Bollywood, let’s admit it, is far away from being ideal. Yes, even after being one of the biggest movie-churning industry in the world, B-wood by virtue is sexist. Be it the inconsiderate wage gap between male and female actors or its trade-tested scripts that worship the hero, there is a long way before B-town can claim itself to be unbiased.
But amidst all, there is hope and there are samaritans who are constantly striving to make the trade fair and free from blemishes. Apart from that, responsible criticism is playing a pivotal part. That and the acknowledgement that there are problems that need dire attention.
How do I know that? From the megastar, Shah Rukh Khan who recently sat down with BBC HARDtalk’s Zeinab Badawi and spoke about crippling issues, at length.
After being honoured at the World Economic Forum 2018 in Davos where he was awarded the Crystal Award for his contribution towards society and a speech that won hearts globally, SRK’s hard talk was a step forward in the right direction that advocated his beliefs about an inclusive world.
It felt so, foremost, when Shah Rukh was asked if he is using his influential voice for standing up for women rights and empowerment enough. He said,
“No, I don’t think so. You know I have been extremely self-centred for many years because I’m like a regular guy, want to make a lot of money, I want to be famous, I want to do my job.”
“(But) There always has been two thoughts about turning around and doing something for the community for you know, service to others and I don’t think I’ve done enough.”
He even bared it all when sexism in Bollywood was discussed. When Badawi asked him about the blatant parity in the Indian showbiz, citing Kangana Ranaut and her history of sexual abuse and harassment at workplace, SRK said,
“When I’m making films or working in films, we’re very clear about the attitude to women. Even the smallest aspects, of the names coming first in the title, which is not going to do anything, but the kind of respectability.”
In fact, on being pursued, “That’s just an empty gesture isn’t it, go on admit it?”, King Khan responded saying that even small things matter.
“Yeah, it is. But it’s a way of trying to say even this small thing needs to be done just to bring about the equality. If I may say, nobody dared misbehave with a woman on my set, I’m very clear on that.”
Speaking of the faulty ways Bollywood portrays ‘ideal’ women (as submissive and self-sacrificing), SRK said…
“We make we make a thousand films and you know, even if you’re making 500 awful ones, at least 50 good ones where this has been tried to change.”
Before concluding he also expressed his views about dissent in a democracy and how a discussion is our only saving grace, even in creative decisions.
“There will be dissent for everything and I think we all believe, there has to be a discussion on it. There can’t be a radical standoff when there is dissent. We are the biggest democracy, dissent is a part and parcel of that and as much is a discussion. (And) My art should not irk you.”
And that is Shah Rukh Khan for you, ladies and gentleman.