Dear Swara, As A Woman And A Journalist, I Stand By Your Letter To Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Posted by Surabhi Pandey in Society
January 29, 2018

I woke up to a crazy uproar on my Twitter news feed today morning. An actress, Swara Bhasker, known for her bold and honest remarks on issues that matter had been trolled mercilessly for having an opinion. It did not upset me much, because it was expected of the “ideal Indian society”.

I am sure most of them did not even read the entire 2,446-word open letter before they got offended by may be the use of the word “vagina” (hawww!) or the fact that a young independent successful and intellectual “woman” can have an opinion!

The co-writers of Ram-Leela even responded with another open letter preaching how the women during the 13th century, felt pride in giving away their lives for their “honour” and blah blah. I do not want to give much importance to somebody who does not understand why a film, about a woman being frustrated with daily chores and deciding to sit and have juice is painfully relevant and true.

I do not want to even respond to this person’s opinion on why showing a daughter share a cigarette with her father has something important to convey. I do not want to explain this to the so-called intellectual men, who flinch at the very idea of feminism but have no clue what it means and then go on to blab about it at every given opportunity. And, do not even get me started on the “freedom of speech” card. If only had they read Swara’s letter. Here, let me help. An excerpt:

“At the outset Sir, congratulations on finally being able to release your magnum opus ‘Padmaavat’ – minus the ‘i’, minus the gorgeous Deepika Padukone’s uncovered slender waist, minus 70 shots you apparently had to cut out.. but heyyyy! You managed to have it released with everyone’s heads still on their shoulders and noses still intact. And in this ‘tolerant’ India of today, where people are being murdered over meat, and school children are targets for avenging some archaic notion of male pride, that your film even managed a release – that is I guess commendable, and so again, congratulations.”

Unlike a lot of celebrities who choose not to comment on serious issues and controversies, Swara went ahead and spoke for the Padmaavat and its team not once, but throughout the struggle period. People forgot that in a minute. She has tweeted almost every day, showing her concern for the makers and condemning what I like to call (Koi Bhalai Nahi)-Karni Sena.

Her letter in no way degrades the director, actors or the struggle that they went through to make the movie or have it released. I saw one woman posted on Swara’s timeline that her letter looks down upon women. I do not know what to say. See, you can agree to some views, and you can disagree to some, but please do not comment on somebody or troll their views just because you are locked in a mental cage of misogyny and some sort of complex.

When people who know nothing about feminism, come to give gyaan on it, I feel like puking. Feminism is about having choices, that’s it. It is about having a choice to a lifestyle, education, employment, marriage, love, respect, divorce, expression and so on.

Also, I observed a lot of people have problems with the word “vagina”. The obsession with this word tells a lot about our society. She wrote about so many things in her letter. She spoke of how cinema influences the society, how glorifying old practices from our unfortunate social history without keeping in mind the context of the time that we are in, she discussed FGM, honour killing, history and what not. But all people got out of her almost 2500 word vent out, was the fact that how dare she use the word “vagina”. This is all she has asked for:

“The context of art, any art is the time and place when it was created and consumed. And that’s why this gang-rape infested India, this rape condoning mindset, this victim blaming society is the actual context of your film, Sir. Surely in this context, you could have offered some sort of a critique of Sati and Jauhar in your film?”

Those who understand the nits and grits of a mindful and fierce woman not scared to express what she feels, read Swara’s letter. Those who realize that it is these sick and quaint schools of thoughts that plague our society with the “raja beta syndrome”, pushing us women in the back since childhood, read Swara’s letter. Those who think that Article 19 A (the much sought after freedom of expression) or Article 21 (Right to a dignified life) are very much equally available for us women, read Swara’s letter.

When Padmaavat was struggling for a release, we stood by it, but does that mean we do not have a right to disagree with some parts of the movie?

P.S. The way you give it back to the trollers and haters, I am an ardent fan.