In a country like India where the voice of the average woman is muzzled, it is of great significance to be vocal about women’s rights. In a welcome development, celebrities are taking up the responsibility of speaking up for women’s rights more than ever before. In a country where film stars are often more influential than political leaders, a bunch of actresses stand apart for putting the spotlight on women’s rights – namely Taapsee Pannu, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Richa Chaddha, Swara Bhaskar, Shabana Azmi, and Nandita Das.
While there are male allies, it is pivotal that women lead the cause and these women have shown the way for the rest of us to follow.
A vocal feminist herself, Taapsee Pannu chooses movies that are mostly women-centric. One of her recent movies, Thappad, has started the conversation around respect for women in marriages. In an industry that still hasn’t done away with item numbers, she doesn’t mince words when calling out Bollywood for its portrayal of women. When referred to as the ‘female version of Ayushmann Khurrana’ for choosing socially relevant films, she shot back - “Why a female version of Ayushmann Khurrana? Why isn’t being a Taapsee Pannu enough?”
South Indian actor Parvathy Thiruvothu has often been blunt about misogyny in the film industry. The 32-year-old actress is known to reject movies that propagate patriarchy or misogyny. She even called out a Malayalam superstar for misogynistic dialogues in the movie, and was sent rape and death threats by his fans. She went on to file a complaint against the offender, making sure that perpetrators of crimes against women don’t have it easy.
Bollywood actor Richa Chadha, famous for her unconventional roles, has said that a true feminism wave will arrive only when good roles are written for women in the film industry. “Actresses are speaking up, which is a good thing. It will truly be amazing if better parts are written for women and better films are made with women, and those films make money at the box office. Then we can truly say that it has arrived,” Richa has said.
Also Watch: Richa Chadha Speaks to MAKERS India
Actor and activist Swara Bhasker is a regular target of the right-wingers because of her outspoken views against those in power. “This notion that feminism is a movement to get more rights for women than for men is a very unfortunate misunderstanding of what it actually is. I see it as a peaceful movement that has never fought any wars, nor created any violence. So it should not be maligned for any reason,” Swara has said about feminism.
Also Watch: Bollywood's Rebel With a Cause: Swara Bhasker
Veteran actor Shabana Azmi, who calls herself a feminist, claims that women today have a superficial understanding of feminism. For her, the passion for gender equality came from her parents. It was only when she entered the real world that she realized that her upbringing was an aberration and not the norm. “Men and women are different and this difference needs to be respected. Women should be put in decision-making roles; only then there can be a marked change,” she has said.
Filmmaker and actor Nandita Das is someone who has been vocal about various women’s issues, and was part of the ‘Dark is beautiful’ campaign against colourism. She recently made a short film on domestic violence too. She believes that everyone should be a feminist and one way to correct the historical wrongs is feminism. She believes that women are also conditioned by patriarchy, which is why the voices need to grow louder.
Also Watch: Nandita Das Speaks to MAKERS India
If you look at the comment sections of articles where the women mentioned in the article are interviewed, you will see men calling them names, many of which are unprintable. While there are organized attacks to muzzle their voices, they shine a light on our society’s inequality and struggles. We need feminism more than ever, and these are the women showing us the path.
(Edited by Athira Nair)