Mallika Sherawat: What I do as a character on screen is different from who I am in real life

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Entertainment desk, Oct 14: Mallika Sherawat recently slammed a Twitter user who blamed her films for violence against women. Mallika had tweeted, “Unless India reforms its medieval mindset towards women nothing will change #HathrasHorror #NirbhayaCase (sic).” The troll wrote back to her insinuating that the kind of roles she has played in movies contradicts her statement. In a chat, the actress talks about how she feels that movies and celebrities are blamed for the evils in society, the rising sexual violence against women and how our mindset needs to change, to bring about bigger changes in society. Excerpts from the conversation:

Mallika, what made you respond (check tweet on the right) to the comment about your choice of films?

The fact that we still blame movies, the internet, westernisation and a woman’s dressing sense for something as heinous as rape, instead of blaming the perpetrator and his dirty mindset, sadly reflects the mindset of the people. In a country that worships goddesses and has produced one of the first few women Prime Ministers in the world and so many powerful women in different walks of life, our society in so many ways disrespects and disregards women and justifies sexual violence through victim blaming and shaming. It’s such a paradox. Violence against women is a very big issue plaguing our society today. If we have to stamp it out, simply implementing laws will not help. The mindset of our society also needs to change.

The person you slammed on Twitter was pointing out that your movie choices as an actor don’t sit well with what you were trying to say. A lot of celebrities believe that the entertainment industry is very often quickly blamed for the wrongs and evils in society. Your thoughts?

The awful truth about our culture — movies and the clothes we wear are considered an invitation for offence. That is exactly what I feel needs to change. It’s a democratic country, and if you have a problem, don’t watch the film. This is not the first time that films are being blamed. As a society, we need to ask ourselves that if we don’t use our celebrity status to speak up for those not empowered enough, who will? If I do that, I get branded as someone who talks too much, is a motor-mouth and is trying to bring a bad name to the country. I am often silenced by women. We all know that women in India have faced a long history of violence, thanks to regressive ideologies, passed down generations. It’s normalised for people to think that if she is a woman, she will serve and obey. It’s often an illusion that we’re progressive — you just have to study the mindset and attitude of people in general to realise that.

Some of these beliefs are deeply entwined in the fabric of our society. How do you think things will change? It will have to start at home, with parents teaching their boys that a girl has to be treated as an equal and with immense respect, and a girl that she has to make herself financially independent. Education goes a long way in changing things. Yes, it takes time, but it gradually shows. I grew up in a well-to-do, educated family, but I was treated like the lesser kid. Equal opportunity is so important. I had to go through the grind and work hard to get work, and today, it’s my profession that has given me everything that I have. We, as people, have to make that effort to ensure that no girl is ever seen as a liability in any family.

You’ve also been fairly outspoken about the difficulties you faced when you were trying to make a foray into showbiz. Do you feel things are different now?

I lost 20-30 movies because I didn’t give into things that I didn’t believe in. What I do as a character on screen is different from who I am in real life. I had to make the demarcation very clear from the beginning, and that cost me those movies. But I am happy that I could still get work on my terms and get a string of great opportunities. Today, I feel that the industry is far more organised and women are headlining good films, which is a promising sign.

Source: Times of India

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