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An Open Letter To All B/K/Tollywood Heroines

Posted: January 10, 2013

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Guest Blogger Roopa Prabhakar describes herself as a a new mother, a working woman who believes her face is plastered on the glass ceiling, a closet feminist and writer.

Some days back when Nirbhaya (God rest her soul!) was supposedly recuperating and had taken a turn for the better, I was listening to the radio on the way home. The bubbly RJ informed the listeners about this wonderful piece of news and said that she would play a peppy number to celebrate. I started to smile in hopes of a full recovery for Nirbharya only to hear the RJ announce that the song was Sheila ki Jawani!

My smile froze midway as I wondered how any normal, sane, logical, humane person could think that Nirbharya’s recovery deserves a song like Sheila ki Jawani? How do these knuckleheads at the radio station even dream up such things? Maybe it was a last minute scramble for a song but it felt all wrong to me.

Anyways, I decided to ignore it for some time and as is always the case you are automatically drawn to the very thing you wanted to ignore. Sheila Ki Jawani ended with a bang and the next number was the ‘super fresh’ Fevicol se. Usually I am fine with these item numbers, the music is upbeat and you see pretty people doing all these aerobics-with-yoga like steps with great enthusiasm. I don’t mind tapping my foot to Munni, Sheila, Chamak challo and the rest of the gang but I have to draw the line when I hear lyrics like..

Main to tanduri, main to tanduri murgi hoon yaar

Gatkale saiyan alcohol se oh yeah.

(Roughly translated: I am like tanduri chicken, wash me down with alcohol.)

I suddenly felt the bile rising in my throat, sickened and disgusted not only at the radio station’s insensitivity in playing such songs after talking about Nirbhaya but also at the heroine’s readiness in mouthing these lyrics. The actress probably thinks that this is part of her job but when you have millions who worship you and treat you as a role model shouldn’t you think twice before taking up item numbers with such lyrics? I read somewhere that Kareena Kapoor has said that she really likes the lyrics of the song and is confident that her niece (who I’m sure is not in her teens yet) would love it too.

I was stunned; it’s amazing how far our heroines will go to ensure their item numbers are a Super Hit! Did she really think about her fans, about all the women who strive to achieve her size zero figure, read all her interviews and look up to her? If things are bad in Bollywood it’s not much different in Tolly and all the other Woods where the demented hero keeps bugging the heroine and takes her every “No” for a secret “Yes” and is so irritatingly confident that his charm will and “has to” work on anything and everything female.

Maybe I am overreacting because of the focus on Nirbhaya, maybe such ghastly acts happen every 20 minutes in our country and if not for the media hype this particular case would have gone unnoticed but right now, all I can think of is, what message do songs like Fevikol se send out to men (educated and uneducated alike) about how a woman wants to be treated.

So my request to all the “X”ollywood Heroines is, be bold, be adventurous, take on challenging roles and if the scripts really requires it then go ahead but when you are thinking of increasing your popularity with an item number please use your discretion. Think for a second on how you would feel if the cloak of stardom that protects you now is removed and the same titillating and suggestive songs are used by eve-teasers to make you feel vulnerable, scared and unsafe. It is not enough to hold candles and come to marches, you have to take a stand and say “No” to directors who will try anything to get the “masses” in. The public are counting on you, do not trade your two minutes of item number fame for the lifelong adoration of your fans.

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