India’s leading newspaper The Times of India has messed with the wrong girl. Having published what can only be described as a sexist and ‘click’ inducing photo and tweet about actress Deepika Padukone’s cleavage — yes, just her cleavage — the daily is facing much-deserved condemnation and ferocious criticism. The actress has very aptly lashed back at The Times of India stating,
After a tremendous amount of support for Padukone online, with thousands of re-tweets and encouragement even from prominent actors like Priyanka Chopra, the report has been removed from the website.
And just like that, Deepika has gained a shining star in the eyes of millions; she has taken a step for women word over who are treated as mere objects of sex based on the anatomy they were born with. For this, I am grateful to Deepika and applaud her for speaking up. Many before her, with far greater klout, have let crude stories, images and headlines about their physical appearance slide (Brittany Spears, Lindsey Lohan et al), just because it’s far easier to keep quiet.
However, Deepika was brave enough to deviate and say ‘enough is enough’. Perhaps she recognizes that if a stand isn’t taken today, the same headline will appear in the paper tomorrow and the vicious cycle will continue, becoming bolder and more malicious every time it is met without resistance. No doubt, Deepika chose the hard way; many, many more people have taken notice of the story, but The Times of India will definitely act with more caution the next time it decides to objectify a female actor. Deepika Padukone said no, and this will have a resounding effect.
However, a thought continues to nag me and I must give voice to it…
While I applaud Deepika’s decision and her courage, I can’t help but notice a double standard here. Bollywood has built its popularity on objectifying all actors. A movie is rarely complete without a lengthened and repeated zoom-in on midriffs, cleavage, perfectly toned abs and so on. The coveted ‘item song’ that Bollywood has given birth to has made objectification of women, ogling at them and expecting a certain behaviour from them the norm. Perhaps this is why The Times of India still has the gall to urge Padukone to consider a shot of her cleavage “a compliment”.
I understand that sex sells, but Bollywood is already huge; it no longer requires scantily clad, sultry women or bare chested heroes to draw throngs to the theaters. Bollywood is an industry that is, perhaps, the most loved, cherished and prized in South Asia. In fact, it has the power to unite people across borders — a power which has alluded even the most influential politicians and leaders of the world. Just ask the slum child from Pakistan who can narrate each and every dialogue and sing each and every song from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
I wonder why Bollywood, thus, continues to rely on nudity to sell, when just the name ‘Bollywood’ will draw masses. Why can’t the industry use its power and the hold it has to change mindsets and eliminate sexism? Why Can’t Bollywood show that a woman is more than just her body and that men, even without muscles and perfect abs, can be heroes?
A wise man once said ” “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
I really hope that the Bollywood industry can see the wisdom in this statement, and that it too, like Deepika can say ‘enough’.