Dear Bollywood: Fire Your PR People, ‘Feminism’ is NOT a Bad Word

Kareena Kapoor Khan in "Veere Di Wedding" [Photo Source: Screenshot/Balaji Motion Pictures]

Do you believe that men and women should have equal rights? Yes? Then you my friend, by the very simple definition of the word, are a feminist. Some people are still uncomfortable using the word. They’ll say they believe in equal rights, but balk at using the word. “Feminist” and “feminism” are too steeped in a political and radical history (but then again so is equality if you dig a little deeper).

This is especially true for people trying to sell us something. The fear here is that if they say or do something too ‘political’ they’ll piss off a segment of their consumers. The old school belief that being too political is bad for business still holds fast.

No matter how much they profess to being ‘artistes’, we must never forget that Bollywood stars are in the BUSINESS of entertainment. The entertainment industry is just that, an industry. The films that that move our souls are great, but for the industry peeps the box office numbers are what counts.

[Photo Source: Balaji Motion Pictures]
So when we have Kareena Kapoor-Khan — the tell-it-like it-is, no holds bar spitfire extraordinaire that she is — shying away from using the word feminist, we shouldn’t really be surprised eh? She has her new movie “Veere Di Wedding” (a women-centric but not feminist film) to promote.

It shouldn’t surprise me, yet here I am …surprised. Surprised that a Bollywood mega star like Kapoor-Khan, the self-professed “modern woman”, could be so behind the times…so 2013! Where were her people? Her PR team?

I thought actresses and entertainers worth their salt had moved past this very tired “I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equality” crap. Even in Bollywood, which is usually slow on the uptake when it comes to global pop culture moments, I mean wasn’t it like 2016 when they all got that silliness out of their system? My fellow BG wrote the amazing piece below listing the nonsense that was spewed back then across media platforms, with one actress trying to out-dumb the other.

[Read Related: “Popular Icons and the Bastardization of Feminism”]

I’m not delusional enough to think that just by saying ‘yes, I am a feminist’ that they’d all of a sudden become woke to the systems of oppression and gender equality. No, I don’t think so. Especially not in these Bollywood circles cocooned by their own power and privilege…come on, I know better than that.

Kapoor-Khan’s own husband is an example of this. Saif Ali Khan, the “well-read” nawab, with a super posh education who speaks pretty, is, as we have discovered, problematic as eff and definitely not woke. Despite his ability to sprinkle quotes from existentialists and other intellectuals in his interviews, he’s shown his own intellectual limitations when he broadcast them quite unbecomingly in his (up-his-own-ass) open-letter response to nepotism. Oh you know, the one where he used a completely inaccurate definition of eugenics (!) and made an incoherent argument to justify it all.

[Photo Source: Bollywood Hungama]
His entire piece was so righteous and just so bad, but what it did though, was show us once again just how out of touch Bollywood royalty, and in this case, literal royalty is with the world. It’s evident that a posh education isn’t enough to turn the figurative ‘light’ on in their cushy little cocoons of power and privilege. Building self-awareness is probably made more difficult when everyone around them and all their fans continue to fall to their feet and literally worship the ground they walk on.

I am also not looking to oversimplify feminism or what it means to be a feminist in the world today. I understand intersectional feminism and post-colonial systems of power. I also know that while as a Canadian woman, I can understand what it means, I am not in the position to speak to what feminism means in the context of an Indian woman. So don’t @ me about that.

[Read Related: “Feminism in Bollywood: Where are the Women Behind the Camera?”]

The Time’s Up campaign and the #MeToo movement blew open the complacency in Hollywood. With the arrest of Harvey Weinstein, and the conviction of Bill Cosby, we’re seeing all those chickens coming home to roost now. In Hollywood it is no longer good PR to take a wishy washy stance on this, as many Hollywood stars are finding to their detriment. The culture has shifted. The tide has turned. That’s why we have actresses speaking up about the pay disparity, vocalising their past brushes with workplace harassment, and sharing their stories.

Remember though, Bollywood is always slow on the uptake when it comes to global pop cultural moments. In fact, these moments are seen as trends instead of real cultural shifts. Feminism isn’t a trend, but they sure seem to treat it like it is – hot today, but maybe not tomorrow – and so are afraid to fully embrace it should it become “not hot”.

[Read Related: “#TimesUp for the Bollywood Patriarchy: Independent Films Successfully Tackle Taboo Topics”]

Bollywood tried to embrace the #MeToo movement. But forgot that it’s a whole different system. Did you notice who was speaking out and who wasn’t? Why do you think that “most of the big names stayed silent”? Nepotism runs rampant in Bollywood at levels unseen in Hollywood. They are all related to each other! It’s a whole different culture. You can’t just take something that was borne out of decades of a shared experiences in a particular system/environment and expect it to fit exactly into another place that did not experience the directional shift organically. This is true of the western feminism or concepts of western feminism that many of the Bollywood elite who have been educated abroad try to transport back to India. It doesn’t work.

What gets me though is that in 2018, where Bollywood stars applaud their industry for becoming more professional, more globally savvy, and more progressive (I just snorted LOL), they are losing the Public Relations battle by repeatedly making ignorant or uninformed comments and then doubling down on them when they’re challenged. It’s just bad business!

[Photo Source: Screenshot/BeingHuman/Facebook]
Seriously, how the heck do we have the likes of Kareena Kapoor-Khan making those inconsistent statements during promotions of a film being pushed as “women centric”? I mean I know that ‘women centric’ doesn’t mean feminist, but come on! This was just piss poor PR. She should fire her PR team.

I’ve spoken about the issues Bollywood stars and their respective teams seem to be having with their understanding of personal branding. There are stars who broadcast their animal rights or women’s rights, or civic engagement activism when in promotion mode for a new film or product that requires that particular angle, but in the same breath say or do something that is the complete opposite of that stance. Their hypocrisy gets them in trouble every time. Personal branding isn’t trend, you can’t discard it and move onto the next without you (or your client) coming across as inauthentic.

[Read Related: “Priyanka Chopra: Proud to Be a Woman of Color”]

In this era, to say you’re not a feminist whilst clearly espousing feminist values, saying you believe in equality and then refusing to recognize the inherent inequality in the system that has afforded you your privilege and power, makes you look stupid, and worst, inauthentic. Not a good look if you’re trying to be seen as a marketable star. Realness is the name of the game now. Lack of authenticity, fake-ness… Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Bollywood audiences are getting smarter and savvier, too. Bollywood’s global reach has grown. India, too, is looking to become a bigger player on the global scale. Globalization will open up, and has already begun to open up, a world of choices for the Indian consumer. So come on, Bollywood, you need to do better. Or, at very least, give the impression that you’re doing better.

That’s what a good PR team does for you. They make all your moves look better, thus making you look better. It’s time get the right people on your side.

By Sundeep Hans

Sundeep Hans was born in Toronto, raised in Brampton, with a slight detour via Punjab. She’s a social justice activist, … Read more ›

‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’: A Perfect K Jo Showcase Celebrating the Filmmaker’s 25 Years in Cinema

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani

It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.

“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.

The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.

K Jo

Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.

[Read Related: ‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra]

Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.

There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra,  and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.

K Jo Rocky aur Rani

Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.

Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.

Stills Courtesy of Media Global House



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By Anushka Suharu

Anushka Suharu is a British Indian journalist, with a Masters in Interactive Journalism (City, University of London) and a BA … Read more ›

‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra

The Romantics

If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking. 

I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.

— Smriti Mundhra

As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.

In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.

For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.


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A post shared by Smriti Mundhra (@smritimundhra)

At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.

In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.

By Nida Hasan

Managing Editor at Brown Girl Magazine, Nida has worked and written for several publications in a journalism career spanning almost … Read more ›

‘Thank You For Coming’ Unapologetically Begs the Answer to a Very Important Question

It’s never a dull moment with your girl gang; some shots and conversations about sex, right? If you agree, you’re in for a treat with Karan Boolani’s directorial venture, “Thank You For Coming,” which had its world premiere at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival. This coming-of-age story unapologetically begs the answer to a very important question: Why should women be left high and dry in bed?


Kanika Kapoor (Bhumi Pednekar) is a successful, 32-year-old, Delhi food blogger who makes a huge revelation on her 30th birthday: She’s never experienced an orgasm. This dirty little secret (no pun intended!) has now become detrimental to her self-esteem. She feels so down and out that she even accepts the proposal of a very boring suitor, Jeevan-ji (Pradhuman Singh Mall).

[Read Related: Meet Fashion Blogger and Media Star Dolly Singh]

Thank You For Coming

But, it’s not like she hasn’t tried. Kanika’s been a monogamist since her teenage years, starting with puppy love in high school — unfortunately, their sexual endeavors coined her as “thandi” (cold) by her first boyfriend — all the way to dating in her adulthood. But, regardless of how great any relationship was, nobody had her achieve the big O. All until the night of her engagement with Jeevan, when the drunk bride-to-be leaves the party for her hotel room and gets into bed. What follows is her very first orgasm. Ghungroo, finally, tute gaye! But, with whom?

The morning after, an initially-satisfied Kanika works herself into a frenzy of confusion and frustration as she makes her way through the list of potential men who could’ve been in her room the night before.

Thank You For Coming

Was it one of her exes? She’d simply invited them to come to wish her well.

Was it her fiance?

Or, God forbid, was it actually the rabdi-wala (ice cream man)?

Boolani takes a straight-forward and on-the-nose approach to drive the point home. There are no cutting corners, no mincing words, and no hovering over “taboo topics.” The dialogue is raunchy, the characters are horny, and no one is apologetic. It’s important for a film like “Thank You For Coming” to be so in-your-face because the subject of women achieving orgasms can’t really be presented in any other way. Anything more conservative in the narrative would feel like the makers are being mindful of addressing something prohibited. And there is no room for taboos here.

But, there is room for a more open conversation on the reasons why many women feel the need to suppress their sexual needs in bed; how generally, women have been brought up to be the more desirable gender and hence not cross certain boundaries that would make them appear too brash. The fight for the right of female pleasure would have been a little more effective if the modesty around the topic was addressed. But, that doesn’t mean that the point is remiss.

The plot moves swiftly along, never lulling too long over everything that seems to be going wrong in Kanika’s life. “Thank You For Coming” is full of all the right tropes that belong in a comedic, masala film, too; the direction very seamlessly takes classic fixings like the abhorrent admirer (enter Jeevan-ji) and effectively plugs them into this contemporary feature that will remain perpetually relevant.

Thank You For Coming

And now, let’s come to the star of the show: the well-rounded characters.

Producer Rhea Kapoor has mastered the formula of a good chick flick and her casting is the magic touch. She’s got a knack for bringing together the right actors — cue, “Veere Di Wedding.” So, just when we think that it doesn’t get better than the veere, Kapoor surprises us with a refreshing trio — they’re modern, they’re rebellious, and they say it like it is. Thank you, Dolly Singh (Pallavi Khanna) and Shibani Bedi (Tina Das) for being the yin to Kanika’s yang — and for the bag full of sex toys your homegirl oh-so needed!

To complete Kanika’s story, we have her single mother, Miss. Kapoor, brilliantly portrayed by Natasha Rastogi. She is the face of a headstrong and self-assured matriarch and a symbol of the modern-day Indian woman. Rastogi’s character exemplifies the fact that with access to education, and a stable career, women do not need to mold their lives around men.

I love the fact that Miss. Kapoor is almost villainized by her own mother (played by Dolly Ahluwalia) in the film because she had a child out of wedlock in her yesteryears, she chooses to remain single, and she brings her boyfriends around the house to hang out with. But, there’s a point to be made here. The fact that Kanika’s mother is being antagonized just highlights that she is challenging the norms and pushing the envelope for what is socially acceptable for women. Miss. Kapoor definitely deserves an honorable mention.

Pednekar’s unexpected yet impeccable comic timing is the highlight of the entire film. Everything from being a damsel in sexual distress to a woman who unabashedly chases self-pleasure, Pednekar puts on a genuinely entertaining act for the audience. From being portrayed as a high-schooler to the 32-year-old, independent woman, Pednekar is fit for each role. Her naivety as a teen wins you over, as does her gusto as a full-blown adult with a broken ankle and some very messy relationships. This also speaks volumes about the versatility of her looks.

And, of course, Pednekar is not new to films that address social topics, but “Thank You For Coming” challenges her to balance Kanika’s droll with the responsibility of delivering a very important message to the viewers. Mission accomplished, Ms. Pednekar!

Thank You For Coming

“Thank You For Coming” is a through-and-through entertainer. Everything from the casting — a huge shout out to the rest of the supporting cast including Anil Kapoor, Shehnaaz Gill, Karan Kundra, Kusha Kapila, Gautmik, and Sushant Divkigar, without whom this roller coaster would have lacked the thrills — to the homey locations and even the glitz and glamor in the song sequences, they’re all perfect pieces to help drive home a powerful message: Smash patriarchy!

All images in this article are courtesy of TIFF.

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›