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Bollywood Doesn’t Care About Us And We Are Wrong To Expect Anything

We Indians love movies. Over time, films have become an indispensable part of our lives and culture. Bollywood to many, is a religion. We celebrate these movies and worship actors like gods and we continue to look up to these ‘superstars’ as role models and herein lies the problem.

Bollywood doesn’t care about its audience; plain and simple. In the wake of rise in horrific crimes against women in India, people have been asking Bollywood to introspect. Many of them called out to Akshay Kumar who demanded a safer environment for women on Twitter that he is also a part of the problem, which is partially true. He has been a part of multiple films that featured wildly misogynist and homophobic dialogues and actions.

These are not some old movies from the 1990s, these are his recent films which he did despite being aware of the changing sensibilities of political correctness. But, Akshay Kumar is just one of the many examples from this fraternity which has a longstanding history of disgustingly prejudiced behaviour towards women and other marginalised sections of the society.

Multiple bigwigs were called out for their predatory behaviour during the #MeToo movement, which resulted in some of them being shunned by their colleagues in the industry, but not for long. A prominent example of this being Anu Malik who went on to judge a popular reality show despite multiple women accusing him of sexual harassment.

Another example is that of Sajid Khan who was made to step down from a project last year after a major public outcry against him. This year, Riteish Deshmukh took to Twitter to wish this man warmly on his birthday, all past forgotten. Akshay Kumar also made it clear that he would work with Khan in the future if he is acquitted. This just goes on to show how little we can expect of Bollywood.

For decades, Bollywood has treated its women as a source of titillating the male gaze and it still continues to this day with the inclusion of  item songs in every major film. There is no point in denying that this obviously has an impact on the attitudes of the men and women watching these films. Many of us would probably say that these kinds of films are being watched by the “uneducated or lower socio-economic” groups of people and that any well-respected, educated person would never be caught dead watching them.

This is a very classist outlook which is also not entirely true as these films rake in millions which would not be possible without an overwhelming response from all the sections of the audience. I have seen droves of college students entering movie theatres to watch films such as Housefull 4 and enjoying it!

Bollywood and its servile attitude towards the authorities is nothing new. For years, the Bollywood heavyweights have pandered to the people in power, politicians and otherwise. From campaigning for politicians to helping them whitewash their public image, these Bollywood stars have done it all. And it wouldn’t be wrong as they are of course entitled to have their own political opinions, but this does not seem to be the case. It appears that they simply keep up the sycophantic attitude towards whoever holds the most authority at the given point of time and which continues to change every few years.

We expect Bollywood stars to be our heroes. Our voices of dissent. Our moral leaders. We expect them to care enough about society. Maybe because some of us so closely associate them to the larger-than-life hero they play onscreen, or simply because we expect a higher degree of morality from our public figures, but this has always been a grim reality. These public figures have somehow always exhibited a rather loose ethical and moral compass, be it their films or public statements.

They seem to often ignore the fact that both their actions and words tend to have a much larger impact than others. Of course, it is unfair to expect perfectly moral behaviour from anyone, but one is not wrong to expect the minimal amount of morality from someone who is a part of the lives of a majority of the country’s population. Time and again, Bollywood stars, with the exception of only a handful, have proven to be unworthy of such kind of patronage. They do care more about expanding their fame, fortune and fan base. The sooner the audience realises this, the better it would be for everyone.

The people of this country need better idols and it is not the lack of such idols that is stopping people. It is the absence of a certain ‘glamourous’ aspect. In a country of more than a billion people, there is an incredibly large number of people who can prove to be the kind of heroes we need. It would also mean a lesser obligation for these film stars to pretend to care about people and freely pursue their monetary desires, which is not wrong, just quite unrighteous.

We are the ones responsible for placing our faiths in these heroes and not hold them completely accountable for something. We are equally guilty. These are certainly not the heroes we need, but the ones we deserve as a society.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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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