-Ali Peter John
They say that women have found their places and have made a place for themselves. True, there are some extraordinary and exceptional stories of women who have found their way in a world still dominated by men, but the bias still continues even in the most enlightened and educated classes. Girls are still considered as an inferior and secondary class of human beings. The fight for equality, no doubt is still on and girls and women are still showing signs of going against the system and breaking boundaries, barriers and traditions. Girls are growing into women who are and can sometimes as powerful or even more powerful than men.
I have always been a strong supporter of the cause of women, a belief I think I must have inherited from my father, Haroon Ali who had three daughters from his second wife and had given them the freedom to groom their own destinies and when he had two sons from his third wife, Mary, wanted their third child to be a daughter and was so disappointed that when Mary gave birth to yet another boy, he is said to have told the nurse who gave him the good news to throw the baby boy into the well outside our house. He may have said it in a light-hearted manner, but I always believe that there is some hidden truth behind such statements, but that’s another story and another time…
Let me tell you four little stories which will show how men have a bias against girls even in the world of films….
Rajesh Khanna was in his way down from the pedastal he was put on as the first superstar of Indian Cinema. He added misery to his own story when he opted for another woman called Tina Munim even though he had a gorgeous wife like Dimple who was the mother of their two daughters, Twinkle and Rinkle. Shakti Samanta,a leading filmmaker and a partner of Rajesh Khanna in their company Shaktiraj Films,a banner under which they had made several big hits, all of them with Rajesh Khanna took Inspiration from the life of his friend and partner and announced a film called“Alaag Alaag”which was an obvious reference to the breakup between Khanna and Dimple. The film was launched with great fanfare at the Natraj Studios (now defunct) where Samanta also had his office. Khanna had made arrangements to see that the clap for the mahurat shot of the film be given by his little daughter Twinkle who was the centre of attraction, looking beautiful in a white dress. Everyone was going gaga over Twinkle, but I distinctly remember Rajesh Khanna telling his coterie (also known as chamchas, a breed he is supposed to have started in the industry and was one of the reasons for his breakup with Dimple),“yeh ladki khoobsurat toh bahut hai, lekin duffer hai, maaloom nahi aage jaakar kya karegi”? And all his chamchas laughed at his statement, which was a part of their jobs as chamchas….
The years passed and Twinkle surprised her father and everyone else by being chosen as the heroine of the debut-making film of Bobby Deol“Baaraat”directed by Rajkumar Santoshi. She couldn’t make a big impact and was sensible enough to know that acting was not for her and took one big step and got married to a rising star like Akshay Kumar. She not only took over the responsibility of taking charge of Akshay’s home but also his career and their son, Aarav. That was not all, she turned into an author an wrote columns and was soon known as one of the leading women writers in the country.. She is also looking after the kind of subjects Akshay has to do and has been a new direction to Akshay who was only known as the Khiladi Kumar, but is now doing films like“Toilet Ek Prem Katha”,“Airlift”,“Padman”and the just released“Kesari”. Twinkle has proved her late father entirely wrong.
I was a regular at the house of Sunil Dutt for more than twenty-five years and knew almost exactly how Mr Dutt’s mind worked as a father. Stories about how he brought about a transformation in his wayward son, Sanjay Dutt are now a part of history, but he was also concerned about his daughters. He got his elder daughter Namrata married to Kumar Gaurav, the son of his best friend, Rajendra Kumar, but he was always worried about his younger daughter, Priya. At one of our lunch meetings, he openly expressed his concern for Priya who like a typical daughter of the house was serving us. He had a loving look at her and said,“mujhe iss ladki ke baare mein bahut fiqr lagti hai, bahut bholi hai, bichari, khuda hi jaane kya karegi mere jaane ke baad. Dutt Sahaab was underestimating her. She took on the challenge of fighting the elections to the Lok Sabha from his constituency and won with a thumping majority. She also took on the challenge of keeping the Nargis Dutt Memorial Trust for victims of cancer alive and was also an active part of the Spastics Society of India which was run by her mother, Nargis and fought the elections for the second time from a new constituency and was an unfortunate victim of the massive Modi wave in 2014. She almost gave up politics and even made a statement in the media about her decision to keep away from the elections in 2019. But it must have been her father guiding her and she is now back in the fray with the will to win growing stronger. She is a bold combination of a politician, a social worker and a house wife, which is what the ideal woman of today should be like, I think for whatever I am worth…..
Jeetendra was the superstar of Hindi Films he made in the South and was making crores. It was during one of his family’s visit to Hyderabad that he saw his little daughter, Ekta and said,“mujhe pareshaani mere bete ki nahi hai, pareshaani hai toh yeh buddhu ladki ki hai”and they all laughed without knowing what the future had in store for that little girl.
Jeetendra finished his grand and successful innings in the South and came back home only to see his daughter Ekta not only grow up but to be the head of a television and film company and becoming a cult figure all over India and a name synonymous with success and power.
Anil Kapoor was so busy building his own career that he did not even know in which class his daughter Sonam was studying, forget Rhea and his only son Harshwardhan. Sonam took every decision on her own and the first step she took was to join Sanjay Leela Bhansali as his assistant and was then chosen to be the leading lady of Bhansali’s“Saawariya”and the rest is history. Rhea is a producer on her own and the strong point of both the daughters of Anil and his wife Sunita is that they have rarely used the name of their father for their own ends which has made Anil Kapoor a very proud father, something he had never dreamt of when he read doing two shifts and was busy working out in the morning and over working through the night to be of any great support to them….
These examples are more than enough, I think to let people know that girls and women can no longer be taken for granted because they can fight for their own places in the sun with or without slogans like“Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao”.
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