Dear Rangoli Chandel and Kangana Ranaut,
I hope this open letter finds you in some peace and goodwill. I know that you may not take it well and you might even grimace the next time you see my name appear anywhere but I must take this opportunity to ask you a few questions that have burdened my mind for a very long time now.
I must admit, first and foremost, that I have always been a huge fan of Kangana Ranaut’s courage and her ability to speak out against nepotism in Bollywood. She has never shied away from any controversial topics and that’s a good thing. We always need voices to start a conversation when it comes to topics that are important to the sake of social justice. Kangana spoke up against the abuse she faced at the hands of her ex, Aditya Pancholi, she has stood up to Karan Johar calling him the ‘flag-bearer of nepotism in Bollywood’ and several other big wigs.
I have written extensive think-pieces applauding her for her bravery. Even when she turned into a meme, I flinched. Here was a woman voicing her opinion in a very closed industry where it is known that outsiders have a more difficult time climbing to the top as compared to the privileged ‘star kids’. Then there is you, Rangoli, who I also admired for holding your head high and being supportive of your sister.
But what has happened over the last few months has really made my disappointment in the two of you grow more and more. Starting from taking digs at fellow female stars (which is something a good feminist just wouldn’t do) to asking for Pakistan’s destruction, I am frankly appalled by your views and the ways you express them.
What got me to write this letter today, however, was how my illusions were shattered completely after I saw your bitter diatribe towards three very well-respected and celebrated women - Soni Razdan, Alia Bhatt and Anupama Chopra.
Anupama Chopra has been a renowned critic and film journalist a lot longer than any of the people mentioned in this letter. She’s an author of multiple books on Bollywood and she’s also been very supportive of Kangana in the past.
Soni Razdan has also never spoken up against the constant acts of micro-aggression shown by both of you against her daughter Alia Bhatt. One may have a valid view about Alia’s entry into the business due to her parentage but what the young star has succeeded in doing today in Bollywood, is purely based on her own ability as an actor on screen. The public, after all, is the harshest critic of them all. There are many ‘star kids’ who have come and gone and have not always gotten the stardom they expected. Primarily due to the fact that while nepotism can help you land a position, it will never ever help you in sustaining it.
In the wake of the terrorist attack in Pulwama in February, a tragic incident no doubt, Kangana’s diatribes against Pakistan shocked me to no end. How could a woman, who stands up against nepotism and thus, by default, stands for fairness and justice, be so cruel towards human beings just because they don’t belong to her country? Feminists don’t stand and scream for war. War is a tool that often uses women and children as collateral. Bloodshed and murder is not a feminist battle cry. If anything, feminism speaks about how war is but a tool for the powerful to manipulate the disenfranchised and support the agenda of those nesting comfortably in the echelons of power. War, especially between two nuclear states, is simply not an option.
It astounds me and breaks my heart that such gorgeous, talented, brave women such as the two of you choose to use their talent and their intelligence in such an awful, negative way. Many young women look up to both of you as female icons. What are you teaching them, what is the message you have sent out into the world as flagbearers of feminist justice? While you make excellent points about Bollywood not doing as much as it needed to in the light of #MeToo, you are also taking down other women simply because they don’t agree with you. As a firm supporter of freedom of speech, I thoroughly believe you are entitled to your world view and are free to propagate them as you see fit. But as a feminist and as someone who had always admired Kangana’s talent and her courage, I felt the need to write this letter to express just how strange it is for me to go through your timeline, Rangoli or your press conferences, Kangana, where you are both doing nothing but taking down other people for no reason. Whether it is Alia Bhatt who had a very classy response to Kangana’s jibes (“If I work harder, maybe she will like my performance”) or Shabana Azmi’s response, who you call ‘Tukde Tukde gang’, (“May God bless Kangana”) everyone who has responded to your attacks has tried to take the higher road and been dignified about it.
If you really want to stand for justice and equality, you have to start being the change. Stop the hate and stop the unwarranted attacks. They will help no one. Not even you.