In a recent, candid interview with The Huffington Post, Alia Bhatt dropped some major truth bombs about the slut-shaming heaped on Indian actresses when they date multiple men, and how that holds female actors back from making their relationships public.
“In India, you are a part of a society that’s very judgmental”, she said, “Here, girls having multiple boyfriends is still a huge-ass deal and something that is frowned upon. I mean, look at Taylor Swift. She’s dated, like, everybody. But if she was here, she’d be totally shamed for making those choices. Her image and appeal would be very different. The reason actresses don’t talk about their private lives is because in our society there is a lot of slut-shaming.”
But it didn’t just stop there. As a follow up question, the interviewer asked: “What’s the worst that you imagine will happen if you were to confess to that you’re seeing Sidharth Malhotra and are probably in love with him?”
And Alia had yet another baller reply:
“Okay, suppose I say that but is it necessary that it stays that way? What if tomorrow I am not in love with him and feel differently about it? Then what? It’s not written in stone, is it? And I don’t want to be in a position where they come after me because I broke up with a dude. ‘Oh, aapka break-up ho gaya, ab agla kaun? Who’s next?’ This shallow and stupid thinking is just the reality of our society which doesn’t allow women to be the way they’d like to be — free and independent.”
Since her debut, Alia Bhatt has been a woman of many, often-conflicting hues — she’s played near-stereotypical one-dimensional roles (like her character in “Student Of The Year”), but has also played hard-hitting, intense, and real characters (in “Highway”, and the recent “Udta Punjab”). She seems like the typical star-kid with a silver spoon in her mouth, but has also refreshingly tried to break out of that mould by starring in a viral AIB skit where she essentially spoofed her own media persona. After recently making waves with her brilliantly nuanced (and much beyond her years) portrayal of a woman sexually assaulted and forced into addiction in “Udta Punjab”, it really seems as if she’s matured — not just as an actor, but also when it comes to gender-based issues like the one she’s highlighted in this interview.
Her comments in the interview ring extremely true when we look at the way the Indian media has often dealt with the relationships of female actors. Recently, Kangana Ranaut was thoroughly demonized (to the extent of being called ‘a witch’) for her multiple affairs, and many other actors before her (from Aishwarya Rai to Deepika Padukone to Katrina Kaif) have constantly been asked about their relationships in interviews (especially after breakups), rather than their work being the focus. However, Alia also highlights an important aspect of the aftermath of such sexism on actors in the interview — the fear of losing out on opportunities by being too vocal.
“You know, the fear is of losing a lot and you must understand that it is quite a genuine fear. That fear is governing us. It’s not as much for the lack of honesty as much it is about the fear. My parents — they can afford to be honest. What do they stand to lose? Nothing. With us it’s different. You never know who you’ll end up upsetting. Which film you stand to lose or which brand you’ve somehow managed to upset for something that you said.”
The parameters of this might be different when it comes to Bollywood (because it’s an industry which is all about one’s public image), but what Alia articulates is something a lot of Indian women experience in their daily lives. The fear of upsetting someone by having ‘strong opinions’ — whether it’s professionally or personally — is something way too real, and comes from a culture of female dissent being constantly silenced, and us being constantly pressured to appease the patriarchy at the cost of our beliefs.
The interview is indeed a revolutionary one, and one that not just explores Alia Bhatt as an actor and as a person, but also shows us that there’s a side to her who is keenly aware of gender politics. Here’s hoping that side of her comes out more often, and gradually gets over her fears enough to be more vocal about smashing the patriarchy.