Relationships begin and end, tantrums are thrown, conspiracies are hatched and people ousted. For seven years, all this and more happened on
without making any difference to my life.
A disclaimer right at the beginning: I am no lover of Bigg Boss, its content or the creative minds behind it. The show is a success and that means there is a wide following it enjoys. I am just not one of them.
All of that changed this week when Parineeti Chopra, an actor who has a mind of her own and is not afraid to speak it, went on the show and single-handedly destroyed her reputation as a feminist.
It all began when one of the contestants Ali Quli Mirza inappropriately touched another contestant Sonali Raut. The cameras were rolling and India was watching and Mirza, according to the rules in the house, was penalised.
One would have assumed that was the end of the matter given the gender-sensitive society we are supposed to be living in after the outrage over the 2012 Delhi gang-rape.
Only that the ‘creative’ minds at Bigg Boss had another idea. In the business of milking everything for what it is worth, and sometimes more, they asked the next celeb guests to play a prank on Mirza with sexual harassment as subtext.
Maybe it would have been just another very politically incorrect ‘joke’ but the next celeb guest turned out to be Parineeti. Yes, the same Parineeti who had a journalist for lunch when he asked an inappropriate question about menstrual cycle at an event. The same Parineeti who gives two hoots about cultural taboos or what is expected from a ‘diplomatic’ Bollywood leading lady. The same actor who spoke out when a journalist asked her how girls like ‘it’ when they are young and get annoyed about ‘it’ as they get older.
That’s why it was disconcerting when the same Parineeti went to the Bigg Boss house, accused Mirza of touching her ‘inappropriately’, a la Raut, and then walked off in a huff.
It was left to Salman Khan (hardly the most emancipated man we know) to break it to Mirza that it was all a joke. What we expected from her was a lesson on respecting women and how a complaint like Raut’s cannot be dismissed in such a cavalier fashion.
What we got instead was an actor who threw gender sensitivity to the wind and then followed it up with a half-hearted apology about “just being an actor” and performing in accordance with the creative team’s plan.
After completely trivialising the matter, she also said that to make up to the contestants, she sent them pizzas!
Pizzas for a prank on sexual harassment? Maybe it is time someone explained to the actor why her recent behaviour has undercut the one thing every woman in the world holds dear – respect.
And how’s that? Because among millions of TV watchers are men who will take Raut’s complaint like a big, fat joke to laugh out loud about. Because Parineeti gave us a textbook example of how a sexual harassment complaint should not be handled.
Because India is not gender sensitive as such and this did not help. Because someone somewhere will cite it as an example the next time a woman complains.
Because as actors they have a responsibility to their fans. Because as a woman and a star, Parineeti has the right to say no when creative teams make suggestions.