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Gender expectations, objectification, fat shaming: in an interview about her new film 'Mrs. Undercover', Radhika Apte says it like it is.
Radhika Apte has always been known for her ‘hat ke’ film choices and her forthright opinions as well. She is probably one of the few actors in Hindi films who speaks her mind and calls out the BS. Recently she spoke about gender expectations in the home, the objectification of women in the film industry, about losing projects for being ‘overweight’ and more. The actor has previously spoken out about sexual harassment in the industry as well.
In the lead up to the release of her interesting looking film Mrs. Undercover, she spoke to a popular YouTube channel about her film and a whole lot else. This female led film is directed and co-written by Anushree Mehta and follows the story of Durga – the ‘mere housewife’ who is also a special agent.
In course of the interview, Apte speaks with refreshing candour about having a terrible aim, about not having a lot of ‘swag’ and about having to improve her core strength. More importantly, she speaks about other relevant issues:
Women are doing varied roles now and where earlier action was the preserve of male actors, women actors are also muscling in (pun intended). After being stereotyped as the ‘village girl’ as ‘sexy’ etc,. Apte has done a variety of films, now including action. Action is new for her and she finds other actors like Samantha Prabhu and Tapsee Pannu inspirational.
In an industry where women are often positioned as pitting themselves against one another, this is welcome.
Apte shares how she was seen as ‘overweight’ because of which she lost out on a movie. She also speaks candidly about how she was ‘advised’ to go under the knife for various reasons when she first started out: breast enlargement, nose job and so on.
There has been progress though – this type of behaviour would not be tolerated now, because of better awareness and support she feels.
Apte speaks about not hiring someone for domestic work, but is still cognizant of her privilege. She then speaks about choosing someone very egalitarian to share her life with; someone who is an equal partner, but how it was different with her mother’s generation. She tells every Indian woman’s story when she talks about her mother holding down a busy job but still doing the cooking at home, while having a father who couldn’t cook.
Apte speaks about how self-sacrifice is enshrined.
I so identify with Apte when she shoots down the whole putting-women-on-a-pedestal nonsense. Typically, when there is someone lauding a woman as a multitasker, a super woman or a natural nurturer, there is a guy somewhere slacking off. When there is a guy speaking about a woman’s supposedly special abilities, this is usually that guy’s excuse to simply not pull his weight.
As Apte says, her mother and father both held down important jobs outside the home – however her mother could and chose to cook, while her father did not. This is simply how most boys in our country are brought up. There is ‘women’s work’ that men are neither taught, nor expected to know how to do. Rather than look upon house work, cooking, cleaning and care-giving simply as life skills everyone needs to have, these are still thought of as the exclusive preserve of women.
Fully grown men expect to be ‘looked after’ and apparently this is ‘normal.’ It is something we’ve all seen: the man and the woman will both return tired from work, but it is the woman who will disappear into the kitchen to rustle up a cuppa or a meal.
This is not to say that all men do this with the aim of avoiding responsibility. Many are simply unaware of how women are expected to, and end doing so much more around the home. Most women are also unaware of the inherent inequity of the situation.
Apte brings up some important issues in her YouTube interview. There is already a difference in the way her parents acted and the way she and her partner act. We now recognise the importance of self-care. A lot of women no longer see sacrifice as desirable. We now know that it is something that robs us or time and energy; and inevitably creates resentment.
Putting the wishes and desires of others before our own isn’t noble – it is just something that the patriarchy has drilled into us. We are unlearning this, however, women who think for themselves, who prioritise themselves and their aspirations are still programmed to feel guilty. Good for Apte saying what she did. Most men – and many women – need to hear it.
A former lawyer, now freelance writer, fauji wife, mother, singer, knitter and lover of my own cooking, I have altogether too many opinions and too few convictions. The more I learn the more I am read more...
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