She is hailed as the fashion icon of the country. But Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor is also known to speak her mind on contentious issues.
So, when writer Amish Tripathi asked Sonam if she faced gender bias in Bollywood during the panel discussion while arguing that gender violence is a bigger issue in India than religious intolerance, she admitted that there was misogyny and chauvinism not just in the film industry but in every industry.
“Though my father is a North Indian Punjabi, never once did he make me feel the difference between my brother and me. Our parents never told their daughters you can’t do this, or we would have to marry at a certain age or we cannot work. But when I joined the film industry, it was such a shock! I would give an opinion on something and would be told to behave like a girl and be softer else people wouldn’t find me attractive. On occasions, I have been told to go on stage and speak after the male actor. I have reacted by saying but I am a bigger star,” Sonam said.
‘Don’t work for less pay’
She also went on to highlight unequal pay for female stars. “I refuse to work with film producers who pay female actors less than males. I was told you can afford to do so as you have a safety net. You come from a rich family. I have been fending for myself since I was 18. It is hard for me also to say no to money but as someone who feels it is not morally right to get less paid than male stars, I don’t work for such producers. As women, we go through this but some of the most powerful people in the country now are women, be it in films, politics or journalism. Women-centric films are doing well and people are putting their money into these films. The change is happening but the inequality has not gone,” she added.
As she wrapped up her answer, BJP MP Anurag Thakur once again quipped that women are now change-makers from homemakers to which Sonam said she does not know how to cook, hinting the homemaker tag is not an accessory this fashion icon is too eager to carry.
Unfazed by being trolled for tweeting against the Mumbai meat ban, she once against minced no words as she spoke about the right of Young India to voice their opinion on issues, including intolerance. “I might get into trouble for saying this. But there are many issues we can speak about and be passionate about. Much is being said about intolerance, sexism, caste and other issues. There is room for discussion and it is important in these times for the youth to speak on these issues. Because when you are young, you are idealistic and optimistic and cynicism has not hit you yet. It is very important to be young and hungry in this atmosphere in India right now. I find it exciting to be a young Indian woman when the country is seeing so much of churning,” was Sonam’s take on how she feels being a young Indian in these times.
‘Pak great market for films’
As the discussion veered towards the “culture of bans” and if it was hindering creative expression, Sonam said politics and religion coming in the way of artistic expression were unacceptable. “It is totally ridiculous when some people say Pakistanis cannot work in this country. What is the harm if their musicians sing here, or actors act in our movies or their authors come here? Pakistan is a great market for our movies. Their coming from Pakistan does not concern us artists or even common Indians,” she said while adding Pakistan actor Fawad Khan, who worked with her in Bollywood movie Khoobsurat, was talented and popular among Indian girls.
Nonplussed by being trolled, the actor said it is okay to have an opinion and express it. “We live in a democracy. Social media played a big role in the victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is a great tool and can bring in a revolution. Criticism when constructive is welcome. But anything that is misused to breed hatred and is divisive, becomes harmful,” she added. While she spoke on intolerance, a perturbed BJP MP Anurag Thakur seemed eager to distance his party from the “ban on Pakistan” issue and asked the actor if she will raise it before the Shiv Sena in Mumbai. Sonam replied with, “I will and I have.”