No one saw it coming. But the death of George Floyd and the unfortunate chain of events that followed, snowballing into what is now a globally-recognised and supported movement – Black Lives Matter – had a chain effect, closer home.
Many powerful Indian personalities, including movie stars, artists, and social media figures, lent their voices to the mass movement. And triggered by their novel efforts and moving online messages, the woke Indian Twitterati and the middle class also joined forces to spark a domino effect for the social issues plaguing our times.
The only problem? Not enough was being done or said to spotlight the many socio-political problems haunting India, especially by the celebs who had proactively rallied in support of #BlackLivesMatter.
In the days since the protests in the US taking to the streets, several A-listers have drawn criticism over their lack of support for India-specific issues such as the migrant crisis, the breakdown of the healthcare infrastructure in the face of coronavirus pandemic, the raging unrest over unpopular political decisions, and even police brutality in their own backyard. A resounding request from netizens urged these powerful personalities to speak on domestic troubles coaxed some into action, including Abhay Deol, Sonu Sood, and Swara Bhasker.
In trying times like these, saying nothing is not equivalent to staying neutral. If anything, the apolitical stance is the opposite of neutral. And in saying so, we do not dismiss the repercussions one stands to face in choosing a side, but simply highlight the need of the hour – lending your voice to the weak and marginalised in times of distress and unrest.
Something that these women from Bollywood (yes, the same tight-lipped industry) have managed to do, despite all the odds.
If you happen to follow Swara Bhaskar on Twitter, you might have come across this pinned tweet of hers: “Basically, if I’m not involved in a #twittercontroversy once a week, assume I’m dead.”
All sass and fun, right? Wrong. Being a vocal champion for the weak and marginalised – more so, for a female actor in India – comes at a price, and Swara is perfectly acquainted with it. For the longest time, she has maintained a clear, non-vague side when it comes to the unpopular decisions taken by the current government. Starting from the anti-CAA protests to the fallout of Shaheed Bagh situation and even the latest COVID-19 crisis, the actor has shown that it is possible to have a political opinion and act in mainstream cinema at the same time.
She has suffered a few bruises in the process as well. Recently, on Indian Twitter, one of the top trends was, oddly, #ArrestSwaraBhaskar. But these hiccups have not deterred her from being the bold and brazen person that she is.
— Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) June 6, 2020
“Me being vocal or outspoken shouldn’t be an aberration. Ideally, in a healthy, functioning democracy, it wouldn’t be,” said actor Richa Chadha in an interview with MAKERS India last month, offering a glimpse into her thoughts and the way she looks at the need for some healthy debate and discourse in a democracy.
I am sorry for your experience brother Solomon. Yes, we Indians are racist. We buy and use fairness creams, we even put ‘fairness’ as a necessary adjective in our matrimonial ads. Sorry for your experience! If you visit again, I’ll show you around promise ! ❤️ https://t.co/vqM8eeYZ4x
— TheRichaChadha (@RichaChadha) June 6, 2020
However, this is not the first time the actor has voiced her political opinions. A feisty presence on screen, responsible for bringing to life several bold and brazen characters, she has, in fact, lent her voice to the struggles of women and to the survivors of human trafficking many times in the past.
Along with KETTO, a crowdfunding digital platform, she has even worked to provide rehabilitation to the victims of human trafficking.
Her latest endeavour, though, is for the benefit of the frontline workers. Richa has joined hands with her boyfriend and actor Ali Fazal to raise funds for PPE kits, integral for those battling the coronavirus at the frontline.
They say speech is silver, but silence is golden. Superstar Deepika Padukone exemplified this when she stood in solidarity with the students protesting the CAA and NRC bill at the JNU campus, in Delhi.
After all, the demonstration, which was citizen-driven and had been underway across various other parts of the country, had its epicentre at the heart of the national capital. A raging focus-point if you may. And Deepika’s presence at this student-led protest only strengthened the attention that the topic rightfully deserved, serving in the process a refreshing change to the otherwise reticent Bollywood.
Now, of course, naysayers would attribute the move to the timeline, the impending release of Chhapaak – a film documenting the ordeal of an acid attack victim – but truth be told, it’s a bit of an exaggeration. Do you really think, Deepika, who is one of the highest-paid actors of our times, needs to go this far to promote a movie?
We leave this one to your better judgement.
Love her or hate her, but you can’t ignore Kangana Ranaut. One of the most outspoken Bollywood personalities of our times, the actress has, time and again, voiced her opinions fearlessly. Whether it is on the much-debated topics of nepotism and favouritism (that many in the entertainment industry have been accused of) or the strong stand she has taken for her sister Rangoli Chandel, who is herself an acid-attack survivor, Kangana has never shied away from speaking her mind.
Of course, that has led her into many a foot-in-the-mouth moment and also into the eye of social media controversies, but unfazed, the Queen actor continues to speak her mind, loud and clear. Case in point – her latest stand on Bollywood celebrities and their shortcomings when it comes to highlighting local injustices.
“It is a shame they [Bollywood celebrities] continue to live in a bubble and never fail to jump on the bandwagon, which can give them two minutes of fame, but ‘white people’ must drive the bandwagon,” Kangana had said on the latest controversy.
Sonam Kapoor Ahuja
Remember the time when Sonam Kapoor Ahuja was not trending because of her usual fashion-forward statements but over something she said about Kashmir and her ties to Pakistan? Born to an actor father and designer mum, the actor was tracing her half Sindhi and half Peshawari roots during an interview with BBC Asian Network.
Unfortunately, her responses and comments on the “heartbreaking” situation in Kashmir didn’t sit well with some, who – as always – resorted to trolling the actor online.
Her fault? Voicing her opinion on political topics and talking about the historical and geographical ties between the neighbouring countries. A part of history that is perhaps the reality for many Indians in Punjab and West Bengal.
The truth is people more often than not are not willing to take “actresses” seriously. If they speak fashion, what do they know about socio-political matters, right? But honestly, the two are not mutually exclusive, as these feisty women continue to prove.