There is a change in perspective and a stark attitudinal shift towards women not only in the film industry, but across the world. Certain actors are also instrumental in bringing about the positive change either through their on-screen projection and choice of roles, or through the stand that they take by speaking on issues of social relevance or by supporting various social causes.
Vidya Balan is one actor in recent times, who has transformed things for female actors in the industry, through her professional choices. She has also been upfront about speaking on various issues concerning women.
When actors speak on social issues — be it objectification of women, body shaming, and depression et al — does it help reinforce the changing school of thoughts? “I think, the tendency to judge women is waning, which is why you see characters even in films, who are very interesting. So, you are neither glorifying nor vilifying them. They have some flaws and they have some strengths, and that’s what makes them interesting and engaging, because you are humanising them. I think women today are finding their voice more than ever,” says Vidya. She further adds, “Deepika (Padukone), Sonam (Kapoor) or me, all of us, we are seen and heard. Therefore, we are symbols of women finding their voice, and kudos to them for doing what they’re doing. This is actually happening all around us.”
Talking about safety concerns for women in society, Vidya says, “If someone misbehaves with a girl, she can shoot him on a mobile phone, use an app or call the police. You are feeling a little more empowered. You are feeling like it is not your fault any more. Yet we are a very small percentage, there is a lot to go. But then change is never absolute. We have to look at it in a way that if we compare it to five years ago, we have come a long way.”
At one point, factors such as age, marriage, etc. would restrict an actor’s choice of roles. However, things are undergoing a sea change on those fronts too. Vidya says, “I would get upset with people who say you have to narrow your choices when you are married. But those things are changing. All around us, women’s lives are not stopping after marriage or childbirth. At least, I feel I want to act for the rest of my life.”
She adds, “Look at how Kareena (Kapoor Khan) dealt with her pregnancy, so admirable. She has done it the way she wanted to. There is no right or wrong way. A few years ago, when I started getting criticised for my body; I began saying this is my body.”
Vidya has never bowed down to the traditional norms as far as her personal or professional choices are concerned. Is it the pressure — especially in showbiz — that several resort to artificial ways or succumb to fads to acquire a certain look? “Crash dieting, going under the knife, getting jobs done, it has become the norm today. I know of regular people, forget actors or models, who are doing the same. We are all trying to adhere to the concept of perfection. But perfection is an illusion. If you think you’re going to get more work because you have got breast enhancements done or got a chiselled jaw, lips or nose [it’s not like that]. But to each his own. I am not here to preach,” says Vidya, adding “Personally, I can’t do any of that. People who are not thin or are of a particular body frame, do they not feel sexy? Do they not feel desirable? Do they not have the right to fall in love?”
The actor will next be seen in movies such as Begum Jaan and Tumhari Sulu.