This Akshay Kumar viral video is making news, in which he slams the #BangaloreMolestation case. But what about his movies that people emulate?
After the regrettable events in Bangalore on New Year, Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar posted a video of himself slamming the incident on youtube. These are a few thoughts that came to my mind after watching it.
It was circa late 90’s. I was waiting for a BTS bus at the Majestic Bus stand (now KempeGowda bus station) in the heart of Bangalore (now Bengaluru). It was about 1 pm in the afternoon and I was hungry. Keeping company were a dozen P.U girls (11th or 12th grade), some young men and women. A couple of middle-aged men and women waited in the heat, craning their necks for the bus. A bus swerved to the kerb and stopped. The young girls all rushed to the door hoping to catch a seat.
It was then I saw this man all dressed in white, positioning himself behind them and whacking their bottoms as they climbed the bus. I stood aghast. Those of us who continued to wait for our buses could seem him do this systematically. The girls did not look back and none of the people who could see what was happening did anything. I looked about, the young men merely watched. My moral outrage notwithstanding, I did nothing too. I felt shame and anger.
Then my bus came and as I alighted the bus, I felt a sharp whack on my bottom and I looked back. The ‘white’ stranger stood behind me and looked me straight in the eye. I was so angry. I got down and decided to go to the police station at the bus station. I walked and explained to the policeman who followed me promptly.
By the time we came back, there was no sign of the man. I explained in detail what had happened earlier and described the man in question. The group standing at the stop had nothing to add, further confirming my deepest fear ‘Each woman for herself’.
It has been several years since, and technology has progressed by leaps and bounds. This New Year (2017) though started with the news of young women being molested and harassed in full public view in Bengaluru at one of its prime streets Brigade road. Every year at midnight, the streets of Brigade road and M.G.Road spill over with revellers. This year too, the ritual continued, only a new twist of molesting women who happened to be at the spot was added.
Nothing seems to have changed.
The next day Akshay Kumar, one of India’s leading cinema stars released a YouTube video of anger and anguish, condemning the incident and shaming the nameless molesters. He reminded us women how we can take care of ourselves with martial arts techniques. He was ashamed he said to be called a human, when no respect was given to women. As a father, husband and son he felt deeply distressed to see women being harassed based on the time of day and the clothes they wore. It was touching to see the moral outrage of a gentleman and for what it’s worth, he did speak up.
In my mind, I recalled the numerous instances where friends and I were disrespected, whistled at, lewd comments made and bawdy songs sung. And this was just when we went to the grocery stores at the corner or ran errands. Sure, you may have the next breakthrough idea or on the verge of cracking the cancer gene, but first you must be groped or brushed against.
My crib is particularly against all of Bollywood, in which handsome young men felt entitled to follow the object of their affections till they wore them down. Never mind her hundred pleas to be left alone (she is on the verge of cracking the gene) she would be pursued, her hand held without permission and forced upon in some manner or the other. When the maiden finally fell, it was attributed to his masculine prowess.
For a lot of us Bollywood set the standards on social norms and will continue to do so for a vast majority of Indians. You can pooh-pooh it, but not ignore it. In Akshay Kumar’s franchise of Housefull, the heroine’s virtue seem to entirely be her sculpted body. Barely dressed women parade through the movie while the studs make off-colour jokes. The two are unfortunately connected – “It’s just a movie”, cuts no ice. Mr. Kumar is mature enough to pack up and not confuse the reel from the real. For a lot of men though, watching their screen idol behave thus is the permission to behave in a certain manner with women.
It is this quiet permission which prompts men to think of women as property. Invariably when a ‘no’ follows, the men in question will throw acid, rape them in a field, drive a vehicle over a fourteen-year-old-girl or molest a five-year-old. Everyday as women rush in buses to help pay their children’s school fees they are groped by supervisors at their workplace and no video follows. Sexual harassment is an everyday reality for a vast majority of women. Speak to an elite, privileged woman and even here the stories will tumble out. There is no respite in economic status or age even; women are bound by their gender.
Mr. Kumar will be shocked if he were in fact privy to these everyday scenes. “Women should learn the martial arts.” This is an admission that the option of men regulating their behavior is not open and this saddens me. We women are a tolerant lot, a little too tolerant. We suffer our shame in silence. We think we are responsible for the lewd things said to us. It is our lot to be cat called or watch our daughters be cat called.
If Mr. Kumar would consciously pick movies in which men respect women and treat them with kindness there might still be hope. His enormous popularity and filmy muscle might help boys and men understand how to win a women’s affections without scaring the living daylights out of her or how to simply take no for an answer.
Mr. Kumar could encourage his fraternity to do likewise, because he can. I laud him for putting out his anger out there, rather than simply joining the conspiracy of silence, but there is far too much to be done before real change can happen and a young girl can skip to the store without being molested.
Is it Mr. Kumar’s responsibility to portray women in the right light in movies? Perhaps not, but it is a good place to start and back his words with action. Here’s looking forward to his videos teaching women the different techniques to protect themselves. Hopefully we can stop the cycle of shame.
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Image source: youtube