Wise words: 4 ways to navigate sexism in Bollywood, according to Anushka Sharma

news-1446034099-1451_largeAnushka Sharma wrote in a new chapter in her career (and Bollywood history) as she took to a gang of goons with an iron rod in the gritty thriller NH10, her first film as producer.

She bashed sexism in Bollywood with the same vigour (but less aggression, of course) in a recent interview with Anupama Chopra, where she detailed the changes she hopes to bring about in Bollywood for female actors and the industry at large.

Here’s our pick of the takeaways from that chat:

1. First, the obvious: Female actors need to demand meatier roles
“Girls are expected to be good looking, look nice and be interesting enough for guys to fall in love with in a film. Women only come together in a film if there’s a boy involved, like if there’s a love triangle. […] Women have to be young because they have to be desirable. And we’re looking at women like that in films, because we have only shown mostly that to people, barring a few films. I’m not just talking just about objectification – but just what you’re bringing to the film. Like other than your beauty and your nakhra, is there anything else you’re bringing to the film?”

2. The box office race needs to go
Why male actors don’t sign on to experimental films (like female-driven ones) is a 100 crore conundrum, explained Anushka:

“The problem is not that ‘they are being so mean with us’. The problem is that there is so much pressure on male actors to make a 100 crore film, so they’re scared to take a risk. If a girl makes a 100 crore film, it’s like ‘Oh hey, she made a 100 crore film!’. But for guys, it’s like ‘You have to make 100 crores, yaar’. The media needs to stop using 100 crores as a benchmark for success. That’s corrupting the system.

Maybe that’s why it’s easier for girls to take risks, because no one expects them to do anything anyway!”

3. Female actors should also resist the pay (and perks) gap
The pay gap doesn’t just mean unequal salaries of male and female actors of equal stature – it extends to perks too, Anushka revealed:

“I don’t know why [the pay gap exists], but I think it’s because it’s in our society. Boys are more important. For example, even if there’s an actor at the same stature who would be able on his own be able to bring that much money for a film, would still get paid more than money because he’s a guy.

[…] A male newcomer and female newcomer will get paid differently. You’re a newcomer… no one knows who you are, man or woman doesn’t matter. It’s just assumed that men need more money. I think people think that men need to run a family and women are looked after. I’m not saying this out of greed — I’m just saying value me. At the end of the day, you want respect. And when you pay me less money, you’re telling me I’m not as valuable.

[…] You feel that discrimination. Not just with money, but in general. If you’re at an outdoor schedule, you know the guy is going to get a better room than you. And you’re like, why does that need to happen? I’m sure every hotel has at least two really good rooms. You see it all the time.”

4. Actors shouldn’t let the chatter about them rules their lives
From her lip job to her relationship with cricketer Virat Kohli, the media’s glare had veered into Anushka’s personal space many times. She talks about how she “stays sorted”:

“I tell myself that if I start to listen to these people and let them decide how I should behave, then this is not my life, it’s theirs. I’m not sorted all the time, I feel hurt at times, I feel hurt and targeted. You have to tell yourself ‘Either you listen to all this, and don’t go for a cricket match because people will say these things about you, or you do what’s right. If I’m in a relationship with Virat and he wants me to watch him and I want to see him, then why the hell won’t I go see the match. i know that what they think is not the reason things happen. If I stop going to a match, then I’m actually believing what they’re saying.”

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