This year has been noteworthy in several ways. In 2020, the film industry found itself embroiled in many controversies, and while the year saw many women at the forefront of these controversies, there were many who spoke up fearlessly in these testing times.
From Swara Bhasker, Richa Chadha to Taapsee Pannu, Priyanka Chopra, each one of them, and many others, showed yet again that they have a spine of steel. On the other hand, there were actors like Kangana Ranaut, who made news for many wrong reasons.
Here’s MAKERS India’s list of actors who were biggest newsmakers of 2020.
Actor and activist Swara Bhasker has been a vociferous critic of the extremist attitude of the incumbent government. In 2020, Swara was amongst the handful of celebrities who spoke fearlessly against the CAA NRC bill. Right from speaking her mind through Twitter to joining the protests physically, Swara hit the ground running! Be it the nepotism debate in the film industry or the infamous Sushant Singh Rajput (SSR) death case, or the most recent Farmers’ bill, Swara has put forth her thoughts without mincing any words.
On the work front too, Swara came out all guns blazing with web shows such as Rasbhari, Flesh and Bhaag Beanie Bhaag, that challenged sexism and patriarchy in more ways than one.
Though Anushka stayed away from the silver screen, she created quite a few ripples throughout the year. Be it by backing clutter-breaking, bold, feminist content through her production house - Clean Slate Filmz - or by speaking her mind fearlessly everytime she was dragged in an unnecessary, distasteful cricket debate or discussion, Anushka Sharma has emerged as a force to reckon with in 2020.
From speaking up against the growing intolerance towards dissent in the country to calling out all things that’s tarnishing democracy, to standing up for herself amidst the trolling she was subjected to for speaking up against unfair media trails actor Rhea Chakraborty had to face in Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case, Taapsee Pannu never disappointed.
And while she stood her ground off-screen, she gave one the year’s best performances in one of the most thought-provoking movies of the year, Thappad.
Deepika kickstarted 2020 on a massive high. Producing and acting in a film on acid attack (Chhapaak), and actively creating awareness on the issue, Deepika created a frenzy when she visited JawaharLal Nehru University in Delhi the site of most prominent student protests against the CAA. She did not speak to the media or give a speech to the students assembled there; but she clearly expressed solidarity with the youngsters who were fighting for the protection of Indian constitutional values. That was only the beginning of the nasty trolling that was in store for Deepika in 2020.
From being called ‘anti-national’ to ‘druggie’ and ‘charsi’ when she was called in for a meeting with the Narcotics Control Bureau as a part of the investigation into drug use in Bollywood, Deepika faced it all with grace and an unwavering demeanor. And, all this while continuing her fight against the lack of awareness on mental health.
Also read: Deepika Padukone, You Deserve Better
Actor Rhea Chakraborty was embroiled in arguably 2020’s murkiest controversy. Battling the allegations of abetment of suicide in actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case, during the course of the investigation, Rhea was labelled as “gold digger,” “too quick to move in with a boy who she just started a relationship with,” “an opportunistic girlfriend who was keeping her boyfriend away from his family,” and worst of all, was “a girl who was drugging a full grown man” and was “performing black magic to control him.”
The cry for justice for Sushant Singh Rajput has evidently fizzled out but the whole Rhea episode put once again threw spotlight on the prevalent sexism and misogyny in our society and that, time and again, women have been unafraid to smash patriarchy.
The actor who started out as a role model with her solid stance against nepotism, privilege and patriarchy, turned out to be one of the biggest horrors of 2020. Her nepotism stance went into a massive downward spiral when she inflicted insults and slurs on fellow outsiders like her, and eventually going on an unstoppable Twitter rampage on everyone who didn’t agree with her thoughts and notions of patriotism, nationalism, her political affiliations, and much more.
In 2020, since the pandemic broke out, the actor, activist and philanthropist has made concerted efforts to help people across the globe, along with singer-husband Nick Jonas. Priyanka has made her contribution to multiple charities, including the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES), UNICEF, Goonj, Doctors Without Borders, No Kid Hungry, and SAG-AFTRA. Additionally, she had also partnered with a leading footwear brand to donate more than 50,000 pairs of shoes to school-going children in Belize.
She has also wrapped up her memoir Unfinished which is available for pre-order now and will soon be seen in Netflix films’ The White Tiger and We Can Be Heroes.
While Richa Chadha has been in the spotlight throughout the year for her strong ideas and opinions on the growing intolerance towards dissent in the country, it was her legal battle with actor Payal Ghosh that really stood out as an example of standing up for yourself in the face of massive negativity. Richa filed a lawsuit against Payal for dragging her name in her #MeToo allegations on filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and ended up winning the same.
Actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar was in the news, when she expressed her disagreement with Kangana Ranaut’s statement calling Mumbai “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir”. This didn’t go down well with Kangana, who then called Urmila a “soft porn star”. What followed a murky media battle between the two where Urmila presented a poised, collected and strong stance.
Currently working with Shiv Sena, Urmila has also spoken strongly about the constant social media trolling her husband and his family has to face because of their religion.
Actor and entrepreneur Alia Bhatt was among the actors who faced the most brutal trolling because of the now-misplaced debate on nepotism. Alia’s sister, Shaheen Bhatt, even shared a few screenshots of the hate messages, rape and death threats she and her sister received ever since the SSR’s death induced debates and hate mongering for the star kids in the film industry.
Alia was also in the news for the launch of her startup, Ed-a-mamma, a conscious clothing line for kids in the age group of 2-14. She had earlier invested in e-commerce firm Nykaa, and fashion styling platform Stylecracker. With Ed-a-mamma, she is donning the hat of an entrepreneur for the first time.
(Edited by Varnika Gupta)