Bollywood needs to be shaken out of its complacency: Ratna Pathak Shah

  • Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Oct 19, 2016 08:52 IST
Bollywood lives off stereotypes, says Ratna Pathak Shah.


Ratna Pathak Shah doesn’t mince words. The actor may have made thousands of people cry with laughter with her catchphrases as Maya Sarabhai in the TV show Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, but she has a contrasting demeanour in real life.

“Bollywood needs to be shaken out of its complacency,” she asserts, sounding quite serious over the phone, as we speak about the stereotypes that prevail in the entertainment industry, the ban on Pakistani artistes, and her upcoming film.

In an earlier interview, you had said that female actors in Bollywood get stereotypical roles. But isn’t that the case with male actors as well?

Yes, I believe so. Stereotypes are what Bollywood deals with. It lives off that. We are not operating to challenge stereotypes of any kind. That is why Bollywood — what a stupid word that is — needs to be shaken out of its complacency. There’s no reason why films that appeal to the masses cannot be made. But do they have to be of such poor and crude quality? That is my main concern. I do not doubt that there is a need to have of all kinds of entertainment.

What would you say on the ban on Pakistani artistes, considering you have worked with artistes such as Fawad Khan?

It’s unfortunate. We (actors) are being singled out because we are easy targets. I would say it’s a pity that we can’t formulate our protests against what Pakistan has done in a more mature way. I’m very angry with what happened in Uri. But to pick on actors? Do they really think that actors have any say in Pakistani politics? Do I have any say in the politics in my country? Only my vote counts, correct? A lot of soul-searching needs to be done here.

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Your upcoming film sheds light on Muslim women who wear veils, and the freedom they long for. Are you afraid there might be a backlash, considering it’s a sensitive subject?

If that’s the way we start thinking, we will never make any films like these, will we? The purpose of any film or piece of art is to make sense of the world around us. My movie talks about women looking for freedom. But how many men in our society have a chance to do that? They are made to bear the burden of earning a living even before they can understand what it means to work for a living. It’s an unjust situation for both men and women.

Does it bother you that lead characters aren’t written for senior actors in Bollywood?

Yes, it is a pity. But many films are made without any thought at all. At least now we are in a situation where film-makers are thinking about different ways of storytelling. Kapoor & Sons made it possible for each of us, from all ages, to play equal parts. I’m so relieved that the film did well, as that means well-made films are going to work now.

Naseeruddin Shah’s comment on Rajesh Khanna being a “poor actor” courted a lot of controversy. Your comment?

It was a completely ridiculous controversy made out of nothing. I have nothing more to say other than this.

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