I am one of those Bollywood fans who gets proud witnessing the success of our actresses. Not all are born with a Kapoor, a Bachchan or a Khan surname, yet some actresses have made it on their own. Deepika, Priyanka, Kangana- they all started somewhere, faced failures, yet managed to rule Bollywood due to their continuous hard work.
Bollywood is also a Kingdom of three Khans- Shahrukh, Aamir and Salman. The foremost milestone for any Bollywood actress is when she manages to work with ‘the’ Khan. It does not matter if she is a 20-year old young girl – the moment she dances around a tree with these men in their 50s, her credibility as an actress is established. I do not blame the Khans. When a 64-year old Rajanikant can do it, why not our good looking Khans? As long as we are not fed up of Khans doing the same old tricks for past 25 years (Shahrukh’s Rahul-Raj true love; Salman’s larger-than-life Bhai; Aamir’s holier-than-thou avatar), our Khans will continue embracing younger actresses and discarding older ones.
Nonetheless, things are changing.
There are many actresses who have now managed to come out of the Kingdom of the Khans and create a brand for themselves. Deepika, the current Bollywood female superstar, has been using her star power to raise awareness about mental illness and depression by sharing her own struggle with depression. Kangana, who inspires millions of small town girls with her “rags-to-riches” life story has been vocal about why she would not endorse any fairness cream. Priyanka, another small town girl, who is gradually making her presence felt in Hollywood as well has been vocal about racism.
These are women who have achieved their stardom on their own merits and are now demanding an equal pay for the star power they bring to a movie- a fair demand considering the box office performances of most of the movies these women were part of without the presence of any Khan! Tanu Weds Manu, Piku, Mary Kom, and so on! I have to admit that it was Deepika that overshadowed Shahrukh Khan in Chennai Express. It is rumored that Shahrukh asked the filmmaker that Deepika’s name should be before his name in the credits (thank you Shahrukh). Without the presence of any prominent male actor, Kangana’s Queen and Priyanka’s Mary Kom did an amazing business. Today, a big movie Bajirao Mastani that is facing Shahrukh’s Dilwale in December is relying on Deepika’s and Priyanka’s fan following. That is the kind of power women of Bollywood are enjoying these days.
While it is an exciting time to be a woman in Bollywood, and these successful actresses are raising a voice against gender disparity in wage, one accomplished actress who has been working for 15 years commented, and I quote, “Actresses are paid what they should be. At least, I am happy the way I get paid. That’s why it’s always nice to do a film with Salman, Aamir, Shah Rukh, Akshay, Ajay — because the budget is always high.”
And she is none other than Kareena Kapoor Khan.
Mrs. Kapoor Khan is wrong and regressive in many ways. Unlike her, not all women are “lucky enough” to be able to “associate themselves with successful men” to be paid well in life. Gender disparity in wage is a serious global and social problem that exists in all sectors at all levels. This Time Magazine article might enlighten many people (like Mrs. Kapoor Khan). It quotes:
“Women earn 77% of what men earn. Even after accounting for the fact that women often work in different occupations and industries than men, as well as differences in work experience, union status, education and race, 41% of that gap is still unexplained. When social scientists control for every employment factor that could possibly explain the disparity, women still earn 91% of what men earn for doing the same job.”
People like Mrs. Kapoor Khan should know that gender discrimination has tarnished most of us. If you are a woman, you are likely to be paid less than your male counterpart no matter how talented and educated you are. Just take this study finding to understand the seriousness of the gender discrimination that we are facing. As per the data provided by Center for American Progress, women would need a doctoral degree to earn the same as men with a bachelor’s degree.
Luckily the world is not made up of Mrs. Kareena Kapoor Khan alike and there are many powerful women who defy such regressive views. Even our own so-called ‘dumb’ Alia Bhat is raising a voice against the discrimination (and rightly so because she is as successful as her male counterpart Siddharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan).
As a lifelong Bollywood fan, I sincerely hope our actresses move out of such regressive views and create their own place in Bollywood.
And for now, kudos to Deepika, Priyanka, Kangana, Alia and many other actresses for standing up against the gender discrimination. More women power to you!