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After Parvathy, Rima Kallingal talks about sexism in Malayalam film industry

At the TEDxThiruvananthapuram, Malayalam actor Rima Kallingal, spoke at length about discrimination she faced from the very beginning and why the culture of questioning is a must.

regional movies Updated: Jan 17, 2018 17:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Parvathy,Rima Kallingal,Sexism
At the TEDxThiruvananthapuram prominent Malayalam actor actor Rima Kallingal spoke about why the culture of questioning is important.

Speaking at the TEDxThiruvananthapuram, Malayalam actor Rima Kallingal seems to have picked up from where actor Parvathy left. The popular actor, who is also one of the founding members of Women in Cinema Collective, spoke at length about discrimination she faced from the very beginning and why the culture of questioning is a must.

In a 15-minute talk, she began by citing an example from early in her life she was denied a fish fry. “I am a feminist and my feminism started with a fish fry,” she said.

As a 12 year old, sitting at the dining table, she saw her mother serve fish fries to her grandmother, and the two men in the room -- her father and brother. On questioning why she was denied a fry, her mother was flabbergasted. “The 12-year-old me sees this and weeps. She could not fathom why I was overreacting because she probably never got fish fries in her entire life. But then that’s how my journey of questions began.”

Later, when in school, she was faced with another problem. She once participated in student elections and, in the process, found out that there were different rules for boys and girls. The entire school was divided into four houses and each house had a captain and a vice captain. The boy who got the highest number of votes became the captain, the girl fetching the highest number of votes became the vice captain. The school authorities thought that like husband and wife, the captain and the vice captain would be perfect. She and some of her friends didn’t think it was right and questioned it. Thankfully the system has changed -- now each house has two captains, one girl and one boy.

By then, she says, she had come to believe that if you questioned the system, things changed. However, when she entered the film industry, she realized that if you questioned, you could get banned. Citing another episode from her life, she said when she first began working, she was hosting a television show along with doing films. The theatre owners’ union came and told her that she cannot do that. “And I am like what, why not? And they ban me. No conversation. No discussion. They just ban me.”

She further explained how when she entered the film industry, she was asked to dumb down. “When I walked into this film industry I was greeted with words like shelf-life, adjust, compromise, smile more. But most often to dumb down.”

Reflecting on her response then, she said how she told herself that this dumbing down business came easily to women. How during teenage years, girls would often dumb down so that boys would find them coy. She said, “All the girls here, do you remember when we were in our teenage years, we used to dumb down so that the boys would find us all coy and perfect marriage material type. I think we girls are just very good at putting up an act because we are always told to be someone else, someone the society wants us to be. That’s why we have about 150 actresses coming into the industry every other year to act opposite 10 male actors in the industry. They could only find about 10 men who could act against the 150 girls.”

Watch the complete video here:

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First Published: Jan 17, 2018 17:07 IST