In the last three-four years, there seems to have been a conscious movement towards women’s rights. There seems to be a lot more talk of it—whether it is the creative space where I come from, in terms of scripts, in questioning the female characters and how relevant they are to the story, or the office or corporate point of view on how you treat each other in common spaces. I feel there is hope.
The pay parity, I think, to some extent will be addressed in the next few years. There is already the example of Kangana Ranaut being paid as much as her male counterparts in Rangoon, which is an encouraging sign. The fact that women are the leading characters in films like Piku or Queen, will make a difference in women getting paid more.
But it is still the women leading the conversation on women’s issues. I think men need to be part of the conversation more, even if it is just male celebrities talking about gender equality. Actors are actors. People understand that actors are not activists. They have a job. I don’t comment each time anyone says anything wrong about feminism. When I have something useful to say that may change the way people think or question them, I choose to do so. I use my work.
I do think the repercussions of coming out to speak your mind are difficult. You come out and say it because you feel the need to get it out. It is actually therapeutic. But the trolling, the comments, that is difficult. It is difficult to refrain, to hold back and say this is all the reactions people are going to have, and that comes with having to speak your mind. It is not difficult in the way it is like going down to your sabzi wallah and you have to take 20 selfies on the way. This is part and parcel of the life I lead.
[Things have changed since I joined the industry, especially when it comes to talking about actresses.] I think there is a little more fear and more worry. There is a consciousness that has come about, but I think it is tricky [to say that there has been a change] because of the political correctness that we endorse. That also adds to suppression of feelings because people are just being politically correct for the sake of it and so as not to offend someone. It is a first step that there is this fear. But the change of attitude will take a long time. A lot of men in the Indian society have been brought up, not only here but all over, to be the man of the house. They have lived with that example—of being the man of the house, of taking the decisions, of telling women what to do. That will take a long time [to change]. It can only happen with education.
And, I think women have to fight for it. Men can join the parade. But if they don't fight, who will?
AS TOLD TO MANDIRA NAYAR