"My life, my rules
My gamla (flower pot), my phoolz (flowers)"
If there was ever a time to use the Race 3 (2018) dialogue — My business is my business, none of your business, it is now. I truly want actor Zaira Wasim to post it as a final ‘mic-drop’ act on her social media after causing a national stir over her decision to quit films to maintain peace with her religion.
Barely known actor Zaira Wasim’s filmography has three movies to it — the best-known Dangal (2016) opposite Aamir Khan, the disappeared-without-a-trace Secret Superstar (2017) and the upcoming probably-a-hit-cuz-of-Priyanka Chopra The Sky Is Pink (2019). So, to many, her decision to quit Bollywood purportedly to maintain her relationship with her religion is being taken as a clever move, rather than ending up as a has-been. Meanwhile, prominent leaders in the country are either lauding her or spewing vitriol over the religious implications of her move.
My take — can we just first calm down?
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Wasim had thrown social media into a tizzy in 2017 too, when she publically alleged harassment mid-air on an Air Vistara flight. The incident sparked a huge debate about women's safety and for a while, she was touted as a 'woke feminist'.
So, had she said that she was leaving Bollywood to devote herself completely to being a women rights activist, would things be different?
I think so, mostly because her current reason is one that makes many people very uncomfortable.
From ill-informed terrorists using a religious agenda to cause violence across the world to the hitherto unsuccessful attempt to better the lives of Muslim women through the Triple Talaq Bill, Islam is currently the Donald Trump of all religions — fearsome, violent, totally unpredictable.
But it is not in the least fair to load all your insecurities about the religion onto a young woman, who is simply choosing to do what she wants to do, and who has her whole life ahead of her to change her mind, should she want.
I am convinced that the entire Zaira Wasim hullabaloo is primarily because of her 'inconvenient' faith.
Nobody batted an eyelid when television star Barkha Madan left a decade-long career to become a Buddhist nun in 2012 or when Aashiqui (1990) star Anu Agarwal literally took ‘sanyas’ at the peak of her filmdom. More power to these women, everyone said!
Then why not to Zaira?
Apart from a faith that makes many uncomfortable, the issue also reeks of blatant male-privilege. When Angus T. Jones, Jake from Two and a Half Men, had a religious meltdown on YouTube and straight up told his fans to stop watching the hit sitcom because it was ‘filth’, everyone was shocked but no one questioned whether he was right or wrong.
He was free to choose.
So was former BJP MP and veteran actor Vinod Khanna, who did leave his rocketing stardom to follow the path of controversial cult leader Bhagwan Rajneesh aka Osho. Khanna managed to make a smooth re-entry into Bollywood despite the Osho debacle, untarnished from the varied allegations against the cult leader which ranged from fraud to immorality — even bio-warfare.
Like I mentioned before (and Daisy Shah immortalised) — My business is my business, none of your business. Zaira Wasim's move is hers to make. We can't turn it into a debate about the good, bad and evils of a particular religious community.
This is only, and only, about an individual's freedom to make a choice.
She's made it. You move on.