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How Deepika Padukone”s Letter Is A Revelation That We Need To Change Our Backward And Sexist Mindset

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By Veda Nadendla:

I have chosen to remain mum about the incident which provoked Deepika Padukone to the extent that she had to release a letter of proclamation. If it hasn’t already been said enough, that matter is done and dusted. Moving on, this letter which was released on her Facebook page, with access to millions of readers and fans, had no intent of retaliation, but of speaking the truth. Deepika was being brutally honest about her thoughts, and she has tactfully butchered the very idea of diplomacy in this letter which bequeaths the need for common sense, respect and solidarity.

Deepika Padukone

My admiration for her rebuttal has little to do with my feministic leanings and more with the dire need in India for civility. Padukone in her letter stated the much needed call for action on rampant sexism in media portrayals of women in the film industry. It is completely acceptable for Ranbir Kapoor to drop his towel in Saawariya and walk around in butt clenching briefs in Bachnaa Ae Haseeno; we applaud and swoon at John Abraham for undoing his pants in Main Tera Hero; but when we watch Vidya Balan enchant us in The Dirty Picture, we judge her character and motive? Walking out of Finding Fanny last weekend, my friend says “I can’t believe Deepika would expose like that. Did you see her, just lying there in her bra?” I was a little taken aback that a young progressive female mind would say something so judgemental. “Understand that this is a ROLE and not REAL” says Deepika in her letter.

Across India, we thrive for entertainment, and movies are food to our vibrant souls. Not only do we love watching, but we do a fantastic job of being critics, as is expected of us. But more often than not, we blur the lines between criticism and judgement. We pay to watch movies which have content that we don’t approve of, and then negatively stereotype the people who made the monumental effort of transforming themselves into someone else just to see their audience (us) happy. Being an audience entrusts us with the responsibility of bring objective, which is something that many of us fail at, despicably and repeatedly. To add to that disappointment, our country boasts of its vast media industry, entrusted with responsible reportage, yet engaging in what has transformed into disrespectful pot shots and finger-pointing.

Deepika Padukone is but one woman in a line of scores of others who have been objectified and degraded for a role they have played in a movie, for showing too much skin or for being too promiscuous. Why is promiscuity on screen only a judgement on the woman’s character off screen, when even a man has taken equal part? Why do we not call him “loose character” for playing a gunda, balaatkaari, roadside Romeo, villain or simply the uber hot, half-naked hero? Nothing gives us the right to limit individuals of their right to their own body and actions.

You need not go into the privacy of her home to disrespect and disregard her; you merely encircle and point at her assets as if you discovered their existence and that’ll do the job. Deepika’s letter is a revelation that we as an audience need to change our backward and sexist mindset about the women we publicly idolize and secretly defame. Great effort is taken in perfecting a role to the point of complete belief in the character. Judge the character, but don’t judge the performer, because for him or her, it is profession and not who they are in real life.

Mainstream media has glorified the blatant judgement and objectification of both men and women in the Indian Film Industry in the name of tabloid journalism. This mainstream media stands completely validated by our backward mentalities. I only pray that this debacle has been an eye opener, and that it will lead to shifting loyalties. Now, if you consider yourself not in the category of the people mentioned in the above paragraphs, feel free to excuse yourself from guilt and outrage. For the rest, well, here’s Deepika’s letter- jaago darshak jaago!

My Point of View…

There is only ONE sign that a woman wants to have sex and that is that she says “YES”.

The reason I write the above line is because we all know that in India we are so desperately trying to make a change in the way sections of our society think in order to move towards a happier world devoid of inequality, rape, fear and pain.

I am not naive about my own profession; it is one that requires lots of demanding things of me. A character may demand that I be clothed from head to toe or be completely naked, and it will be my choice as an actor whether or not I take either. Understand that this is a ROLE and not REAL, and it is my job to portray whatever character I choose to play convincingly.

What my concern is and I am stating it clearly so it is not misconstrued or confused with Shahrukh’s 8-pack or any other woman’s or man’s anatomy. I have spoken out against an ideology that such regressive tactics are still being employed to draw a reader’s attention at a time when we are striving for women’s equality and empowerment. In a time where women should be applauded for making headway in a male-dominated society, we blur the lines between REEL and REAL life and dilute all our efforts by making a one-year old back sliding piece of news a headline. Digging out an old article and headlining it “OMG: Deepika’s Cleavage Show!” to attract readers is using the power of influence to proliferate recessive thought.

When an actresses inner wear decides to do a “peek-a-boo”, she most definitely did not step out with the intention to do so. So instead of zooming in, circling it and pointing arrows at it, why don’t we give her some ‘respect’ and let it go instead of making it ‘headlines’!? Are we not human? Yes we marvel, envy and drool over a male actors 8pack abs in a film, but do we zoom in on the man’s ‘crotch’ when he makes a public appearance and make that ‘cheap headlines’??!!

I have no issue celebrating my body and I have never shied away from anything on-screen to portray a character. In fact my next character portrayed is a bar dancer (sorry Farah for the spoiler!) who titillates men as a means to support her livelihood. My issue is you propagating the objectification of a REAL person, and not a character being played. Sure, dissect my characters if you wish-if it is of so much interest then discuss the character’s cup size and leg length if it is relevant to making the role convincing. All I am asking for is respect as a woman off-screen.

It is not about breasts, penises, or any other body part being reported. It is a matter of context and how out-of-context the reportage is just to sell a headline. And more so during a time in dire need of an attitude shift towards women.

For me this topic ends here. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I have little interest to take this further as it might get more attention than it deserves and might be further misconstrued and twisted to sell more undeserved headlines.

Having said that, please may we show love, dignity and respect to each other.

Live well, laugh often and love much.

Deepika Padukone

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  1. Babar

    Men’s and women’s bodies are different. Drawing comparisons and asking why male actors’ bodies are not highlighted in the media will not further your agenda. First off, women have something known as breasts, and they are sexual organs, whether you like it or not.
    You ask “but do we zoom in on the man’s ‘crotch’ when he makes a public appearance and make that ‘cheap headlines’?” In case you haven’t noticed, men’s ‘crotches’ stay inside their pants. And with sentences like “It is not about breasts, penises, or any other body part…” it seems as though you are drawing comparisons between breasts with penises. Either you do acknowledge that breasts are sexual organs, or if you don’t, then it would be safe to say that a woman showing her cleavage is akin to a man walking with the head of his penis out of his zipper. As for Shahrukh Khan’s abs, on which you have heavily relied in your article, once again, he is not showing anything sexual on, or off, the screen. Concerning reel and real life, there does not seem to be much of a difference between what actresses wear in movies and in real life. The statement “Understand that this is a ROLE and not REAL, and it is my job to portray whatever character I choose to play convincingly” does not hold much ground. When Pakistani actress Zeba Bakhtiar opted to act in Bollywood, she flatly refused to expose her body, and chose to impress with her talent and skill, unlike today’s actresses who compensate for the lack of it with a heavy dose of skin show. As for your statement “I have little interest to take this further as it might get more attention than it deserves…” I am sorry but that is exactly what you have done.

    1. Manish

      Mr Babar..
      Hope you are gud.
      We were missing you back on another page where YOU were trying to further YOUR agenda.

      Anyways glad to have found you. Your reply to Ms Padukone wouldn’t ever reach her but its plenty clear that you are not satisfied with her explanation.

      Would you please clarify what is your stance regarding ToIs shameless explanations?
      Do you think Deepika Padukone is no better because, yeah, she flaunts her skin for movies and photo-shoots?
      Whats your stance about the statement, “Coming from someone who started her career as a calendar model for a liquor brand”?

      And if possible you cud go to the previous article where you were giving similar explanations.

    2. S

      This man has no work really. We have his comment as first comment on EVERY article related to women. He has gone from insufferable to laughable.

    3. Reha

      Babar! Dude! you fled our discussion on the other article!
      Anyways, since now you are here- let me use this forum. The battle on the previous article was with feminists gone wild, and here it rages with a masculine stance so strong, that everything sporting a bra seems to spark a reaction.
      Dude, whats with you and Ms Padukone? Or is your problem with any woman who daresay defend herself?
      To say Sharukh Khan was not selling sexuality with his six pack abs, you need to seriously see the taglines used for marketing the his song; sensual, sexy, sensational, titillating etc. You must honestly be kidding me!
      Even though it is useless to bring this up, i will, for the heck of it- Pakistani actresses. You quoted Pakistani actresses and how they r the ‘Crème de la crème’ of respectful actresses in bollywood. Heard about Veena Malik and her butt naked acts? Or the latest- Humaima Malik kissing our Imran Hasmi? Oh and lets not forget the love child of the Bhatt banner- Meera. These Pakistani actresses left behind all Deepika’s and Rakhi’s and made sure not to leave anything under the wraps.

      Finally, now that I am done harassing you, lets calmly discuss what your issues are 😉

    4. bleh

      We are at risk of becoming a clique, Mr Manish included 🙂 But I just had to have a go at Monsieur Babar. It was a calling I couldn’t ignore.
      And as you said, of course Shah Rukh’s (or any other actor’s abs) are sexy. Which is exactly why he is flaunting it. That is the male equivalent of sexuality. Now of course, the sexiness of the nether regions of our Khans can be debatable, so why flaunt it?
      Now consider the crème of Pakistani actresses (and no Zeba Bakhtiar is no crème): Aamina Shaikh, Sajal Ali or even Saba Qamar do show a fair amount of cleavage at least from time to time. Why do people have such a regressive notion of Pakistani society? Maybe some areas like Peshawar are indeed (and unjustly) restrictive of the way women dress ( I remember seeing a huge Mobil ad right near the airport; except that instead of the quintessential classy model you have a heavily bearded pathan bearing a wide smile with something in Pashto which I cannot read—made me smile just recalling it), but most places aren’t. Anyway, I promise not to go off on a tangent again.

      On a side note, will we ever get a spring break edition of the ‘feminists gone wild’?

    5. Reha

      Touche!Sure looks like we are cliquishly following babar 😉
      Though after reading Babar through the various posts on this site, I am seeing a pattern; it seems he is against the whole feminist agenda altogether- clothes, education (over education as he terms it), equal rights. He also has a lot of free time- is usually the first to comment on any article on this site as long it its faintly related to women.

    6. Reha

      bwahaahaahaa- there he is again – harping the same tune (see comments section):

    7. bleh

      Hey, I heard so much about you in the other thread that I just had to have a look in. Mr Manish asked for some clarifications. I will just go with the refutations. Even though I thought Deepika was taking advantage of current public sentiments, your statements are rather going in the wrong direction.
      “Women have something known as breasts, and they are sexual organs, whether you like it or not.”
      Just because they are associated with sexuality does not mean they are sexual organs. In fact they have nothing to do with the act of sex, instead dealing with the nutrition of infants. Which is why breastfeeding (in public or otherwise) is a completely asexual act. Unless someone has a fetish when even strutting in heels might be a sexual thingy.
      ” As for Shahrukh Khan’s abs, on which you have heavily relied in your article, once again, he is not showing anything sexual on, or off, the screen. ”
      Not now, but remember Maya Memsaab? And whether something or not is sexual is again open to interpretation. For example, among a number of African Americans in the US it was considered extremely stylish to walk around with baggy jeans which must show the boxers. Would you think that is sexual? You may not because you are a heterosexual male but someone else might take it differently.

      “Concerning reel and real life, there does not seem to be much of a difference between what actresses wear in movies and in real life.”

      I agree mostly with this statement. Simply because (at least in public) actresses have to live up to an image which they have created. For their own sake.

      Yes, Deepika is being a hypocrite and is playing with words. But showing skin and acting talent are not correlated. Showing skin has only got to do with the level of comfort and priorities one has. Some of the best actresses have shown a ton of skin. Take Nicole Kidman, Sophie Marceau, Jodie Foster, Susan Sarandon… Or from the yester years we have Ingrid Bergman, Meryl Streep, Grace Kelly…or from Bollywood we have Tanuja, Zeenat, Madhuri…the list goes on.

      And I am not sure whether you imply it or not, but a censorial attitude in cinema, or even in life is never helpful.

    8. Reha

      @Bleh and @Manish- Mr Babar is furious with the Indian women 😀
      Read his comments here :

      haahaa- i think this guy just goes around finding articles having any remote connection with youth or women and blasts the same lyrics everywhere.

      Per my analysis- a

  2. Abhishek

    The meaning of the word ‘Fanny’ in British English means female genital and in US English it means buttocks, so what women empowerment and respect she is talking about when name of her movie is genital or butt. someone in india even filed a case in court to ban the movie due to this reason. anyone can google the term see read the meaning.

    1. Nora

      Besides the fact, that your point in favour of your argument being completely redundant, what is the link between being empowered and starring in a movie named “butt”? Does that make her synonymous with the meaning that you choose to elicit?!(Man this is just funny!)

  3. Babar

    Bleh, if you think breasts have nothing to do with sex, then you are the only one. It is a criminal offence for a woman to be topless, even in western countries. As for your argument about boxers, no, it is not sexual since it does not arouse. With reference to the actresses you have mentioned, please note that our discussion is on Bollywood actresses, and as for Madhuri Dixit and Sri Devi, they were class actresses with huge amounts of talent, neither did they sport bikinis, nor did they make out in films, which is a norm for talent lacking actresses today – a shortcut to get to the top. Concerning Zeba Bakhtiar, I think it was obvious that my intent was to mention that an actresses can choose not to reveal her body on screen, I do not know why the whole issue about Pakistani actresses has been brought in. The point is not what Pakistani actresses do or don’t do, the issue don’t have to reveal their bodies if they don’t want to, it boils down to choice. Now someone is going to reply stating that it is required for films today, as though every actress in every film is playing either a bar dancer or a prostitute.

    1. Piyush

      Bleh- darling the show of boxers doesn’t arouse you because you are (assuming) a heterosexual man. Not to get into the details of things but David Beckham doing the add of Calvin Klein underwear is extremely arousing and sexual to me!
      Oh and Madhuri dixit and Sridevi had their fare share of ‘sexual depictions’. Remember ‘dhak dhak karne laga’ or ‘kaate nahin katte yeh din yeh raat’? Man those cholis and blouses were concealing missile launchers 😉
      Lastly, please don’t argue about a woman’s choice. There are men and women who defend the hijab and hiding every visible portion on the woman’s body. However, those women still get raped. Extreme ends of the pole are not being discussed here. A moderate woman today has the right to conduct herself appropriately as she might deam correct. Appropriateness might have a different meaning for you as it might have for me- and we should learn to respect those boundaries.
      You have taken a habit of opposing the modern women, in any shape or form she might carry therefore you have become an extremist in thought. weighing everyone and each instance in the same context is not only illogical but also morally incorrect.

    2. Piyush

      Not Bleh- the reply is for Babar!! Sorry dude!

  4. Shreya Sharma

    “My admiration for her rebuttal has little to do with my feministic leanings and more with the dire need in India for civility.” – You just spoke out my mind with this sentence!! 🙂

  5. ItsJustMe

    First of all ToI is a tabloid and not a newspaper. People who buy it and read it regularly are among us and we promote these kind of stupid excuses for journalism and news. Garbage in garbage out. I feel really guilty being part of the social structure which enjoys these kind of pictures of a lady’s body parts in a national daily. I think that is something we all should be ashamed of. One of our national newspapers thought it will be ok to publish a celebrity’s cleavage in the front page without her consent and people will love it. Where did that thought come from, it roots from our own mentality.

    Having said that, let me ask some genuine questions to people who support Deepika Padukone or any other Bollywood actress who will readily do an item number if they are offered the right compensation for it. How can you idolize these people if you are against objectifying women and men? From the discussions here I see some of you believe that men can be objectified too and I believe that to be true. How can you idolize these celebrities who think we are cheap and degraded enough to rush to the theater to get a glimpse of their semi nudity? Are they stupid to think that or did we prove them right again and again that we in fact are obsessed with nudity and on screen stripping. I seriously cannot believe that no one called out Deepika on her hypocrisy about feminism. She does item songs for money and fame and she talks like she had nothing to do with the objectification of women in media and films. She is ready to portray woman as a sexual object in her movies, but she is not ready to accept her own hand in promoting the objectification of women.

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