I’m Confused Why Alia Bhatt Won ‘Best Actress’ For A Minor Role

Over the last couple of days, I have been watching this trend -#BoycottFilmfareAwards – on Twitter. The hashtag specifically called out Gully Boy breaking Black’s record by winning 13 Filmfare awards, especially in the categories that saw better performances.

After seeing the winners and nominations list, I couldn’t help but agree. But, the biggest WTF moment was when Alia Bhatt won the Best Actress award for Gully Boy for a 20-30 minute long role.

Alia Bhatt is one of the best actresses of her generation. No doubt about it. Her talent and choices clearly make her someone who deserves to be in the spotlight as opposed to being under the comfort zone of nepotism. She is one of the actresses who has the ability to break stereotypes related to actresses and their ability to generate revenue in solo lead films and live beyond the socially constructed shelf-life.

She is also one of the actresses whose work I follow in Bollywood along with the likes of Vidya Balan, Radhika Apte, Taapsee Pannu, Rani Mukerji, etc. I was rooting for her to win awards for Highway and Raazi. She did a commendable job in Udta Punjab too, but that year I was rooting for Sonam Kapoor to win for Neerja.

But, Filmfare’s decision to give her the best actress award for Gully Boy was both demeaning and disappointing, especially to Alia herself.

Alia won the award in the same category that saw powerful performances such as Rani Mukerji for Mardaani 2, Priyanka Chopra for The Sky Is Pink and Vidya Balan for Mission Mangal. Also, Alia’s role as Safeena in Gully Boy is not exactly the lead character. Her role can only be described as an extended cameo or a supporting role. Kalki Koechlin had more to do in the film than Alia Bhatt.

Rani Mukerji delivered one of the most powerful performances in Mardaani 2. She plays a tough cop. She gave her colleague a piece of her mind for slut-shaming a rape survivor. The interview scene where she speaks about gender inequality and misogyny women face on a daily basis is more than enough to give her an award.

Despite having Akshay Kumar’s face projected in all the articles and posters, it is Vidya who carried the film Mission Mangal with her steadfast performance and charisma. Vidya’s character Tara is shown as the brain behind the Mangalyaan mission.

The movie The Sky Is Pink didn’t impress the audience the way it was expected to but Priyanka Chopra’s performance was worth it.

My point is that when it comes to the best actress in the leading role, why not give to someone who did the lead role?

That being said, I do not believe it is Alia’s fault. Unless the legend is true and the award shows are, indeed, rigged.

The awards took place around the time when there was a huge hue and cry over Bigg Boss 13 itself being rigged and the winner Sidharth Shukla allegedly receiving favouritism from the makers.

Gully Boy is undoubtedly one of the best films of 2019 but the fact it swept 13 awards, beating 2005’s Black, makes me ask, did the jury even watch all the films this year?

Ranveer Singh did a good job but the awards would have been more believable if Ayushmann Khurrana won the lead actor award for Article 15. Given that there was brownface controversy relating to Ranveer Singh’s appearance in Gully Boy.

Student Of The Year 2 is one of the most critically panned films of the year, yet Ananya Panday won the Best Debut award which raises questions regarding nepotism. We have seen several examples before, notably Sooraj Pancholi winning the best debut award over Vicky Kaushal, who delivered a powerful debut performance in Masaan, during the 2016 Filmfare Awards. Plenty of criticism was directed at the awards back then about nepotism and privilege.

The Filmfare Awards have often delivered WTF verdicts before, such as a Best Film nomination for Dhoom, a Best Actor win for Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2, and a Best Film win for Dabangg, etc.

Actress Kangana Ranaut mentioned that award ceremonies are conducted based on who shows up for the award. Akshay Kumar too, has said that categories and awards were given to those who attend the awards and they were informed beforehand.

Last year, IIFA’s decision to give Deepika Padukone an award for the Best Actress In 20 Years for her performance in Chennai Express was a massive joke.

Personally, I stopped watching the Filmfare and other awards since 2015 because of these reasons. Bollywood itself has a long way to go in terms of breaking stereotypes.

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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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