'My message to women would be, 'Do what you feel is right for you. Your happiness is the key to your success. When you follow your dreams and are good at your craft, you will find the money will follow. The most important thing in life is to find the right person to share your life with.''
On International Women's Day, Bollywood's women give us their take on the status of women in the industry, and in India.
Sunny Leone, who made her mark in Bollywood in a very short span of time, says, "Women and men are definitely treated differently in the entertainment industry. Everyday we can hope that things change for the better. As far as the issue of pay parity is concerned, I don't ask others what they make so I have no idea.
"All I know is that I am happy with my arrangements and pay. And, I am happy to be living in Mumbai. I am a lot more comfortable now and have been here over four years. This is my home.
"My message to women would be, 'Do what you feel is right for you. Your happiness is the key to your success. When you follow your dreams and are good at your craft, you will find the money will follow. The most important thing in life is to find the right person to share your life with.'
"My husband Daniel and I are best friends and we talk through everything, good and bad. We make the time for each other and make sure to separate ourselves from work to be together. Marriage is about compromises and if the person you are with is worth the compromises, then everything works out."
'No love story was ever complete without a beautiful woman'
Juhi Chawla, who is known to speak her mind and is quite popular on social media, says, "The status of women in India was always high. Why else would we have temples dedicated to devis? Many parts of India have a matriarchal society. Though a woman's place was considered to be at home, she was respected for her place in the family.
"Today though we call ourselves modern, I wonder if we truly are. Or are we regressing? Today, we respect women not because they are women but because they are taking on the roles of men. I was struck by a someone who said, ‘Feminism is being misunderstood. The strength of a woman lies not in the fact that she can do what men can do, it lies in the fact that she can do what men can't do.’ I feel women embody love and beauty.
"Womahood is akin to water which flows, adjusts, adapts, gives life, yet when challenged can break the might of mountains. There have been films where women have played central characters. There were strong women actors like Nargis, Nutan, Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Tabu and Vidya Balan.
"For all the other lovely ladies of the screen, I'd say no love story was ever complete without a beautiful woman. It's like yin and yang, the sun and the moon. You need both to make the world go round."
'I continue to be troubled by item numbers'
Veteran actress Shabana Azmi feels actresses have come a long way in Hindi cinema. She also believes that they need to be cautious because what they portray on the big screen has the power to create perception among viewers.
She says, "India lives in several centuries simultaneously. Her people encapsulate all the contradictions that arise from being a multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual society and is reflected in the position of Indian women. On the one hand, women hold top positions in politics, corporate world, banking sector etc, and on the other hand, it’s a sad reality that female foeticide is also practised.
"The patriarchal mindset is so deeply entrenched that it is internalised by both men and women so that a boy is privileged over a girl from the time of his birth just for being a boy!
"However, I’m an optimist and see the glass as half full rather than half empty. Heroines in Hindi cinema have come a long way from the Main Chup Rahoongi model of virtue. Working women are more visible and there are myriad roles being offered to women of all age groups.
"Earlier a heroine's career was over at 30. Today, you have a Sonam Kapoor whose career has just taken wings at 30. The vamp has all but disappeared. This is reason to celebrate but I continue to be troubled by item numbers. Under the guise of celebrating her sensuality, the item number reduces the woman to becoming an object of the male gaze and commodifies her. Lyrics like Main tandoori murgi hoon mujhe gatka lo alcohol ke saath is being gyrated to by six-year olds and leads to the sexualisation of children.
"In all humility, I’d caution our talented female stars to pause and think and then make an informed choice. Also, filmakers must see the difference between stalking and courtship. No means 'No', not 'Yes' or 'Maybe'. Eve-teasing is unacceptable. However, we have much to celebrate. Empowerment of women is no longer a buzz word, it is central to the development paradigm.
"All in all let’s celebrate and pay homage to all those wonderful women who struggled for equality and created the path for us to traverse on. Happy Women’s Day!"
'It is good that at least on March 8 every year, people are forced to focus on neglected issues of women'
Actress-turned-filmmaker Nandita Das believes in an ideal world, there is no need for a Women’s Day.
"But when the opportunities, rights and spaces are constricted for half the population, a reminder of that is necessary. Sadly the ‘day’ phenomena gets reduced to tokenism, and everybody, including the media, focuses largely on the particular issue only around that day," says the Provoked heroine.
"But we can’t afford to be cynical as it undermines even the little that is happening. I am an eternal optimist and I think it is good that at least on March 8 every year, people are forced to focus on neglected issues of women. At least once a year, the media does bring out interesting stories of the trials and tribulations of women and also opens up public space for debate and churning of ideas.
"Often urban upper class men say to women like me that we are not only equal to men but are often even more privileged than them, so why are we talking about women’s rights? Firstly, when we talk about the rights of women, we are not talking about less than two percent women who enjoy that space and are treated less differently. While I am part of that privileged minority, we too have to negotiate through the deep-rooted conditioning of patriarchy. In fact, it is this subtle onslaught that I tried to bring out in the play Between the Lines that I wrote, directed and acted in.
"In a land of paradoxes, there will always be stories of strength and empowerment but also the struggles of millions. The startling sex ratio where even the right to life of a girl child is threatened, is also a reality. And till such times that we stop being inhuman to girls and women, the Women’s Day will continue to be relevant."