Let’s get straight to the point. You might call me a ‘bimbo’, a ‘naachne wali’, but you know what, I’m a terribly self-assured woman. I have a strong sense of self and I don’t need you to tell me who I am. I would not have the balls to do what I do, wear what I wear or say what I say, if I didn’t have self-worth.
Each one of us should cherish who we are.
The trolls can be sexist and judgmental but I know I’m smart and capable of expressing an opinion. I’m a successful woman, a feminist, a humanist, a national award winner and I say this with a great sense of pride and satisfaction: I get to live a fairy tale life every single day. I walk the international stage, I’m an avid reader with a library full of books, I am a consumer of news, an engaged Indian and so very capable of having a discussion on any issue, with anyone. Just because I’m an actor, it doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion.
I’ve spoken up often. I spoke up when the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film, Padmavati, were vandalised. I have spoken up against meat bans. I’ve taken sides with my colleagues and spoken up when Sonakshi Sinha was fat-shamed or Anushka Sharma, an amazingly talented actress, was picked on only because people think they have the right to comment on our sizes or our boyfriends.
I will always speak up. I am not a bimbo. When you use that word, it reflects on you, not me. Let’s loosen up guys. Let’s be witty; let’s engage, let’s agree to disagree; let’s cut out the abuse.
I think social media is a very effective tool. I’ve got endorsements because of my online presence, it helps me promote the charities I support and I’ve run amazing campaigns for my films, such as Neerja.
People think we don’t have brains because we dress up and look beautiful. Thankfully, I’m comfortable under my skin and in my head. I grew up learning Kathak and love to dance. I’m a student of Indian history and have walked into adulthood being proud of what India stands for. Think of all the beautiful movies that were made post-Independence when there was a sense of jubilation.
Back then, people were not afraid to question. They were unafraid of having an opinion and we weren’t a nation where you had to be politically correct. Now, you pounce on us when we criticise the government. Why can’t I criticise the government? Isn’t that what democracy is all about. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve voted for Narendra Modi or not. Either way, we have a right to ask questions.
I’m a proud Indian. I love my country but for some of you — and you’re the bigots, not me — I become ‘anti-national’ only because I ask questions or choose to be critical. Listen to the national anthem one more time. Recall the line you heard as kids, ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Issai…’
I’m a practising Hindu but my best friends are Muslims and I’m not giving them sermons on why being a Hindu is something better. Nor, for that matter are they. By the way, I am a strict vegetarian. I don’t even eat eggs but I don’t have a problem with what anyone else eats. How can you choose for anyone else? How can you take freedom of choice — a fundamental right — away from anyone else?
The truth is, in public life, we do end up being role models. I have 10 million followers on Twitter and even if 10% of those are trolls, that’s still nine million people that I feel accountable to. I owe them an opinion, a peek into my mind, and that’s why I speak up. It is important to take sides and I do so without fear. Not taking a position is cowardice.
I admit that there have been times when I have reacted to the abuse that comes my way. Yes, I’ve fallen for the bait but have also apologised. I responded when author Shobhaa De said, “(Sonam Kapoor) doesn’t cut it in the sex appeal stakes.’’ My parents made me realise I was wrong to have hit out at her, saying, “60 something porn writer.” I’m glad that my father, Anil Kapoor, has helped me to focus on the glass half full. I’m glad he showed me the mirror.
Sensitivity is an important trait when you’re on social media. I’ve learnt to be a moderate. I’ve learnt also to try and engage with those who are critical so I don’t build walls around myself, but dear trolls, you need to be more intelligent. It’s easy for me to block and report you and I’ve done that liberally, but I’m also capable of forgiveness, for you know not what you do. Try and get out of your bigoted mindset. Else, you’re nothing but illiterate, uneducated extremists.
A proud naachne-waali
PS: You should also try some naach-gaana. Mazaa aata hai, dil khush rehta hai aur dimaag thanda.
Actor Sonam Kapoor has catapulted her way to the top with the success of Neerja. She got a special mention National Award for her performance in the film that won the National Award for best Hindi feature film.
This piece is part of HT’s new campaign, Let’s Talk About Trolls, which focuses sharp attention on online abuse and bullying. Share your views with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or @htTweets with #LetsTalkAboutTrolls