7 Reasons Why Deepika’s Visit To JNU Was NOT A Film Promotion

So Chhapaak just released, and Deepika Padukone has been accused of showing solidarity with the JNU students as a movie marketing stunt. I am going to disprove this accusation.

Chhapaak’s box-office opening collections and the news of Deepika Padukone’s promotional video for Skill India being dropped after her JNU visit makes it clear that it was a risky move for any Bollywood actor and producer to make. 

If it was not a movie promotion, then what was Deepika Padukone doing at the JNU with Aishe Ghosh and Kanhaiya Kumar?

Deepika Padukone visited JNU and stood in solidarity with students.

Let’s take a look at every accusation (sane and insane) hurled at the Bollywood actor and see if they hold any water. 

1. Standing With JNU Students Did Not Gain Her Popularity

Women-oriented movies Saand Ki Aankh, Mardaani 2, and Chhapaak have a niche audience. No matter how good the film, they will never match up to the box-collections of a Housefull 4, War, or the Dabangg series. 

As the producer and not just the lead actor of Chhapaak, it’s movie marketing suicide for Deepika Padukone to stand in solidarity with the JNU student protestors. 

Chappakk is a good product with a talented director, Meghana Gulzar at the helm. Both Meghana Gulzar or Deepika Padukone don’t have to stoop so low for a movie promotion. 

Meghana Gulzar has been known to stick to her integrity and principles as a filmmaker. In my opinion, Raazi is among the finest films in Hindi cinema. Like Kerala, which was ignored for flood relief funds and the Republic Day parade, I believe Raazi was given the cold shoulder in the Oscars and National Awards for its peaceful and secular message. The author himself criticized Meghana Gulzar and the screenplay writer for the climax of Raazi

My point is that Deepika’s JNU visit is not going to win her any favours. And Meghana Gulzar has always stayed authentic in her career as a filmmaker. I don’t believe she will do anything just to appease someone. 

Consider this: Do Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, or even the so-called revolutionary Kangana Ranaut, have the guts to do what Deepika Padukone just did, before the release of their movies? 

They will not make the mistake of showing their solidarity with the left-led JNU students and earn the ire of the majority. They’ve learned from the mistakes of Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan, who supposedly lost a sizeable share of their fan following owing to their remarks against Prime Minister Modi. 

2. Deepika Made Her Political Affiliations Clear In 2010

All those calling it a publicity stunt by Deepika Padukone should do their research.

Back in 2010, Deepika Padukone made her political affiliations known to the world when she endorsed Rahul Gandhi for PM in her interview with Doordarshan. 

“I don’t know much about politics, but from whatever I see on TV, whatever Rahul Gandhi is doing makes him a classic example for the youth. I think he connects very well with the youth. His thoughts and outlook are traditional, but at the same time, he has a futuristic approach. I think this is very important for our country. Hopefully, he will be prime minister one day.” 

Smriti Irani taunted Deepika Padukone, saying that she sided with people who hit girls on their private parts. So what’s Deepika’s crime, Ms.Irani? Why should anyone be shamed for their political affiliation?

As far as my reading of Deepika Padukone goes, she has always been a keen observer and listener and less of a talker. She does what she wants to, after a careful analysis of any given situation. Most importantly, she is true to herself above all others.

What she did at JNU was an act of courage and pure class. Not a single word was spoken. She came to prove her point and go back. 

Her political choices, like all ours, are her rights. Irrespective of what her spouse or anyone believes. She is not answerable to anyone for her political leanings and actions.

If Akshay could show solidarity with ABVP students before Padman’s release, Deepika can show solidarity with whomever she wants. 

It takes a lot of guts to swim in the opposite waves of the tide.

3. Deepika Padukone Is Not An ‘Anti-National’ 

Rameshwar Sharma, a BJP MLA from Bhopal.

Mansplaining was rife in the air when Rameshwar Sharma, a BJP MLA from Bhopal, remarked;

“If Deepika wants to be a successful actor in the country, she should learn from Mahanayak Amitabh Bachchan, The Superstar, who has never uttered a single word against our motherland. Today, the entire world knows him as the most powerful actor of the century. He despite being most successful in the film industry, he never made any comment only because he is well aware of the truth. Deepika Padukone is standing with those who are anti-nationals. She has two successful films in her account. She should understand the difference between `sympathy’ and the truth behind a `politically supported agitation.’ Be it Deepika Padukone or Javed Akhtar; they should understand that if you stand with those who burn India, then this country will not accept you.” 

Who does this MLA think Deepika Padukone is? A 5-year-old child? Amitabh Bachchan might be a good actor, but is he the epitome of perfection?  Why is speaking against the ruling government equated to speaking against the motherland? Who defines a patriot and an anti-national? Who decides what truth and lies are?

4. Whataboutery Games

When all logical explanations fail, the whataboutery missiles get hurled left, right, and centre. 

Rangoli Chandel, sister and manager of Kangana Ranaut Tweeted:

“Has Deepika ever supported any ideology about Uri, Pulwama, Article 370, or CAA or any issue in the country? I still do not believe that she has any interest in the JNU students. She just has an interest in money. I liked that Deepika did it openly, and she should be respected that she did her PR openly in JNU.”

So, where was Deepika Padukone’s spine at the time of Nirbhaya, Uri, Pulwama, Blackbucks, Article 370, CAA, and more issues? 

Deepika Padukone is still the same person that she always was. A woman with a mind, heart, and spine. She has always been vocal about the causes that she believed in. She brought the discussion of mental health into the mainstream. Her VOGUE EMPOWER “My Choice” video campaign ruffled a lot of feathers, but she stood by it. She doesn’t mince her words when asked about her opinions though, and always to the point. 

When Deepika Padukone asked people to vote when Modi tagged her on Twitter, she was a patriot. Everyone has a democratic right to pick their own battles. Likewise, Deepika has a democratic choice to what causes she needs to lend her voice to. 

About Uri & Pulwama, there is a sizeable portion of people who believe it was election propaganda, an inside job like 9/11, and nothing to do with patriotism. 

Let people believe what they want to believe. 

5. Slut-shaming And The Sinister Game Plan Of Name-calling

Aishe Ghosh speaking at a press conference.

Every time women like the protestors at Shaheen Bagh or Aishe Ghosh speak up against any form of injustice, bias or violence, they are mercilessly abused with threats of rape, acid attacks, and death.

Slut-shaming and other demeaning insults are the norms. An actor of international repute like Deepika Padukone is no exception, going by the hate spewed on social media post her JNU campus appearance.

MP BJP leader Gopal Bhargava asked Deepika Padukone to stick to dancing in Bollywood instead of making political statements.  Jokes on Deepika Padukone’s past relationships, depression, and every personal choice have been doing the rounds on social media. 

Derogatory terms like bi%$@, wh^%$, Anti-national, Urban Naxal, Pakistani, Libtards, Librandus, Sickulars, Presstitutes, Rice bag convert, Jihadi supporter, infiltrator, Paki, Missionary lover, and the likes are not just commonplace, but also justified. 

Sowmya Rajendran, an author who writes on gender, culture and cinema analyses, 

“The act of naming comes with considerable power; it sets the context, dynamic, and hierarchy. When an entire experience is reduced to one word, it has the potency to either accurately tell that story or obliterate it altogether.”

Adding ‘Urban’ to the term ‘Naxal’ has made it possible to include anyone and everyone who disagrees with state policies, even in speech – and that includes intellectuals, writers, historians, activists, artistes, and students.

Once the label has been applied to someone and the process is repeated endlessly, those listening stop thinking beyond the word or phrase and accept it as such. 

Take the word ‘presstitute,’ which is thrown at any journalist who does not toe the government’s line. Other terms used are ‘Lutyens’ media’ and ‘Khan market gang’, to project an elitist and anti-Hindu image of the media, which is supposedly in contrast with the ruling party’s ‘humble origins’ and pro-Hindu ideology. These terms have succeeded in dehumanising journalists, to the extent that ordinary people think nothing of wishing violence upon a ‘presstitute’ for simply doing their job.

Minorities, too, have been given a bunch of names – ‘rice bag convert,’ ‘jihadi supporter,’ ‘infiltrator,’ ‘Paki,’ ‘Missionary lover’ etc.

‘Here’s burnol’ or ‘here’s gelusil’ is now actually considered to be a ‘witty’ comeback to any political analysis or argument made against the ruling party.” 

So, there is a sinister game strategy behind these seemingly innocent name-callings. It has now come to light that the JNU Vice-Chancellor may be the orchestrator behind the student violence on the campus as per the latest fact-finding report. Is this a distraction tactic used by the ruling government to set the stage for blaming its citizens for public property damage, and the failing Indian economy at large? 

Let’s refrain from using abusive terms and stop falling for such political baits by our leaders. 

6. JNU Student Protests Are Not A National Issue?

Masked goons attacked students and professors at JNU in January 2020.

Then there have been opinions that this entire JNU episode is a non-issue. Like Kangana Ranaut in her most recent interview – 

“I have a natural instinct to challenge the authority of powerful people.”

A couple of minutes later, on JNU Violence, she says; “Police should take some into custody and beat the hell out of them and not make a National issue of it.”

Ms. Ranaut, who are we to tell students what they should or should not be doing? 

The purpose of education is to question the norm. Educated and fearless minds will raise provoking questions, as they rightly should. Dissent is not equal to being an anti-national.

Coming to student protests and damage to public property, what about the Arun Jaitley-led student protests during the time of Indira Gandhi-led emergency? The damage was the worst in the post-Indian independence history. Let’s not conveniently support one student group (ABVP-led) and dismiss the other (Left-led). 

Why is it perfectly acceptable when celebrities like Kangana Ranaut incite violence and urge the police to beat student protestors? But it’s anti-national and a movie marketing gimmick, when Deepika Padukone stands silently, in solidarity, with the beaten-up student protestors?

The ruling government and its supporters are trying to trivialise the JNU issue and demonise all the student protestors and their supporters. They are trying to dismiss dissent as an anti-national act when it’s not. 

Let’s accept that there is a sizable portion of people who are not happy with the way the government is thrusting the CAA, NRC, NPR bill, and protests, which originated in Assam. The government needs to listen to the fears and anxieties of its citizens and be transparent about the bill. Instead, we see Narendra Modi, Prime Minister, and Amit Shah, Home Minister, play the good cop and bad cop, adding to the prevailing confusion over the bill.  

7. Too Much Importance Given To Celebrities And No Concern For Majority’s Verdict?

Then there is the accusation of too much importance being given to celebrities like Swara Bhaskar, Anurag Kashyap, Farhan Akhtar, and now, Deepika Padukone. The reasons vary from celebrities being fake and privileged, to the focus being diverted from the main issue and real heroes. 

Let’s shatter these myths! 

Celebrities are just as human as any one of us. Some of them are as genuine and as fake as any of us, the laypeople. Let’s not use the same brush to paint all celebrities as fake, and use a white one to portray ordinary people as genuine. You are who you are – real or fake, celebrity, or layperson. 

Likewise, hasn’t too much importance been given to the celebrities who support the Government? Anupam Kher, Akshay Kumar, Sadhguru, Ajay Devgun, Raveena Tandon, Kangana Ranaut, Juhi Chawla are some of the darlings among the majority for their patriotic or nationalist stance. 

Why do the JNU protests conveniently become a non-issue and why are celebrities who support them selectively, called fake – just because it’s a non-populist stance?

On the contrary, I think the JNU protests are a big issue of national importance, and we need to talk more about privileged people like Deepika Padukone, who stand in solidarity with the marginalised sections. 

We must make it the norm, especially when we have leaders like Leela Ram Gurjar, Haryana BJP MLA, who threatened, that those opposing the CAA and NRC could be “wiped out” in an hour.

“Today’s India is not of Jawaharlal Nehru or Gandhi. Now this Hindustan it is of Narendra Modi… if we get a signal, within one hour we will wipe them (referring to those who were opposing CAA and NRC) out.”

When there can be hype about Sadhguru’s expert views on the Constitution, student protests, and CAA-NRC bills, why shouldn’t there be hype about Deepika’s stance? 

Every citizen of India is entitled to their political views, choices, and actions. We do not know Deepika’s opinions on the CAA-NRC bill specifically. She has only stated that she is unhappy about the government’ss inaction against student violence. An FIR has been filed against the students who protested. Is that fair? 

Some of you may have no problems with CAA, NRC, NPR, and detention centres. But some of us, including me, do have an issue. Not just me; even right-leaning people like Chetan Bhagat, Anjana Om Kashyap, and the likes, have raised their objections. CAA, by itself, may not be an issue. The problem is when it’s clubbed with NRC or NPR. 

I respect the majority’s verdict, but that does not mean the non-populist stand has no ground and needs to be dismissed. Democracy is for all, not just for the privileged majority. 

A-lister celebrities like Deepika Padukone, Swara Bhaskar, Shabana Azmi, Anurag Kashyap, Farhan Akthar, etc. have used their privilege responsibly, which is rare, and it is a big issue.  You and I may not be as privileged, and therein lies the difference. The more you have, the more you want to play safe. That’s how privilege usually works.

Privilege need not necessarily be a bad thing. You can use your privilege as an opportunity to do the right thing. Privilege is a boon when used responsibly. 

In that sense, it’s wonderful what Deepika Padukone did. A privileged person standing in solidarity with the unprivileged JNU students – that’s a beautiful, empowering sight to behold! Deepika’s silence is any day better than solutions which incite violence by beating the hell out of college students.

Why You Must Not Let Hate Stop You From Watching A Movie

We live in the most divisive times today; where vested interests are committed to widening the gap between the haves and have-nots. We live in a world where people who live in poverty, women, lesbians, transgender people, minorities, and every kind of non-privileged section is consistently threatened.

Amidst the recent NRC-CAA bill protests in our country, we need fearless and conscientious individuals, who are not afraid to listen and talk about diverse viewpoints and experiences with empathy and respect. It’s not about right or left ideology anymore. It’s about preserving the diverse fabric of our Indian roots, nourishing it with love, respect, and empathy. 

We have the moral responsibility of contributing to an inclusive generation that is devoid of racism, sexism, transphobia, and xenophobia. It’s essential to put ourselves in the shoes of the less privileged and always do the next right thing. With privilege comes greater opportunity, responsibility, and hope.

Let’s not succumb to hate and by all means, watch Chhapaak!

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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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