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Lessons Bollywood Stars Should Imbibe From Khurrana, Rao, Kaushal And Co. For 2019

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It’s that time of the year when lists will be the mainstay of the entertainment articles that you read. There will be lists about the best films, the worst films, the ones that made the most money, the ones that lost the most money, so on and so forth. If you have been following Bollywood for a couple of years, you will see some names that you probably only recognized earlier, without realizing that they’d be in so many lists – and that too on such a positive note.

Those names are Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vicky Kaushal and the others of their ilk. The ones who still have the ‘actor’ tag firmly attached to them – and have yet, somehow, overshadowed the superstars. It’s a pity that the Bollywood superstars are so busy becoming brands and planets unto themselves that they don’t have time to peer and learn – because these are some refresher courses that Rajkummar Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana and company can teach the Bollywood superstars.

1. Content is King:

It’s cool to say this during interviews, but none of the script choices of Bollywood’s superstars have proved that they follow this. Shah Rukh Khan’s films have been repeatedly criticized for being lame after the interval, Aamir Khan’s one-off miss (Thugs of Hindostan), is said to have an exasperating screenplay, memes about Bhai’s film’s scripts are all around, and reviewers can’t really tackle Akshay Kumar’s script sensibilities because ‘sacchi ghatnao pe aadharit hai’.

Anyone who has even written a short story will tell you that the twist in the middle – and the aftermath – is what makes the piece click. One look at the audience outside the theatres in the interval break will give all the Kings and the Bhais of Bollywood information about what kind of euphoria the second half and the climax should give – but then, where are those superstars who want to know the junta’s pulse?

Come to the actors’ den and you’ll see marvellous plot points, scripts, screenplays in films like “Andhadhun”, “Stree” and so many more. This happens when the actor – as is said in interviews – surrenders themselves to the script. That’s when the real magic happens.

2. Shock and Awe is the Key:

I have watched Andhadhun and Stree in the theatres. I saw both twice – because the experience was that-damn-good. And that’s because both these films were meant to twist and mangle the audience’s mindset enough to have them come out of the theatre with a high. Let’s take the example of a joyride in an amusement park. The films signed by the superstars of today are a scenic route, something that mesmerizes the audience with its visual spectacle and then gives them a soft landing, out of the cinema halls and towards the family dining restaurants. Films like “Andhadhun”, “Stree” and even “Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety”, are full-bodied, red-blooded twisted rides that will have the audience gasping at the entire experience.

3. Not a One Act Play:

So, here’s a nugget of information. The person who plays Stree in the film is Flora Saini. She’s not unknown either. She’s been in films since 1999 and has now made a name for herself because of streaming platforms, most recently with ALT Balaji’s Gandi Baat 2. Having known her for a year or so, and seeing Stree succeed behemoth coolly ignoring her, it’s irritating. Yes, the actual, literal, titular character of Stree is Flora Saini at best and Flora and Shraddha Kapoor are the titular characters.

Apart from this one anonymity, the other films I talk about have allowed the other actors to thrive. Stree had casting director Abhishek Banerjee play a much juicy role than Rajkummar Rao, and there wasn’t even a controversy about it. “Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety”, again, Karthik Aryan strutted his stuff while Sunny Nijar took most of the ‘oohs’ and the ‘aahs’ from the female audience.  All this is a far cry from films like “Raees”, “Zero”, “Thugs of Hindostan”, “Race3” and the others where the screen lights up every time the fattest paycheck – or is it profit proceedings now – comes on screen.

4. Controversy Doesn’t Work:

What the big stars need to do, pronto, is sack their PRs and their films. As soon as a big budget film is announced, there’s a controversy that follows it like the twin that took some time to get delivered. It’s happened with almost every big-ticket film this year and it’s irritating.

Here’s an eye-opener – the Indian middle class doesn’t like violence. It doesn’t like bandhs, it doesn’t like hartals. Political parties that brought down Mumbai to its knees in the nineties with the bandhs and the hartals were voted out of power. I have watched a harmless film like Bombay Boys under police protection. It is not a good memory. I understand that audiences should support freedom of expression and all that. But when you have three credit card bills and a home loan to pay, and three anniversaries to celebrate, nobody’s coming to the theatres to merely watch a film, knowing that there can be a hungama.

So, the controversy that erupts as Shah Rukh’s character dons a kirpan, the tamasha that ensues as someone says that Zero shames people with disability, the discussion that opens up when a convicted criminal beats up the baddies in theatres – are things that are weaning audiences away from the theatres, not bringing them closer.

Taking the cynical view, assuming all this is a plant by the producers to kick off the film, sack the PR. They should know its 2019 and nobody’s going to risk their life and limb to watch a movie. Taking the positive view that these are genuine controversies, the superstars should ensure that such things don’t crop up in a film.

So, this is the end of the article that disses your favourite superstar and celebrates the upcoming big names. That is the in thing nowadays, and though it’s correct, there needs to be a disclaimer. Younger bloggers are surprised when I tell them that the likes of Shah Rukh, Salman and Akshay did go through the slog overs in the 90s and came out unscathed. They did experiment with their roles and tried changing their clichés – rather than becoming clichés. Everyone knows Shah Rukh did Baazigar and Deewana, but few know that Salman did Garv and Veergati. Everyone knows Akshay is the patriotic poster boy, but few remember he did some whacky comedies like Waqt Hamara Hai. Everyone criticizes Aamir Khan for his urban films, and few remember his Lagaan. However, the nineties have been particularly hard on him, with films like Daulat Ki Jung, Afsana Pyaar Ka, Jawani Zindabad, Aatank hi Aatank and so many more. They are box office mavericks and know when and how to evolve. If they just shrug off the lethargy that comes with superstardom, they might just once again rule Bollywood.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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