On Deepika’s ‘Ode’ To Every Woman Who Puts Her Husband’s Dream Before Hers

The upcoming film ’83’ is one that I am looking forward to watching—because it tells the story of Indian cricket team led by skipper Kapil Dev striving for World Championship. The Indian team was regarded as an underdog at the time, and they were up against a powerful West Indies team who had already won two World Championships. Kapil Dev’s determination and leadership qualities have to be appreciated, and the victory acted as a trailblazer in Indian sports.

Ranveer Singh wrote several tributes to Kapil Dev, and recently, he posted a picture on Instagram with his wife and actress Deepika Padukone who plays Kapil Dev’s wife, Romi in the film.
Singh described Romi Dev and Deepika as “the wind” under the successful captain’s as well as his own wings respectively.

Then came Deepika’s post where she shared her first look as Romi Dev from the film which she is co-producing:

Dear Deepika, how I wish you had ended the post with that first sentence alone.

Deepika described Romi Dev as a woman who sacrificed her dreams and career to support her husband, described it as an “ode to all women who put their husband’s dream before their own.”
This might sound like an adorable statement, but it is problematic for an influential celebrity to say that in a country where women have to face one misogynist obstacle after another to live her dreams. The biggest obstacle being the marriage and her partner’s lack of support. Fundamentalists will probably use Deepika’s statement as a lesson to young girls where ambitious women are vilified and dismissed while teaching boys that “sky is blue.”

There is a reason why the number of female politicians is less compared to men, why women’s ‘shelf-life’ in the movie industry is less, the presence of gender gap in various industries such as technology, science, medicine, literature, law, governance, etc. I have previously written an article about this gender gap and lack of representation of women.

Recently, I heard a comment from a colleague who said that women make most college graduates, but they don’t make it to the workspace. My boss from work talked about how a PhD qualified woman had to (or was forced to sacrifice) her career for her husband.

It is because putting a husband’s dream before theirs is what is expected from a ‘good’ Indian wife by default. An Indian wife is expected to ‘support’ her husband’s dreams, but her dreams are at the mercy of her husband’s ‘permission’. Just like how it is mentioned in the problematic sentence made by some men where they say that they ‘allow’ their wives to work, as shown in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’.

In an interview with Barkha Dutt, Deepika said that the reason why she knew Ranveer Singh is the right person for her is that he is supportive of her career and has no ego when it comes to her earning more than him. So this line made by Deepika seems hypocritical to me now.

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There are plenty of separations that are a result of men not being supportive of their wives. There is a South Indian actor who married a talented actress at the peak of her career. She sacrificed her dreams for him only to see him have an extramarital affair later on. She continues to act after their divorce, but the actor gave plenty of interviews targeting her decision to work when she has a teenage daughter at home who needs her.

Recently, the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat blamed the divorce rate on education, which makes a person make selfish decisions. It is obvious that he was indirectly referring to working women who want to live their dreams but are not supported by their husbands. ‘Sacrifice’ is regarded as a “necessary evil” for sustainability, but the radical steps are expected from women.

Traditional sacrifice, which involves women leaving their parents to take care of the in-laws, has been all about sacrificing their agency, mobility and autonomy for the husbands—sacrificing dreams to cook, clean and take care of children, while their husbands leave a mark on the world. The world thrives on the unpaid and overburdened labour by women, while men are out there achieving their vision.

That being said, I shouldn’t judge people’s choices in any way. Romi Dev took the decision for the sake of her husband, and she has no regrets, which is great. She shouldn’t be judged for her choices. Even Anjali Tendulkar sacrificed her career, but in her own words, it is purely her decision, and it was calculated based on the enormous pressure Sachin faced at the time. Sachin himself offered to slowdown on his career for Anjali’s sake—as mentioned in the documentary ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’.

These are individual choices and should be kept to themselves as opposed to putting it out as a ‘message’. Maybe sacrifice is necessary. Maybe it’s not. But it shouldn’t be glorified. As much as I admire Deepika’s work, her stances and attempts to break stereotypes in a male-dominated industry, she has been a part of a few problematic narratives.

She is trying to break stereotypes and stigmas related to mental health. Yet, she had to make a film that glorifies suicide committed by thousands of women to avoid rape because of one’s man’s lust. She made a film about an acid attack survivor, which is applause-worthy. Yet, she reduced her look of an acid attack survivor from ‘Chhapaak’ to an opportunity for a TikTok ‘makeup’ tutorial.

Dear Deepika, fight stereotypes, fight misogyny, but please don’t feed it. Anymore.

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