly recognisable, immediately reassuring, even therapeutic, some would say - an Auditory Comfort Food (ACF), as it were.

And while I'm not one to judge, this particular ACF has been used to peddle antiseptic creams, ointments, soft drinks, and (Morgan have mercy on our souls) a ruby-red hair oil.

Perhaps that's the reason why I was a little bit uncomfortable to see Bachchan in the ham-fisted promotional campaign for the movie in question here, Pink: penning the most boring and clichéd letter of all time to his granddaughters, who, one hopes, develop better taste in epistolary literature.

And then there was the #AbSamjhautaNahi, another cringe-worthy few minutes of baritone heavy-hitting by the indefatigable Bachchan.

It's fair to say that I wasn't inclined to give Pink the benefit of doubt, on the evidence of its promotional efforts. Tempting, really, but it has become so common to imagine feminism will thrive on celebrity brands.

Of late Bollywood has seen celebrities like Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra etc, endorse, discuss and comment on feminism.

Some chose the label, some slayed it. Whatever the reasons might have been, it did give them all a lot of publicity, viral feeds and rolling eyeballs.

There must have been other women and men appearing in such promotional videos too, but how many do we remember?

Like the three amazing women from Pink, who will be very soon forgotten (I hope not, though), but BIG B's "legacy" will not fade. So, if celebrity feminism is a phase, we are fooling ourselves thinking it to be a movement.

You may argue that few in the usual (mainstream film-watching) audience will pay attention to feminism if famous and privileged faces do not endorse it. But, we must realise that making them endorse in the first place is troubling.

Now recall that (unnamed) female police constable who shook BIG B's hands outside the courtroom, towards the end of Pink. Notice the overwhelming amount of emotions she is filled with, just to THANK him.

She is not the only one who offers thanks by the way, and, it gives one an impression that a big favour has been done. But do we need to THANK the "angry" old man for choosing to speak for the women? Are his preachy one-liners making him the new saviour women now need?

And, on a more serious note: why is saving required?

pink-3-2_091916112502.jpg Taapsee Pannu in astill from Pink. 

I do agree that Pink is realistic; it portrays how difficult life can be for women in urban spaces. But more than that, it resonates with the saviour figures we have to create from time to time, so that they tell women to be "more careful".

Things would have been different for Taapsee, Kirti and Andrea had there been no Bachchan, who plays the lawyer. Maybe Raajveer would have gone away with a clean chit. We cannot imagine the film without BIG B; a Shabana Azmi, or an unknown actor for example, would not have drawn the audience Pink did.

Bachchan is a master actor, no doubt, yet given his privilege and brand publicity, he could do something more substantial for gender issues, couldn't he?

The problem here is not that he should have abstained himself from talking about women empowerment, but rather that a strategically placed endorsement is being used to sell the film.

Though it's heartening that issues of consent and choice are discussed from women's perspectives, the film would have been a huge failure without Bachchan's role.

And no, we don't want to send across this message that Pink is all about Bachchan, and that everyone went to the halls to see him.

UNBLUSHED's tagline "No right can be silenced", is absolutely true, but it doesn't have to be necessarily voiced out by biggies like Bachchan collaborating with brand ideologies.

Bachchan's voice is not every woman's voice, we must realise this. By applauding him for lending a voice on the behalf of women, we have distanced and silenced a lot of women already.

His voice now is all over the internet as the "voice of Indian women", and it is far from ideal, miles actually.

Also read - Pink is our everyday tragedy that never gets old

Writer

Rini Barman Rini Barman @barman_rini

Independent writer and researcher, Guwahati

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