Clearly Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut has never heard of the maxim “silence is golden”. The fallout of that is having a detrimental effect on us, the listening public.
Kangana’s latest performance — establishing herself as the Mad Queen of Bollywood who has been afflicted by a chronic case of verbal diarrhea — took place at the press conference for her film, Panga, which releases tomorrow. Kangana was asked what she had to say in response to Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising’s comment that Jyoti Singh's mother, Asha Devi, should forgive the rapists.
Kangana’s response was a wonderful display of the misogyny that we’ve all come to expect as part and parcel of the normal discourse in India. Kangana said that Jaising should be kept in prison with the four rapists for four days as that’s what’s required — essentially implying that Jaising deserves to be raped. And that women like Jaising are the ones whose wombs (konkh) create sons who are rapists. People who sympathise and feel affection for murderers and rapists are the ones who give birth to rapists.
First off, the question was inaccurate, because Jaising actually said that Asha Devi should ask for life imprisonment and not insist on the death sentence. More importantly though, Kangana’s response summed up what most women hear on Twitter or online while stating an opinion others may not agree with. The response is not a logical or calm discussion. The response is to say that women with opinions that are diverse to yours should be raped and sexually brutalised.
Now, this is a response we expect from men, repressed ones mainly, who are linguistically challenged. But that a woman of Kangana’s stature — and one who has spent hours and weeks she has been a victim of sexism — would say this is disheartening, to put it mildly.
To be fair to Asha Devi, there is no reason for her to be Christian and turn the other cheek. Her daughter was raped and finally died. It was, by any measure, an extremely brutal crime. Being India, the law took its own lengthy course and finally the rapists were convicted. That she wants exact revenge is understandable, even if not palatable to many.
This is the same woman who that the murder of the suspected rapists in Hyderabad, while they were supposedly escaping, should be lauded. That she is angry is clear, and expecting her to forgive is frankly expecting a lot from someone in her position. It was unnecessary for Jaising to offer advice on how she should be more lenient and forgiving. It is easy to preach when you aren’t in that person’s shoes. Asha Devi has asked for the death sentence because Indian law allows for the death penalty. The law needs to change, not Jyoti Singh's mother. And that is frankly what Jaising should be focusing on: moving our legal system to remove the death penalty.
Everyone knows Kangana has a lot of views. And her views seem to be shared on overdrive especially when a movie launch is round the corner. A few weeks ago, when Kangana was asked to comment on Saif Ali Khan’s comments on India, she the existence of the Mahabharata proves that a united India existed before the British took over the country.
“If there was no Bharat then what was Mahabharat? That 5,000-year-old text that was written, what was it?” she asked “What did Ved Vyas write? Some people have just created these narratives that suit them. Sri Krishna was in Mahabharat. So there was a Bharat, that’s why it was mahaan (great). All the kings of India came together to fight that war. You see even Europe has these small nations. But these had a collective identity, that’s why Sri Krishna went to all these places with Pandavas and the Kauravas, to ask them who will be a part of the war.”
She apparently doesn’t know the difference between mythology and history, and that is just one of the many worrying aspects of Kangana’s utterances.
The limits of her understanding also include the sphere of basic economics. During the citizenship law protests, when buses were burnt by protesters, she had , at the trailer launch of her film: “We're still hooked to the pre-Independence era, where our country was under siege or bondage, and people had captured us by force or the gun. Going on strikes, shutting down the country or not paying taxes against those people was considered cool…What gives you the right to burn buses, trains and create ruckus in the country? A bus costs around Rs 70-80 lakh, and that is not a small amount."
That, despite being a taxpayer herself and a filmstar, she does not know that almost everyone who avails a service — buying film tickets, train tickets and so on — is paying indirect taxes, is perturbing.
The problem with Kangana and her very feeble grasp of facts and propriety doesn’t arise solely from her. The reason why we have to suffer her ill-informed and progressively offensive and sexist views is . If the media hadn’t held her up as this great feminist and intellectual hope for Bollywood and poured praise on her every uttering, lauding her for badmouthing various ex-lovers simply because they didn’t choose to leave their spouses for her, and kept interviewing her on primetime shows — we wouldn’t find ourselves at this pass.
The media props up anyone who gets them eyeballs. The more sensationalist or controversial a person’s statements, the better. If the person happens to be attractive to boot, they’ve hit the jackpot.
Thanks to this unadulterated adulation on primetime news channels, Kangana now thinks she is Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda rolled into one. And we who wrote reams of columns on how our celebrities should be more political and use their celebrity for national good are living to rue our words. Mary Shelley couldn’t have created the monster we have created now, and all we can do is sit back and watch it run rampage over our finer sensibilities.