For better or for worse you have become a voice that is heard on the social media . Does that put a responsibility on you?
Well yes ,I suppose I never saw myself as raising my voice or speaking out on social media as part of the responsibility.Always it was something which was very organic An artist as a thinking person you know you engage with the world around you and then the thing with social media is that sometimes things that you see on it are so extreme and they are so horrifying that you forced into the reaction.
And then comes the backlash?
Yes, if you speak honestly , perhaps because there are not enough people speaking honestly, I don’t know….And then you know of course there is sort of a public profile because of my film work, because of that people start paying more attention to you and yes it puts more responsibility on you because when you know that you are more under the gaze and being watched more carefully then you should be more responsible for what you should say.
Why has there not been more intense response from Bollywood to the Kathua outrage?
I think as far as this particular case is concerned the whole outrage that has happened where everyone, you know, whether it’s the people from bollywood, even citizens and common people and people who are not actors , the outrage is really genuine and widespread , as it should be because the crime is so horrifying and so heinous and its says something so scary about our society especially as you know, what the attitude of the government is in both these cases(Kathua and Unnao).
How important is it for celebrities to speak up and why do we see so little of the film fraternity voice their protest apart from the token tweets?
You know ,Sir , very honestly people say that celebrities should speak up and voice their opinion when such incident happen and someone said that they need to be responsible.But look at them when they speak! Look at this placard campaign we intitated .I reached out to so many of my friends and collegues from the film industry and so many of them responded because they also felt strongly about this case .They participated in this placard campaign ,and it was a success .It really brought attention to the issue and people who are non-actors and fans of stars started following it and it really became like a trend .And there are also so many young people holding placars.It spread far out into villages in Rajasthan … you know like all over india and look at the kind of hate that has come to all of us.
Hatred from whom, where?
Especially from the organised trolls of the Sangh Parivaar and BJP itself , the kind of vicious trolling and frankly irrelevant, stupid hateful messages that have been coming .And then you actually ask yourself why Bollywood actors should put themselves out there and become targets of such hateful, horrible paid trolls.
Does this thought deter you from your campaigns on the social media?
Actually now I am more engaging with activism in Bollywood and activism as a bollywood personality and now I reliase why so many stars remain silent on so many issues.Because why would you want to put yourself out there?Bollywood personalities are so vulnerable because everyone knows our faces .Most of them know our dresses,shoes, bags, homes, whereabouts… so why we become vulnerable to such crazy hounding in the kind of climate of India where it seems there is no accountability for any kind of a heinous crime .
So you think Bollywood has no reason to take up social causes?
Frankly I really don’t think the onus should be on Bollywood anymore because this is not a society that deserves that artists speak up because you don’t have respect for artistes, and if we don’t have respect for artistes then we don’t have respect for the freedom of expression .We don’t have respect for dissenting opinion .Why is India not responsive to issues of citizen rights, social responsibility or freedom of expression of the people as in US?
How do you deal with all the hatred and trolls? Do you take them on headlong? Are you and your mom not worried about your safety?
Yeah ,it is tiring to see the kind of hatred and violence but not only hatred but also at the ignorance and illiteracy that is so much on social media.I know some of them are paid for,but I don’t know what kind of comfort these paid trolls provide .What kind of society have we become that people take money to write these horrible things about the gang rape of an eight-year old girl , I do, I mean I try to brace against this hatred. I am trying to get used to it .I try to tell myself that I am fighting a good fight .Whenever a society goes through a terrible phase, as ours is going through, then the path to stand for whatever is right will always be harder then to stand up with the dominating narrative.I keep on reminding myself that this is a good fight .I do take on trolls head on.
Most trolls just want attention?
People ask me , why do you reply to trolls they are nobody , let them be.It isn’t that.The point is that they maybe nobody, but there may be ten people who are reading their tweets and get influenced by their bullshit.I think what retweeting does is it is amazing and even the shared app which I use a lot where you can see what the person has written and then you can respond because I think it is very important to expose the hatred and the low level of humanity of so many of these trolls.And some of them are public figures who have verification ticks on them.So it is important to call them out because silence in the times like this is termed as complicity.
Why is is that when you speak out against outrage you get no support from within your own film fraternity ? You spoke for Kareena Kapoor Khan. But I didn’t see her speaking for herself?
As I see and like I said ,now I understand why Bollywood stars don’t get involved, doesn’t speak out because the kind of hatred they receive at the end it’s quite shocking and as far as Kareena and Saif goes, the kind of wild filth they have to deal with over naming of their son Taimur, it must be quite traumatic for them as a family , as parents.I completely understand why Kareena won’t to get involved in a slandering match with trolls.But you know, we who are her colleagues and you know and especially since I asked her to participate in the placard campaign it becomes my responsibility to support he.It was very heartening to see her participating in the campaign as she feel very strongly about this issue,So yeah I don’t think any Bollywood star should speak out because this is not a society that respects anyone speaking out.Then why make yourself vulnerable to the hate of the absolutely low life you find on twitter?
Do you somewhere feel your work may suffer due to your outspokenness? Yeh ladki Bahot zyada bolti hai … syndrome?
You know…I don’t know….I don’t think of it as a syndrome.That will only cause unnecessary anxiety and paranoia .I think that I’m standing up for what is right as a citizen .I think standing up for constitutional values is everyone’s responsibility as citizens.I think it is a good fight and I think you need to fight for what you love and you know I love my country very deeply and I feel very bad about the changes that are happening in a society, in our politics and I feel you have to put in a fight for what you believe in. I suppose you can never say about what will happen tomorrow.I can only say that there is more to life than landing some advantageous film projects , certainly it is about my life so I need to stand by what I believe in.
What do you think of SriReddy speaking up about the casting couch in Telugu industry naming and shaming big ones?
Well, I must admit that I have not followed the case very closely, have read the headlines on it…that’s it.But I just feel everyone has their own experience .Everyone has their own journey and everyone has to choose their own ways of expressing themselves and in some sense have to choose their own ways to protest I know that lady’s protest may be seen to be very extreme.But you know sometimes situations are so desperate that you need to take extreme steps,So I don’t want to comment on anyone’s choice or personal choices or how they want to protest.
Do you think the casting couch needs to be tackled on a war footing?
I don’t know how the South industry functions.But my experience in Mumbai is that there is a lot of sexual harassment at workplace but there are also good people doing good work.Yes I know a struggler’s career can be about the slower route and maybe longer route or the quickie path. It is a more boring longer route that I took, landing in audition work your way up, you know like a ladder.I started doing small roles and then landing the bigger roles.However, there are no absolutes in the industry.So there must be people who are misusing their reputation and privilege But there are lots of people who are doing good work and casting on the basis of talent and you know, you must have seen tremendous talent among young actors and fresh talent today in Bollywood.It is very interesting the kind of stories we are telling in films.They are different.They are new and they have so much flavor.And you see the range of amazingly talented performers. So I think all hope is not lost in that sense