29 May, 2013

Why Free Speech Isn't Entirely Free

One always has to pay for things in life. In cash, plastic or kind.

The video of Mallika Sherawat going viral and there being a backlash about her calling India regressive has rankled a lot of people. But what registered while I was watching the video clip was that she had picked up American tonalities and was basically promoting herself and her films rather than India-bashing in general.

And doesn't she have a right to do so? She has an opinion about a country she grew up in, received some amount of adulation and also infamy in. Whether it was in good taste or even appropriate to speak about it in Cannes is the question, isn't it?

Well if you take away the fact that she's not really a very credible actor (I have seen her work and it's not inspiring) do her statements take anything away from India given how the prevailing situations in the country are? Not really.

Women *ARE* afraid to travel alone. Father, husbands, boyfriends are going all out to procure pepper  sprays and whatnots to keep them safer. Self-defense classes are on the rise. Women will wait longer after long hours at work so they can travel in a manner that seems physically safer and comfort is long forgotten,.

The spates of rapes, abuse and brutality has gone up exponentially across the country for anyone belonging to the female sex; age notwithstanding and the December 16th incident still is sub-judice so one can only hope it turns out with perpetrators getting punished for a change.

So why take of on Ms.Sherawat? Because she came across her what she usually does in my eyes- a little too eager to shoot off her mouth to promote herself. She could have said that "in my country the kind of roles I've done haven't been appreciated but living in LA I have options I never had before. It's not considered too risque and no one judges me for it". The word regressive wasn't required mainly because there was no context for it.

The topic was her role in a movie and she made a blanket statement about a country she is no longer living in. Was she justified? Probably not. Was she wrong? Not entirely, no. But there were other inconsistencies to her story too..she also labeled herself as a superstar. The last time I checked, barring the usual groupies and hanger-ons that celebs garner everywhere in the world, no on was elevating Ms.Sherawat to a superstar status.

Hopefully the time away from the "regressive" country will help her in polishing up her speech, teach her to pronounce 'biopic" properly and help her learn that even "superstars" need to understand how to pitch what they want to say at an appropriate target audience.

For the rest of us stuck in a country that has definitely seen better days where its women are concerned, we'll try to laud her superstardom and wade out the controversy her words have created. Because its only in India that we care...she's a speck in the Cannes' context and in the scope of cinema across the world. India is the only place that she matters in any manner whatsoever! Whether she gets featured in a movie or on the back of an auto.

And yet again, the adage is proved...there's no such thing as bad publicity. It got her on the news again when she was off the radar. 
Superstars can be pretty smart that way.

No comments: