Mallika Sherawat exclusively speaks to Al Jazeera English on Bollywood’s impact on women

MUMBAI: I kissed on screen and was intimate with my co-stars to show realism on screen, Mallika Sherawat told Al Jazeera English in a candid panel discussion on Bollywood’s impact on gender norms in India in their special programming The Stream presented by Femi Oke and Malika Bilal.

Bollywood's multi-billion dollar industry has massive reach but can it shape gender norms in India? Seductive musical numbers stir debate about whether portrayals of women bleed into real-life relationships. Industry critics argue these films reinforce an unhealthy gender dynamic while others say its impact is overstated. Does Bollywood have a social responsibility?

Speaking on Al Jazeera English, when asked about her views about the kind of roles you have done as an actress. Mallika replied,” When I started my career, it was almost a decade ago, I did films like ‘Murder’ which was a very-very controversial film for the time 10 years ago because it depicts a women having an extra marital affair, it depicts sexuality on screen, it depicts passion. But then I always thought that living in a 21st century how else will you show passion. It got to be real, it got to be realistic and that’s why I kissed on screen, I was intimate with my co-star because I wanted to bring a certain kind of realism on screen; which I think is very very important.”

When asked about her thoughts on scantily clad no relevance to the plots item number. Mallika replied, “Singing and dancing has always been a part of Indian culture and Indian movies, that’s where Indian cinema is based of it came from Nautanki. Singing and Dancing has always been there. I don’t even know what is this called item number; I see it as a song and dance, which is a part of Bollywood movie, part of Bollywood tradition that makes Bollywood unique in every part of the world. I would like to say and ask what’s wrong with looking attractive and glamorous on screen for your audience. After all it’s a movie business and if you are glamorous and appealing. What’s wrong with that? Why actresses should be judged because they are looking good and glamorous. Are you trying to tell me that looking glamorous and sexy is invitation to rape? They definitely do not promote inequality. And why only actresses. You talk about men. There was very popular Bollywood movie called ‘Dostana’ where they objectified male star John Abraham. And if you talk about Brad Pitt, George Clooney. Traditionally I would say yes it is being women who were objectified but now it is just people. It’s objectification of people. There could be sexy and glamorous men; there could be appealing glamorous women as well on screen.”

When asked about her comfort level on the roles she has been doing, Mallika said, “I look at it as art and I am again saying that I am doing nothing that promotes in equality of the women. On the contrary I have always portrayed very strong characters in my movies. And I have always looked to do parts which have a meaning. Be it ‘Murder’ where I have played a women who is lonely and she is having an extra marital affair and she is searching her meaning in life or be it ‘Pyar ke side effects’ or be it ‘Myth’ or be it any movie. I do nothing that promotes inequality. And as I said I mean where objectification is concerned, today it is objectification of people. But yes we all should take collective responsibility for it. We are all responsible for it. Why Bollywood everyone else is responsible for it. Are you trying to tell me those two poor girls who got raped in India and hanged on tree were objectified; were they provokably dressed. They were just relieving themselves in the field and they got raped. Are you gonna blame Bollywood for it.”

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