Friday, September 26, 2014

Why Deepika Padukone and her clothes should not be confused with freedom

This is getting on my nerves, so I’ll get straight to the point. Here’s why I think none of what happened, should have:
Like it or not, Deepika Padukone or any other celebrity cannot choose to forego celebrity status at will. They are celebs even when they go for a walk, and are definitely so at any public event they attend. Which means, every time they step out of their homes, they will  be scrutinized  and talked about. Tabloids being tabloids, will do it in their own fashion. If someone finds it distasteful they should stand up to them on principle to say “no more interviews to you.” As readers, those who are angst ridden should cancel their subscription at once. Especially if the tabloid sticks to their guns and says they won’t change their reporting style. I’m still waiting for the Times of India to drop in circulation and not be No 1 anymore.
Padukone then went on to complain about the difference in attitude while writing about male and female celebrities and muddled it up further. Padukone  has no more a “right” to show skin than ShahRukh Khan does and must do so with full responsibility.  Was the headline in extremely bad taste? Yes. Was the picture in bad taste? Yes. But that is about it. A question of taste.
If we show skin, especially of titillating body parts, will people look? Probably. Can Padukone pick and choose what the media uses? No.  Will a section of the media (just like some people) try to go for awkward angles to get cheap thrills? Yes.
I’m ready to cry myself hoarse on the issue of a woman’s right to wear what they like. I firmly believe that in the 21st century, what I can or cannot wear should be least of my problems. But at the same time, every woman who is true to herself will agree that when they wear a particularly plunging neckline or a suggestive cut, they know people will look. These clothes are often worn so people look and appreciate.
By saying that, I don’t mean this justifies rape or molestation. Nothing justifies that. But if I show, you’ll see. It’s not even a women’s issue. When John Abraham, Hrithik Roashan or anyone else bares himself, women and men look. Women just seem to do it more often than men do.  No one in their right mind would take any of it seriously. To quote Sherlock (of Cumberbatch fame), “you cater to the whims of the pathetic and take your clothes off to make an impression. Stop boring me and think. It's the new sexy.”
Look around. The men are still wearing shirts and trousers and T-shirts, most of them non transparent and non body showing.
Why is that? Did you say it’s because women have better bodies to showcase, so they can wear these things? I agree. In which case, I’d also have to accept the fact that it all boils down to the fact that  we want to be noticed when we go to these lengths to make ourselves pretty. So noticed we get!
Once you’re done baying for my blood, maybe you could help me understand this: I perform on what people call “item numbers” and am completely comfortable making my living by showcasing my perfectly toned body. That is not an outrage on womanhood and feminism, but a silly tabloid is?
At the cost of being repetitive, that is not the same as saying “you asked for it.” No one asks to get raped or molested or violated ,  it only takes basic common sense to understand that. But willful behavior should and must come with responsibilities. And this goes beyond Deepika Padukone and her  problem.
In all the noise that this incident generated, Pooja Bedi, to my mind, was the only person who made sense. Wearing an almost amused expression, Bedi contradicted her fellow “outraged” panelists on TV. And in the very same newspaper, she wrote : “When you are a public figure and you go out to a press event, you are bound to be dissected from your chipped nail polish to your repeated shoes. If admiring and focusing on a woman's assets is a crime, all item numbers should be banned. How fair is it to say, I will dress to tantalise publicly, but you have to look the other way?”
That is the price of fame, especially for entertainers who make a living out of being talked about. That no one can control at all times how they will be talked about is a risk that all men and women have to take.
Oh, I’ve heard all the arguments by now. Acting is an art and that’s what actors do and need to be respected for it. I am not challenging that. But like I told my friend , if  someone is banking on his/her acting/dancing/singing/mathematical/analytical/whateveritis skills majorly, they do not need to pose in skimpy clothes on magazine covers or in public dos. This fact is gender agnostic.   There are too many examples to list even from the entertainment industry itself, so let’s give that a rest. Think Asha Bhosle, if nothing else.
Women’s liberation and rights are serious issues and heavy words—words that MUST NOT be casually tossed about.
If Padukone (or any other emancipated woman or man) truly believes it is a woman’s right to go skimpy, they should try implementing this in one of those rural Gujarati villages they recreated in Padukone’s movie, not from the enveloped and sanitized environs of urban cities or university campuses.
Makes me think of all those girls in J school who would champion women’s rights all year long but meekly dress in salwaar kameezes just before they headed back home for the annual vacations.
Everybody trying to make this into a serious issue of women’s rights issue needs to shut up, immediately. Because if the baring of bodies or the intent to do so  by young celebrities was the same as liberation, Poonam Pandey and Kim Kardashian would replace Curie and Joan of Arc in textbooks as heroes. And then we’d truly have outdone ourselves.


Chandan said...

There are so many layers and angles to this whole "incident" that it is now hard to keep track of who is saying what and meaning what! :) Hopefully I understood what you were trying to get across... I'll be the devil's advocate for a sec and say that "freedom" might mean doing what he/she has been told not to do for ages (you can say that's rebellion). Or maybe it means doing what he/she sees "free" (read western or whoever is the economically superior) men/women do. Along those lines then ignoring norms regarding what not to wear and be the "nice homely girl" is a symbol of freedom and should be so. No?

Nivedita Bhattacharjee said...

Deepika Padukone or even the modern urban women of the kinds you and I know are in no way under pressure to or adhere to those staid rules. We already know this. So, complaining against bad taste, yes. Broadening the issue and making it about women's rights, crying foul about objectification of myself when I've knowingly, voluntarily built a career out of doing so is hypocrisy.

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high..