As much as I like Sona Mohapatra, I am seriously wondering if she’s turning out to be a soft bully like Kangana Ranaut. What’s with the slut-shaming of other women from the film industry and calling them talentless? Seriously? You can criticise someone’s actions or the lack of it without getting personal.
I cannot deny that the issues which Mohapatra has raised are serious and need to be discussed. There’s no doubt that women like Jacqueline Fernandez and Shehnaz Gill have been supporting the wrong. However, is it as black and white as Mohapatra paints it out to be?
Here’s where I differ from Sona Mohapatra.
I see Jacqueline Fernandez or Shehnaz Gill, less as opportunistic women and more the victims of a patriarchal industry. The misogynistic film industry spares no women, especially outsiders like the women that Mohapatra dismissed as talentless. We’ve seen numerous cases of women who are outsiders seen as trophy girlfriends, but never good enough to be an A-lister’s wife because of their lack of lineage.
I think Jacqueline’s association with Salman Khan has ruined whatever good she had to offer the industry. When she came first, she had a distinct aura. A westernised vibe with a smouldering sensuality that came effortlessly, much like Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi in the seventies. Today, it’s sad to see Jacqueline being reduced to looking like a zombie in crass dance numbers that portrays her as the quintessential bad girl. Calling artists like Jacqueline Fernandez as talentless is elitist and even a smack of arrogance. She’s a legit beauty queen winner who represented her country and came to Bollywood to make it on her own. Jacqueline is a fantastic dancer and has a face that has launched many brands. She’s a legit influencer with a strong Instagram game. She’s also a fantastic speaker who’s hosted interviews with the likes of Katy Perry. Her song “Applause” is among the Top 5 Oscar songs of the year 2022 along with “Naatu Naatu” from RRR.
As for Shehnaz Gill, she’s just entered the dark net. I’d said this back then, how her support for Sajid Khan is only going to earn her breadcrumbs. Her debut in Salman Khan’s movie “Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan” is a cameo. There’s an audience for reality shows, including me. What’s with mocking people taking part in low-brow reality shows? We don’t know their reasons. For some, the money may be important. For some, it’s their stepping stone to fame. Where is the dignity of labour? Also, calling Shehnaz Gill talentless is both insensitive and ignorant. Gill has been an actress and singer in the Punjab film industry for years before she took part in Bigg Boss. She shot to instant fame after the audience loved her in Bigg Boss. She has a unique voice, is highly confident and articulate. Let’s not forget the massive amount of weight she’s lost to fit into the industry. While this might seem superficial at the outset, it takes a lot of willpower, discipline, and grit to lose weight and maintain. It shows her ambition for making it big in the industry, and who are we to deem her talentless or worthless? Besides, you don’t always need talent to make it big. Having ambition is a good place to start, and working your way with consistency can help you reach your goals, and even build that talent along the way.
Opportunistic women or victims?
I’d go to the extent of saying if the film industry is so patriarchal where women have to compromise to get a minor role, we should empathise with their situation for being caught between their dreams and the necessary evil rite of passage of the industry. Not tearing them down brutally. Yes, Shehnaz Gill’s support for Sajid Khan was wrong, but do we know the complete picture? Is she being coerced? Has she been blindsided with offers for better roles? Does she have a skewed sense of morality because of her childhood experiences? We know her father has been accused of rape, and there are even some rumours of him being a paedophile. Do we know enough about these women and their journeys to humiliate them publicly for their choices?
It’s hard for women to make it on their own in the industry without compromising to the higher powers. More than being opportunistic, it’s their trap and I’ve no doubt these women are, in reality, the victims. Jacqueline Fernandez had once cryptically tweeted, “Fame is a beautiful fraud.”
As for talent, even Zeenat Aman was slut shamed and called all sorts of names in her time for her choices in her professional and personal life. But we respect her today. If there’s anything we can learn from, this is to look beyond our ego, and see the good in others and their journey, now and not when it’s too late.
Jacqueline Fernandez or Shehnaz Gill, these women have their own strengths that they can offer to the entertainment industry. There are so many successful celebrities who may not be good actors, but they’ve built a legacy on lesser acknowledged skills and talents such as dancing, and even plain seduction like Katrina Kaif, Bipasha Basu or Sunny Leone. Why cherry-pick Fernandez or Gill for paid PR when the whole industry, including A-listers, plays the game? Forget celebrities, even your regular influencers pay their way to get followers and engagement for brand deals.
Why is the same yardstick not applied to the men, Ms. Mohapatra?
Is Shehnaz Gill and Jacqueline Fernandez the problem? They might be part of the bigger problem, but they barely hold any power within the industry. Why hasn’t Mohapatra or anyone objected to Shah Rukh Khan for taking the favours of Salman Khan, who’s been accused of domestic violence and sexual abuse by his ex-girlfriends, for his comeback film? In fact, both the Khans have collaborated and extend their longevity as lead actors in the industry. Why isn’t John Abraham being questioned for slashing his fees for working with Sajid Khan in his comeback film?
There’s nothing wrong with the issues Mohapatra raised. What she lacked in her message was empathy towards other women who are, in fact, victims, and not opportunists. It’s the men in high places who are actually opportunists, as they prey on women who come to the industry pursuing their dreams. It’s the men in high places who exploit these women, and take the lion’s share both in their roles and remuneration. Instead of attacking the puppets, blame the system and those who hold the strings of control and run the show at the top. In most cases, the puppets have no way out from their doomed stage act, except for perhaps death. My heart goes out to so many women artists because they’ve entangled themselves in a dark net that’s difficult for anyone to come out.
Because there was a lack of empathy and sensitivity, Mohapatra came across more like a borderline troll. Are Jacqueline Fernandez and Shehnaz Gill soft targets for Mohapatra? Maybe she cannot hit out at more successful actresses like Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt, who can act and hence can’t be mocked at for being talentless. Maybe someone like Shehnaz Gill, who’s just starting in the industry, is a more convenient punchbag than an established actress like Katrina Kaif.
Yes, we need more outspoken women. But we also need more than just that.
We need more outspoken women like Sona Mohapatra and Kangana Ranaut in the world.
However, when their message is devoid of empathy for other women, then it’s a problem for all women. Yes, these issues must be raised and discussed. However, selective vilification of women seen as lesser threats is borderline bullying, and not revolutionary.
So yes, while we need more Mohapatras and Ranauts in the world for calling out the wrongs in the system, what we need more is unwavering solidarity among women based on the foundations of kindness, empathy and big picture thinking.
Together, we can break all boundaries of bias and injustice against us, women.
“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding. “– Anon
This blog post is part of the Women’s Day Blog Hop, themed on She: A Tribute to Her, hosted by Swarnali Nath.
I totally agree that you need to look beyond your egos in order to see things unbiasedly. And yes, judgements need to be gender-free.
Ok to begin with, other than Jacqueline i don’t know who the rest of the two women are. But i do get your point. Fighting bias in the film industry must be a different ball game altogether and we definitely shouldn’t judge from outside. Like always i love your straight forward way of writing by calling spade a sade. Loved reading it
I’m not sure who this woman is but I will surely check her out on Google tonight when I’m free from work. Shaming people in any way from any gender is just proving the sad and characterless upbringing of the shamers!
Being straight forward is not a bad trait but one has to be thoughtful while uttering words about others. It is very easy to pull anyone down. Everyone deserves respect and whatever they do in their lives is their choice.
It takes a lot of hard-work and determination to make it in the industry.
We don’t know what is the motivation or their story.
Sadly, there are unfair judgments & aspersions. Solidarity and empathy is much needed.
Being outspoken is fine as long as we don’t cross the line. Women must support women.
I have been an ardent fan of ShehnazGill since bigboss days. She doesn’t know political correctness she is just a village girl who wants to grow n the industry. She knows only what Siddharth Shukla.taught her.
There are many women like her who are unaware. To judge them is an equally misogynistic attitude and hypocrisy. Thanks for addressing this in a nature light.
I have been a great fan of Sona Mahapatra since my school days. I was crazy to have a glimpse of her videos in the TV back then. What you have said here is very rightly pointed out. We shouldn’t pull down others if we can’t uplift their spirit. Thanks for joining the blog hop, Tina. Much gratitude.
Putting each other down and showing lack of empathy is definitely not the way to create awareness or bring about a change. You rightly pointed out that the women in the entertainment industry are probably puppets (not demeaning here just pointing out that they probably don’t have a choice) and we don’t know who is pulling the strings (or we do know and are just not gutsy enough to call them out?)
I have been turned off by both Kangana and Sona for a while now, because their acts (tweets?) seem more attention seeking than creating awareness.
My favorite line here was, “You don’t always need talent to make it big. Having ambition is a good place to start, and working your way with consistency can help you reach your goals, and even build that talent along the way.”
A great post, Tina.
Wow! What a thought provoking blog and you raised a very interesting point. Why should the weak or newbie’s be targeted when more established ones are also doing the same business. We need solidarity and empathy and not just women who raise voices, rather women who support the clan and empower each other. Great writeup Tina!
Women have had to take the rough road to success. Whatever we say, Bollywood especially is still a man’s world. Women should stand up for each other.. It is difficult to make it to the top in movies or the corporate world. Men hold the whip and it lashes out.
“So yes, while we need more Mohapatras and Ranauts in the world for calling out the wrongs in the system, what we need more is unwavering solidarity among women based on the foundations of kindness, empathy and big picture thinking.”
This summed up the blogpost for me. We need strong women, but we do need them to have empathy as well. I lost all respect for Kangana some time back, and it seem Sona seems to be going the same way.
I applaud you for writing on this topic.
There’s always a strong punch in your writing Tina and one is forced to pause and ponder.
It’s disheartening to see women putting down other women, especially in public in this manner. It is true, we do not know the full story so it is not our place to judge. I love the ending quote on opinion and empathy, it is thought-provoking. Nice read, Tina.
Though I did not know much about recent controversy about support of Shahnaz gill and jacqueline. but I have followed the Big boss 13 and loved the Shahnaaz’s persnailty and her chemistry with Sidhharth. seems this year’s Big boss also has given much content. I am not following this year due to hectic schedule.
Truly unbiased society for women begins when they stand up for themselves so that their queries be considered.
I totally agree with your points. Though I don’t know much about Shahnaz, I heard how Jacqueline was being judged and called out to satisfy their egos. It’s really disheartening to see women pulling other women down. I really wish for this to change.
I am probably living under a rock because I really don’t know who Sona Mahapatra is. As for the controversy, it is always easy to pick on soft targets. The lady would not even attempt to shame the a-listers, let alone the men. Disappointing to see women pulling down women.
I definitely would judge anyone who sides with Sajid Khan given his history and character but you raised a very valid point, especially in today’s India.
We are openly seeing coercion work in politics and force much more famous people to change their stands one fine evening so it would be logical to assume the same occurs even at this level.
Sometimes even our fight for a valid cause becomes narrow due to our own perception. It is but a common perception that the ones who are doing shows like big boss are no brainers more so for the female brigade. It is sad that a celebrity whose voice I like is supporting that biased look
To be honest I was not aware of this issue. Glad to have read your post and know about all this. I so agree with you when you said that women who can voice their opinion without empathy for other women, serve no purpose! This post is thought provoking!
I’m not too sure of the situation because I didn’t follow up on this news. But pulling down other women is certainly not acceptable.
Call me uninformed but I’m only able to understand the matter from context here, and hope that I’ve got it right. Sona isn’t a big name herself and is often seen making unfair statements about other women. Could be a case of attention seeking or plain jealousy. Whatever the case, both Jacqueline and Shenaz should turn a blind eye to such trolling. Sour grapes?
Wow this is an insightful post and I second you on each and every point you’ve raised. I started following Sona Mohapatra after watching a podcast of hers and consider her to be a class-singer. But I was sort of having a second-hand embarrassment for her over her single-sided rant on one girl who is not even responding to her tweets. The point you raised about SRK and Salman is bang on.
You spoke my mind Tina. I have agreed at some point with Mohapatra and Kangna Ranaut too, including when recently she raised voice on Shehnaz gill for supporting Sajid Khan, but just that one word ‘talentless’ sinked down the sense of all her statement. However sometimes I do agree they go over and senseless in passing nasty comments on every other person or incident.
Your articles are eye opener. I agree with you here. Instead of helping each other some women discourage other women just for ego or personal differences.
This is a fantastic write-up Tina. I agree with you with most of the points that you have written in this post. It is absolutely wrong to accuse only few names like Jacqueline and Shahnaaz when many of the top actors despite of their acting skills have made it big. I agree that both these ladies have made it big by their efforts and hardwork.
Judging another person journey with one or two act is illogical and Sona Mahopatra is taking limelight by pin pointing out on the personalities to gain one, totally unfair. Good to read different take for the bloghop.