Discussion Post: Who Are the Most Feminist Actresses in India?

Thanks to Alisa/Bollywood Newbie for the idea!  I always think it is good to give positive feedback, so let’s talk about what actresses we admire most for what they have done for women.  Maybe it will just be me and Alisa going back and forth, but we’ll have a good time and that is good enough.

First, Feminist!  As I am defining it for this post:

Actively working towards parity between the genders.

 

 

Now, what I personally look for in an actress (which you can feel free to disagree with):

Directly using her industry position and power to help other woman move forward in the profession and also indirectly using her position as a public figure to model good behavior.

 

For me, the best actress in the Hindi industry for this would be……Sonam Kapoor!!!!  She is producing with her sister female lead films that help raise up other actresses, along with showing that women can produce films.  Veere Di Wedding alone is an enormous accomplishment for all women in the industry, not just the 4 featured in it.

Plus, she models strong female friendships, a working woman who is also married, and a healthy body image (check out this essay here).

Image result for sonam kapoor friends

 

Next would be Anushka Sharma, also running her own production house.  So far her female focused movies have just starred herself, but that’s still something, making a choice to do interesting strong female roles in her own films instead of working behind and for a man.

And of course she is not just a married working woman, she is married to someone arguably more famous than she is with a more demanding career, and yet they work around each other as a real partnership.

Image result for anushka sharma virat kohli

 

And then there’s the Malayalam actresses, who are a whole different level.  Parvathy, Bhavana, Manju Warrier, Rima Kallingal, and others are trying to create a long standing organization to work towards reform and putting their careers on the line to do it.  I’ll pick out Rima Kallingal in particular, just because she has taken the additional responsibility of being the outspoken public face.

(Registering their association as an official Society)

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63 thoughts on “Discussion Post: Who Are the Most Feminist Actresses in India?

  1. I agree on Sonam! Veere was a big deal, produced by a woman, starring women, that made a lot of money and pushed the envelope on mature content. I just wish it had a female director but that will presumably happen in the future.

    I didn’t know about the Malayalam initiative, that is fantastic! And good thing they are doing it together as a collective because then it’s less likely that any individual will be targeted for the backlash.

    I think Kareena is sort of a feminist role model in the sense that she doesn’t tolerate crap and plays strong characters on film. She doesn’t seem to have a strong sense of sisterhood (maybe I’m wrong about that though?) but I think she stands out as someone who is very strong and takes no crap.

    Let’s not forget Swara! She gets so much hate and it slides right off her. She is badass.

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    • I can give you some Malayalam background, since this is just a discussion post and I don’t have to be an expert. And it is an interesting comparison and test case for other film industries.

      On the one hand, the Malayalam films are some of the most feminist things ever. Strong female heroines, divorced heroines, older single heroines, married heroines whose husbands are beside the point, rape survivors, activists, amazing stories all around. Minimal objectification, realistic body types, no item songs, great stuff on screen. And there are amazing female writers, directors, stars. But on the other hand, the industry had/has this hidden super toxic environment.

      There is a big big outrage/scandal/tragedy in the Malayalam industry right now, because an actress (not a top top one, but a known and hard working one) was kidnapped and sexually assaulted by an industry hanger on and some of his friends. Shortly afterwards, Manju Warrier, ex-wife of Dileep one of the top stars, went to the police and said she thought it was her husband who ordered it, as punishment for this actress disrespecting him (essentially). Which has opened a whole can of warms, Dileep (supposedly) has been quietly running the film industry through the powerful actor’s union, making sure no one steps out of line, the top stars stay the top stars for the past 30 years, certain movies are hits and others aren’t, and so on and so on. And part of that was keeping women down while everyone looked the other way, for instance the actress Rima Kallingal was blacklisted for 2 years officially because she appeared on a TV show (which many other film actors had done without being blacklisted) but unofficially because she was too “uppity”. The union wasn’t even going to censor him or expel him, even after he was arrested, until the top of the younger male stars Prithviraj, who was also a friend and co-star of the attack survivor, spoke up and (supposedly) threatened to quit the union and never work with any of them again unless they made a public statement denouncing Dileep.

      Anyway, that’s the background in which this woman’s film collective was founded, with the idea of advocating for and protecting women in a toxic work environment because the existing union was not doing it, was in fact creating the toxic work environment. And now the existing union has formed their own woman’s wing and promised to listen to complaints and react and so on and so forth, but that is always a bit hard to believe, isn’t it?

      And it makes me so happy about Sonam in Hindi films! And Anushka and all the other strong outspoken women who aren’t afraid of being punished by their industry for speaking out, not blacklisted for 2 years or attacked. And even if they were, it wouldn’t matter, because they can just produce their own movies.

      So yes, Kareena too, just because she is a difficult woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and show other woman that it is okay to be difficult too, there is nothing to be afraid of.

      On Tue, Jul 31, 2018 at 6:50 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Also, kareena living with saif before marriage, and especially, living with shahid in the mid 2000s, and openly admitting it on KwK, and subsequently not marrying him. Unheard of, except during the 70s when the previous feminist wave hit India. At that time, Tina Munim said of her live in relationship with Rajesh Khanna, “we even share the same toothbrush”.

        But Kareena isn’t saying that you can be a difficult actress and it’s ok to be so, she’s saying it’s ok to be a difficult actress being a Raj Kapoor progeny. Big difference. There is a spoilt entitled aspect to this, and Sonam shares this privilege. There is that tacit understanding. That’s what makes Kangana stand out, she’s difficult and opinionated without privilege to back it up. And also her career had been very rocky, because it’s not backed up by privilege.

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    • Yes Kareena was known for her girl crew before Sonam became known for hers. Kareena best friend was Amrita Arora, and both Amrita and Malaika (Salman exSIL) were part of this crew. In fact there were photos on the internet of this crew before TSwift became famous for her crew, since it was pre social media Whether this crew is still a thing or has since disbanded I don’t know.

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      • I think it’s still a thing, at least a few years back they were all having dinner together before Saif got into a fight and was arrested. Oh Saif.

        On Tue, Jul 31, 2018 at 8:54 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • I also remember reading an article a couple of years ago about how to interview each of Bollywood major stars, what approach to take, what questions to ask and to avoid. What they said about Karen’s is that she responds much better to female interviewers, and is warm and gossipy with them.

          It’s interesting, she comes across as a guys’ girl, or at least a relationship girl, when in fact, she’s a girls’ girl! I think that’s what I like about her.

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          • Normally I don’t care about typos (obviously), but this is a really interesting comment! And I can’t tell if “Karen” is Kareena or Sonam or Anushka or someone else that we’ve been talking about and I really want to know!

            On Tue, Jul 31, 2018 at 9:37 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • There is no reply button on your comment Margaret, so I am replying to my own comment. Hopefully you will see it.

            Yes it is a typo, but truth be told, Karen, Carin, Karina, and Kareena, are all the same name, just in different languages. So it should be obvious 😉

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  2. Some thoughts: I agree about Sonam but I disagree about her body image. She has steadily lost weight and borders on eating disorder. She’s a bit cocky without acknowledging her privilege in the open way Kareena does. Anushka is my first choice. She is brave and honest and you are right about her marriage. I don’t in fact think Kangana is the real deal. She changes on a dime and is willing to trash other women. She didn’t “speak out” she had an affair with a married man. The unmarried person is not innocent. That’s not feminism. And a plug for the “wives” Suzanne Khan Roshen, Gauri Khan who have held their own, made careers while dealing crazy limelight.

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    • I really want Sonam to retire while still young and immediately go back to her normal healthy weight and be public about how much she struggled to stay thin and how much happier she is now.

      Thanks for mentioning the wives! Twinkle is another one I would add on.

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  3. So! I just thought of something in relation to Priyanka and Kangana. When I was following the Twilight fandom something I found fascinating was that the protagonist, Bella, was a terrible person. She’s selfish, self-absorbed, passive and whiny. The only thing she had going for her was her delicious smell (I’m 100% not kidding). But then it hit me: That’s the fantasy! She got to be a terrible, undeserving person and she still ends up with the hot vampire and immortality and stunning beauty etc, without doing a damned thing to earn it. And that’s very appealing to women who feel like they work so hard and struggle all the time to measure up to unrealistic standards and get zero appreciation for it.

    And then I realized that being an a-hole and still getting all the goodies is a very common theme in chick lit, romance novels and rom-coms as well. In Sex and the City (not exactly a rom-com but stick with me), Carrie is a horrible friend and a terrible person in general. She’s self-centered, she sleeps with married men, she cheats on her loving boyfriend. But at the end of the series she ends up with the gazillionaire and a fab wardrobe and all her friends still adoring her.

    And this is exactly the same appeal of being a fan of Priyanka and/or Kangana. A lot of their behavior is flat out terrible but they are still getting the fame, the beauty, the fabulous clothes, the international travel and the hot men (whether they are married or not). It’s the same fantasy of being completely undeserving and getting it all anyway.

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    • Oh Twilight! I read those while cleaning bedbugs out of my apartment. Which is the perfect time for that fantasy, Bella didn’t have to clean out bedbugs, she could just let them fester and people would love her anyway and fix it for her while she passively sat there. Well, plus I was in the mood to read about bloodsuckers.

      And yes, absolutely! The same reason people love Mary in Downtown Abbey (although she tries to be better). Being good is hard work, and it is an extra burden on women. It’s nice to take an imaginary break and pretend to be bad and everything works out anyway.

      For me, I don’t see the fantasy as damaging at all, it’s empowering. To allow yourself a moment to think about what if you stopped trying to be “good”, stopped trying to please others, and it still all turned out right for you?

      But, for me at least, I get pulled out of the fantasy eventually because I can only handle a certain amount of wrong/selfish before it starts to bother me.

      My favorite romance novel trope is when the heroine gets to be bad but for good reasons. Oh! Like Dawaat-E-Ishq! Have you seen that yet? Our heroine is a conwoman, but for all the best reasons and with the best intentions.

      Bringing it back to this discussion, that could be part of the appeal of the Priyanka-Kangana narrative, they are doing “wrong” things, but it is because they are being feminist and strong so it is okay.

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      • I haven’t seen it but it’s on Amazon Prime, yay!

        But, for me at least, I get pulled out of the fantasy eventually because I can only handle a certain amount of wrong/selfish before it starts to bother me.

        Yep! I very quickly get to the point of “You are an a-hole, why am I rooting for you?”

        Re: Priyanka and Kangana, I think the feminism is something draped over the behavior to justify it because really, neither of them are feminist. Feminism, as you pointed out, is about improving access for women beside yourself and neither of them do very well in that area.

        Having said that, they are both fun to watch, both as performers and in their personal lives.

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        • Oh, Daawat-E-Ishq is so wonderful! And a strange sort of compliment to the conversation we are having here, a movie where the woman learns the short term benefits of looking out for herself versus thinking of the greater good. Plus, Parineeti! Priyanka’s cousin!

          On Tue, Jul 31, 2018 at 11:11 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • If you want hot Akshay, there’s also Yeh Dillagi, Sabrina remake with Akshay playing Bogart. Or if you want recent hot Akshay in a bad movie, there’s Rustom where he wears a spotless white navy uniform for 2 hours.

            Or, Daawat-E-Ishq. Soooooooo good, even with a dreadful lack of Akshay, hot or otherwise.

            On Tue, Jul 31, 2018 at 11:20 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I haven’t really looked into it, but I know PC is doing charity work, spokesperson for campaigns and stuff. Which is good.

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    • I’ve never understood the phenomenon of fan love of the “bad”. You have completely explained it! Thank you! (I’m mpollak711. My iPad just insists I’m anonymous)

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  4. So this is going to be a long comment.
    I disagree with the second part of your definition-good behaviour/role model for the general public- for a feminist because what is considered as good behaviour is very subjective to every individual & every society. Sonam/Kareena drinking,using their family connections etc may not be considered ‘good behaviour’ by a lot of ppl-just an example. Parvathy-to me-is a great role model, but the majority of Kerala population(going by the public discourse)considers her as a stupid, arrogant woman who creates controversies for fame. So you cannot define a set of behaviour patterns & say these are the good ones a celebrity must follow to be a feminist.
    Now you have given examples of Sonam & Anushka being married, managing their careers, doing their own business(yes-Anil’s money is Sonam’s money also)& finding a good balance of work & personal lives. Now that’s a huge achievement for the women in current generation of movies where earlier the idea of married actresses(I want to commend Divya Bharati for being the first one to do so, even if it was for a short while & kept a secret)was not heard of. And women entering the business side of movies. It’s partly due to the current social conditions where more & more women are working, managing their own careers , having a relationship & balancing the two together. This is happening everywhere. Nayantara is in a relationship(not married) publicly & still commands a film like a male star. Nazriya is back to acting after marriage. The other reason is that Bollywood is based in a truly cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. Genders hardly matter in most workplaces in Mumbai,be it a corporate pls, government offices,any unorganised, non-traditional work place where the ppl aren’t literate or consumed by ideas from the west. Mumbai is also the safest city for women to work where they can roam around without fear at 3am also. Why I am saying all these is because the ppl living in Mumbai-rich or poor,filmstar or common man imbibes these ideas unconsciously and the traditional ideas of patriarchy are not strong rooted as in the rest of the country. When I see SRK or KJo(Salman & Sanjay are different stories-there are bullies & sociopaths everywhere)or any of the filmi ppl being considerate of women or Sonam , Kareena , Anushka living the way they want, looks nothing more than the family next door, who also has an independent working daughter with a boyfriend & with whom the uncle occasionally has a drink. And that’s also why Bollywood or Mumbai cannot be a standard for measuring the rest of India. Let me say this for the nth time BOLLYWOOD DOES NOT REPRESENT INDIA & I still object to you using Indian films for Hindi films. That perpetuates the very myopic view that Sonam producing movies is the shining example of feminism in India. In the last two days , you had two commentators mentioning their personal struggles with their families to assert their free will. Those are the things women in rest of India generally deal with on a daily basis. Just for the voices to be heard. So Parvathy voicing an opinion on a super star film that glorified misogyny is a great instance of an actress taking a feminist stand. She knew the outpour that was going to come against her for talking about it, but still made her observations which opened way to a bigger discourse-both ugly & meaningful. No other actress would have been subject to the kind of vicious attack that she was put through. And no part of her was spared-her family, films, every choice she had made so far in her life-was game for the bullies. And many of her attackers were women themselves. She didn’t apologise or retract any of what she said even at the risk of losing a very promising career.
    The other issue that she brought up in her effort to bring women on par with men was the topic of a basic sanitation facilities for the women crew on an outdoor shoot. I would think something as basic as that should be provided without even asking but seems they don’t get it even after asking. So the issues that women face in Bollywood & other industries are like apples & oranges.South Indian industries are steeped in patriarchy, objectification, misogyny & so on-but such adverse conditions also give rise to some very strong voices & women who have the grit to make it despite everything thrown at them. And I guess that’s why Priyanka & Kangana are able to resonate with the general public. They are blatantly using the feminism card to hoist their personas but it still rings truer than a previlaged, posh Bandra girl making movies about previlaged ,posh women. Their struggles were real. Swara Bhaskar aired an opinion against someone as influential as Bansali, while still having a career to maintain,is commendable. Anushka & Vidya are self-made women

    Sharing a video of India Today South Conclave debating on ‘Women in Public Life’. Khushboo speak of her abusive father at 10:14 & Taapsee talks of actresses being replaceable commodities at 12:40 are good to hear. Also take a peek at the comments below the vid & you can see the general attitude towards opinionated women in India.

    Aside from the above,
    Sruti Hariharan from Kannada spoke of casting couch -a common problem across all industries I’m sure. Saroj Khan in Bollywood said that it’s a common practise & nothing to condemn about. Not one actor/actress in Bollywood said anything in protest.
    Nayantara-her Prabhudeva scandal & how she rebuilt her career & continues to be the superstar is the stuff that women can find inspiration in.

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    • There are too many typos & disconnected sentences & I still feel like there’s more to write. Feminism in Indian films is a tricky one as each industry has its own problems. So atleast for this topic , you gotta use the term ‘Hindi films’ if the focus has to be on Bollywood actresses.

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      • I agree. Which is why I used “Indian” films because the focus isn’t on Hindi actresses. And why I was careful to include a non-Hindi example (the only one I know of because I don’t know southern industries as well) in my opening of the discussion. I even made sure to specify that I was picking Sonam as a “Hindi” actress, not Indian. It just happens that the 3 people who have commented so far (including myself as one) know more about the Hindi industry than others. That’s all. It’s not a “Hindi” post.

        This is a great discussion to help us learn more about other actresses that we may have seen on screen but don’t know about otherwise from other industries.

        On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 1:18 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Aditi Rao Hydari spoke today of casting couch & that she was out of work for 8 months for refusing. Apparently she has talked about it earlier also. Now I can never imagine Sonam or Alia or Kareena talking about it-their privilege never puts them in that position. So while they are all in strong independent women, they can hardly talk about or empathise with situations & struggles that they haven’t encountered.

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          • First, this also makes me think we can be sure any director/producer who DID cast Aditi doesn’t use the casting couch. So, Mani Ratnam is safe. I was like 99.99% sure he was, but you never know.

            And it brings up another big question. If Sonam and Kareena and so on have the privilege of being safe from these threats, might that not give them even more responsibility to speak out? Leaving feminism behind for a moment, this is something I think about a lot with the Hindu versus Muslim divide in the industry. The Hindu stars can’t speak to the experiences of the Muslim stars, but shouldn’t there be a way they can amplify those voices, support them, from their place of Hindu privilege? I mean, that’s kind of what the “Not in My Name” movement was about, right?

            Of course, the thing we see most often from those people in places of privilege is denial. The casting couch doesn’t matter, or doesn’t happen, because they never experienced it. Instead of saying “I am very lucky and never experienced it, and because I have that advantage, I have an even greater responsibility to speak out for and protect those who do experience it.”

            On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 8:29 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I think I answered the qn on the previlaged needing to take a stand on the other reply. It’s great if they do , but no judgements if they don’t. The personal risk for celebrities taking a public stand is big. So to each their own.

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    • The fact that Nayantara survived the whole Prabhu Deva episode and bounced back so strongly makes me happy. There’s Jyothika as well, one of the very few married southern actresses to work in movies after marriage, and not just as a mother or a sister to the hero. It’s easier for her because she is married to Surya who is producing her movies, but it’s still a great achievement nonetheless.
      Samantha is also not slowing down after marriage and is still doing films opposite heroes.
      All this makes me hope for better working conditions for the women in the South Indian film industries.

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      • Am I right that Samantha actually has a better career than her husband? Which isn’t necessarily feminist on its own, but if she keeps working because she is good at it, even if it means she continues to be more popular than her husband, that does feel feminist. Kind of the opposite the story Mahanati was telling about an actress who had to suffer because she went farther ahead than her husband and he couldn’t handle it.

        Or maybe I am completely wrong, it just seems like I see Samantha in way more movies than Naga.

        On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 2:58 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Yep, that is correct. Samantha did have a better career than her husband. Although I’m not a fan personally, I see her talent and this gives me a reason to keep rooting for her. I’m so glad for Nayanatara as well. And for Anushka, Kareena, Sonam, Radhika Aapte, Swara Bhaskar, Bhumi Pednekar etc. Even Anushka Shetty and Tamannah, whose film appearances might not have been feminist, but I think they are talented and I do respect their continued strong presence in the industry for so long.

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          • You got me to look up Nayantara, I vaguely knew about the Prabhu fuss but I didn’t realize how public and messy it got. I am so impressed that she survived and moved past that. And I also just looked up some of her recent movies, and now I have a lot more films I want to watch!

            On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 7:36 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Prabhu is her second controversial public affair. Do read about her first with Tamil actor Simbu😂I’m happy that third time around, she seems to have found the right guy who absolutely adores her.

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        • Have you watched Nanum Rowdy thaan? It’s got Vijay Sethupathy and Nayantara. Both of them gave great performances.
          Also check out Nayantara’s Aramm and Maya. I haven’t watched them but have heard great things.

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          • That’s the one I just read about and want to add to my mental list! I’ve only seen two Vijay Sethupathi movies, Pizza and Vikram Vedha, and I know I need to see more.

            On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 8:24 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • The beauty of a discussion post is that I am not asking/expecting you to agree with me. I used 2 Hindi and 1 Malayalam choice because I wanted to open up the discussion to non-Hindi industries. But I, myself, don’t know enough about non-Hindi industries to make my choices of most-feminist actress the way you can. If I had said “Hindi film” in the title, it wouldn’t have invited you to talk about all these wonderful women and I wouldn’t have known their stories.

      I also specifically say that you can disagree with what I look for in an actress, you don’t have to agree with me, I’m just explaining my personal reasoning. Because I want/expect people to disagree with me, I just wanted to open a discussion.

      None of that is directly related to your comment, I just wanted to get it out of the way because it seemed like you thought I was trying to restrict the conversation when my goal was to open it as widely as possible.

      Now, directly related to your comment, there’s only 2 things I can add because it was so comprehensive. First, strangely enough toilet facilities are a big problem in Bombay studios as well. Which just goes back to what you are saying about Hindi film actresses needing to do more, I don’t remember any of them ever speaking up and speaking out about that in public.

      Second, and this isn’t to disagree with anything you said I am just curious what you think about it, what would you say of the role of Sonam as Swara’s sponsor? that is, as you point out, Swara is out there taking risks and making waves. But Sonam is helping her to stay in the public eye and giving her jobs. Does that make Sonam feminist by association? Or is it meaningless because at any point she has the option of dropping Swara and getting out clean? I’m using Sonam as an example, but it’s really a general question I think is interesting to think about with all the silent supporters. Is their support meaningful, or is it cowardly because if they felt that way they should be speaking up themselves?

      On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 1:07 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I don’t think one needs to always speak up to support others(women in this instance because we are talking about feminism). The actions one takes without necessarily talking about it or tacit support maybe great. Each one has their own battles to fight & it maybe sometimes wise to let someone more involved, knowledgable to take the centerstage. But in Sonam-Swara instance I don’t see that. Swara has been part of films like TWM, Raanjana by association with Aanand Rai , then of several other films like Neil Battey Sannata, Anarkali of Arah etc. She is a JNU product, a known leftist & has been part of many TV news debates on several topics-filmy & otherwise. She’s articulate & logical most of the times. So I see Swara being an independent woman who works in films with a strong view on several topics-not always related to films or women. She gets trolled on a regular basis in Twitter & handles them all on her own. The one film where Swara was employed by Sonam directly or indirectly must be VDW. They maybe having a wonderful friendship & the support maybe there. But ‘sponsor’-no. Is there any other behind the scenes way where Sonam helped Swara take a stand on any cause?

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        • Going back to your point about people helping in different ways, what I see Sonam doing is helping Swara get the higher profile films (Prem Ratan Dhan Payo and then Veere), and just a higher profile in general by making her a big part of the Veere promotions and Sonam’s semi-public private life. I agree that Swara doesn’t really need her, but on the other hand Sonam is sticking her neck out a little bit by helping Swara be public and be noticed and have a name people recognize.

          There’s also the question of fighting someone else’s battles for them or letting them fight for themselves, right? Like (based on what little we know) it sounds like Prithviraj is an awesome feminist ally. But he wasn’t the one who founded the Women’s Cinema Collective or did any of that, he stopped at a certain point and let the women take it the rest of the way.

          What I get confused by sometimes in the film industry is the class part of it, which you nod towards. On the one hand, all the women in film are women in film. But on the other hand, does Sonam Kapoor really have enough in common with the lowly back-up dancer to be able to speak for her? Or should her role be to step back and let the lower level workers form their own agendas? Certainly the things Sonam or Anushka or any of the rest of them might do have minimal direct effect on the lower level workers. But is that the right thing to do? To work as much as you can at your own level and hope that it trickles down to others? Even if the problems of others are much greater than your own? Or should you try to break out of your own level and deal with the massive problems that you yourself have never experienced?

          Anyway, that’s another reason I like the Malayalam Women’s group, because it was a mix of on camera and behind the camera talent and seemed focused on truly embracing all the female workers in the film industry.

          On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 8:16 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Prithviraj is a great feminist. He has become very desirable in my eyes ever since he took a stand. I was going to suggest that you should probably do a post on known feminist Male actors & directors or producers too cos its not just women who can be feminists.
            The class thing is prevalent everywhere. Sonam Kapoor may not even be aware of the lack of toilets for daily crew cos she has her own vanity van. But if it comes to her notice, I would expect her or anyone in a powerful position to put in a word with the production controller & give the nudge required to resolve the problem. And probably in the next movie set, give a proactive check to ensure that the same facility exist. It’s about being aware of the world & ppl around you instead of being cocooned in your private castle rt?She may not have experienced casting couch, but can ensure that none of the ppl working at least for her films(even if it is Salman)impose it on anyone or that everyone is treated well. I don’t expect any one person to solve all problems but they can give a start to the change that’s expected. And that’s what Prithviraj is trying to do about the misogynistic hero roles in South Indian films. He is a man & still doing his bit by taking a stand that he will use his position & experience as a star not to include glorified misogyny in any of his films. It’s a start which hopefully other heroes will also emulate & or at least think twice before mouthing such dialogues. It goes without saying that taking up causes & actions for those will invite the displeasure of many & may upset many applecarts. But one has to choose their battles & what causes are worth the risk-especially for celebrities whose every movement is subject to spotlight.So I don’t judge actors who don’t take a stand but immensely admire the ones who do.

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          • Somehow in my mental image of Prithviraj speaking truth to power in those closed door meetings with Mammootty and Mohanlal and the rest, I keep taking his shirt off. So, I guess I am being a bad feminist by objectifying someone, but I’m only doing it because being a good feminist ally is just so gosh darn sexy.

            Agree about the idea of doing what you can and not being blind to the problems in front of you. Shahrukh I would count as a good feminist ally partly because he has promised equal pay for equal work across the board at Red Chillies. He can’t know everything about the female experience, but he is doing what he can where he has power. In contrast, Ganti’s book Producing Bollywood talked about an interview she had with an unnamed female producer who made fun of the lower level workers who had gone on strike for bathrooms, no sympathy for them and in fact resentment of them for being so demanding. And this same woman, I am sure, would have been very aggressive and outspoken if she felt she was being pushed aside in her career for a man. It was a reminder that class and gender can conflict.

            On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 10:40 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. I think Parvathy would be my choice because it was very brave of her to speak against a superstar film, when she is still a working mainstream actress. I don’t see any actress speaking up against Salman or any other huge male star in Bollywood, nor in the superstar led Telugu and Tamil industries. It’s easy for Sonam and Rhea to produce since they have the backing off Anil and his industry friends. Anushka, on the other hand, I agree. I don’t see her making any friends in Bollywood just for the heck of it or to be in the limelight. She seems like she does her work and she’s out, and she isn’t a part of any “camp”.

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    • I only know Parvathy onscreen, not off, which is part of why I am delighted that this post is bringing out information I would never have known! What was the superstar film she spoke out against?

      On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 2:52 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • It was the Mamootty starrer “Kasaba” which was supposedly very misogynistic. I haven’t seen the film, but based on what I read, it seems cringe worthy.
        Here’s Anna Vetticad’s review which speaks about the misogyny in the film :
        http://annavetticadgoes2themovies.blogspot.com/2016/07/review-406-kasaba.html?m=1
        And the film also received a notice from the Kerala Women’s Commission :
        https://www.google.co.in/amp/s/www.firstpost.com/entertainment/mammooty-receives-womens-commission-notice-over-kasabas-poor-portrayal-of-women-2904254.html/amp

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        • Pretty sure I watched that. It wasn’t great. To the point that I am surprised Parvathy even got in trouble because I would have thought the problems were so obvious no one could object.

          Also, is it just me who finds it strange that Dulquer is picking very forward thinking progressive films in every way, while his father is generally picking super regressive projects? I know it’s different generations and stuff, but there is such a disconnect, it feels like they must have completely different ways of looking at the world. Like, if Mammootty wasn’t his father, I would have expected Dulquer to be one of the people speaking up for the WCC and speaking against films like Kasaba.

          On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 7:45 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Parvathy got into trouble because it was a Mamootty film, I don’t think people would have cared otherwise.
            Regarding Dulquer, yes, he would have probably spoken up if he wasn’t Mamootty’s son. There seems to be a clear divide in the Malayalam industry. Some of the younger actors like Prithviraj spoke against Dilip( who was accused of the kidnapping and assault of a Malayalam actress), while the older ones maintain a stoic silence.

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          • I just can’t imagine that in my family. An issue like this, I can’t imagine not feeling the same way as my parents and vice versa, because after all they are the ones who raised me. If I am liberal, it is because they are liberal.

            But then, I guess that’s just my family. I certainly know plenty of other people who have massive family rows in private over generational divides. I imagine even if Dulquer and Mammootty disagree completely in private, it would take something pretty big for Dulquer to disagree with his father in public.

            On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 8:19 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Parvathy was ridiculed and trolled by fans after she made that comment. It went to the extent that people even decided to boycott movies starring her. One of the songs from ‘My Story’ was released immediately after this incident and it got record number of dislikes only because she dared to speak against a superstar, see here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAJ-66acp4M.
            And speaking of actors, from what I have heard and read Kunchako Boban is supposedly one person who supports the women. He was one of the people along with Prithviraj(supposedly) who spoke against Dileep and wanted him removed from the organization. And he was also the one to star opposite Manju in her first movie after the break, ‘How Old Are You’. He had said in one of the interviews that he was asked to stay away from the movie from people inside the industry, but he went ahead with the movie.

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          • Oh good! I thought Kunchacko was a good guy, just because he consistently takes roles in which the actress/heroine gets to be the lead. If you need a movie about a woman’s journey to find herself, Kunchacko is the guy who is going to be there playing the supporting role.

            On Thu, Aug 2, 2018 at 12:48 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Most Indians are taught not to argue or question their parents, even if the parents are being unreasonable.
          And the generation gap issues are very common in most Indian families.

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  6. “Directly using her industry position and power to help other woman move forward in the profession and also indirectly using her position as a public figure to model good behavior.”

    So if we use this definition of feminist actress, no way Kareena Kapoor can qualify. I never heard about her helping other woman in industry. I only know stories about her (often) talking bad about other actresses, and other people. Yes , the fact she was dating, and then married older, divorced, muslim guy without thinking what people will say, was something, but she did it for herself.
    Swara Bhaskar again, she is brave woman and a feminist – talking about important issues, getting a lot of hate for it. And don’t forget the movies she choses like Nil Battey Sannata, Anaarkali of Aarah.

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    • Interesting point about if a woman is doing something to make a statement or doing it for herself. Of course, there’s still the WAY you do it. I am sure Anushka married Virat for herself, because he’s super cute when his hair isn’t too weird, and she is still working for herself because she wants to work, but then she chose to avoid the sappy “oh I am so in love and I hate spending time away from him but I owe it to my public” kind of interviews to excuse still working after marriage.

      Kareena, and I could be wrong about this, but it feels like she just hates the pretense! On the one hand, it was bold and brave to go public with her relationship with Shahid. But on the other hand, I also think she would have hated all the coy tricks and lying about it so much that it might have been easier for her to be bold and brave.

      On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 3:52 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. You know, I can hardly find a feminist icon among the lot.Kareena can be counted for doing the best thing for Kareena.Which is not necessarily a bad thing.But that doesn’t make her a feminist role model.Ditto Sonam and Anushka. Any actress with an ounce of talent (barring Kareena.She has talent but not ambition) is liable to be unhappy with the way a typical Hindi film heroine is depicted. The only solution is to have hubby produce films/use his clout (Vidya, Jyothika) or produce it yourself (Sonam,Anushka). Kudos to Deepika for saying no to Salman’s crappy films. But then she can’t bring herself to say no to Shahrukh’s crappy films (I’m looking at you Chennai Express).Swara is a firebrand but has hardly any clout to change things in the industry.Much before Kareena, Aish or Anushka were lauded for working after marriage Sharmila Tagore was churning out films by the dozen after her marriage.

    Parvathy deserves credit for not keeping to the status quo and doing what she did.There’s an undercurrent of simmering frustration against women these days in Kerala which emerges out either in trolling them in social media or in violence.There’s an increasing trend of objectifying them as sexual objects and not as individuals -the furor about Sunny Leone’s arrival in Kochi.Which was not the case in the 80s or in the 90s.Young women are increasingly being accused of either toying with men’s affairs and abandoning them for better prospects or being uppity.Just look at the current films hinting at it like Maheshinte Prathikaram.What they conveniently manage to forget is that there have always been bossy women in any era and women are very very practical about marriage in Kerala.Anupama Chopra’s interview with the director. Anjali Menon has some interesting info about the women’s collective.Nayantara made a masterful comeback after the mess of her affair with married Prabhudeva. But a feminist icon, she’s not.She’s from Kerala and has hardly done any notable roles in Malayalam industry which is famous for doling out author backed roles to actresses.

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, I love Chennai Express! And it is feminist-ish, in that it has a message of a woman being able to choose for herself and the hero follow her wishes. But compared to Piku? Or almost anything else Dips has done in recent years? Yeah, not even close.

      Your description of Kareena doing the best thing for Kareena, but that not making her a feminist role model is SO IMPORTANT!!!!!! In any of these debates, any oppressed community, there is the line between those who succeed and fight for better access and break boundaries because it is best for them personally, versus those who do it on behalf of the entire community. It can look really similar, but it’s not the same.

      For Malayalam film, am I right that there is a bit of a pendulum effect? The 80s and 90s seemed to be, based on the films that I have randomly watched, fairly open minded and progressive towards female characters and actresses. And then it got really bad in the early 2000s/late 90s. And then it got really good. And now it is getting bad again. Maybe in reaction to how good it was? Female actors and writers and characters were getting more and more power which scares the men? Shy fragile little men who must be protected from ever ever getting their precious feelings hurt.

      On Wed, Aug 1, 2018 at 10:11 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • The way I remember, Nayantara worked with Mohanlal consecutively in two films in the beginning of her career & then immediately shifted to other languages. She teamed up with Mammootty after that many times & with Dileep but never again with Mohanlal. In some interviews also she mentioned about some not-good-experience with someone ‘very revered’. So I’m assuming she’s wary of Malayalam films unless it’s a group that she’s comfortable with. She had good roles in a Dileep(Bodyguard)& Mammootty films(Raapakal, Puthiya Niyamam)which is something of an acknowledgement to her star status. She also did Elektra by Shyama Prasad-which was on the artsy side. Anyways I think a heroine of Nayantara’s stature needs a role that justifies her presence. I’m hopeful about the new movie she’s doing with Nivin Pauly-that’s an interesting combination to look out for.

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  8. You and Alisa were talking about Twinkle as a feminist icon. Whatever her personal life, I love how she tackles the issue of “zero-size” with these ad about Milano Chocolate chip cookies.Isn’t she delightfully snarky?

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    • I’m not sure, I don’t know that much about their personal/political lives.

      On Sat, Aug 4, 2018 at 5:35 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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