Akshay Kumar Finds His Way Into A Women’s Film

Even when Bollywood makes movies  about  powerful women they need  the male presence  to bolster the  film’s boxoffice  prospects.

That’s a sad fact. Lately the  supremely saleable Akshay Kumar has  been promoting  Mission Mangal ,  a film based  on  facts, about a group of women scientists  planning and executing a  mission to Mars. You may  have seen the gorgeous  gallery  of ladies  Tapsee Pannu, Vidya Balan, Kirti Sanon  and  others  . lining  for  the promotion  ofMission Mangal.

 Right in the   centre is  Akshay Kumar  hogging the maximum  limelight  when  the  gallant thing to do would have been  to let  the ladies take centrestage , and  let them  enjoy the company of their own gender . Akshay Kumar’s prominent  presence  in the  publicity  of  Mission Mangal is  a reminder   of how deeply steeped  Bollywood is in patriarchal mindsets.

At  the  Mission Mangal media interactions,   Akshay   make his  presence  felt with his wisecracks and pranks.At one  event he  fell off his chair, literally, as Sonakshi Sinha  giggled  helplessly , like a faithful heroine is supposed to when the  mighty male  superstar cracks joke or undertakes pranks.Even the  smartest  of  leading ladies giggle and laugh at  the  dumbest  of  jokes cracked by the  male superstar.

Akshay  could have  opted  out of the film’s  publicity , allowed the ladies to have their day rather than hanging around constantly distracting the  women from  having  their  say. At one media interaction when  Kirti  Kulhari  was  answering  a question, Akshay distracted  the entire media by  answering one  of  the  journalists’ phone  while  his leading  ladies  giggled collectively.

“He must have  died  of  shock,” one  of them gasped reminding us  that it was THE Akshay Kumar  deigning  to  speak to  a commoner  on the phone.

 Kirti watched the  tamasha and then went back to answering the question. In another video interview I  saw the  interviewer asking the ladies of Mission Mangal to one by one answer  questions on one topic: “How well do you know Akshay Kumar?” There was even a prize  for the  lady who got the most answers  correct.

This  kind of pampering of  the ego is a prevalent practice in the patriarchal entertainment  industry. But  to see intelligent  savvy ladies like  Vidya Balan and Tapsee Pannu getting hysterical over the hero’s juvenile pranks is  not  exactly what we would  see as indicative  of a progressive  cinema.

One  of  the lovely ladies in Mission Mangal admitted to me that the  hero-giri was  a bit stifling. “But it’s the way  things are. The male superstar’s face will be more prominent than ours on the poster because he  will bring in the audience , not us. Hopefully once  the audience comes  to see the film they will  appreciate  the  fact that MissionMangal is not about the male superstar. It’s about us.”

It’s a long shot. But didn’t Sahir Ludhianvi dream of a  new India in the song Wohsubah kabhi toh aayegi  four decades ago?

Nothing has changed. Forget  a mission to Mars, a journey into India’s ground-reality about gender  equations is  the  need  of  the hour.

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