Power politics and hero-worshipping: Female actors silently, helplessly bear the brunt

Not just young one but even seasoned, veteran artistes have faced discrimination and misconduct in the past.

ByHaricharan Pudipeddi

Published Jun 01, 2024 | 4:56 PMUpdatedJun 01, 2024 | 5:03 PM

Female actors face discrimination

Indian cinema is over 100 years old but the film industry, by and large, remains undoubtedly male-dominated.

As much as several female actors over the last decade have carved a strong place for themselves across various film industries, it is still a struggle for the majority to be even treated on the same pedestal as their male counterparts—all thanks to power dynamics and discrimination.

This question is even more valid after the recent incident where actor-politician Nandamuri Balakrishna earned the wrath of a section of people after aggressively shoving actor Anjali on stage at the pre-release event of Gangs of Godavari (2024).

Balakrishna’s objectionable behaviour might have come as a rude shock for many, but he’s just one among many such stars who abuse their power and take people for granted, especially women around them, and this has been happening for many years.

The actor’s improper behaviour is the perfect example of how deep misogyny runs in the Telugu film industry.

Despite strong opposition from many on social media for his deplorable behaviour, it’s safe to say that it would’ve created the least damage to Balakrishna’s image.

Two days after the incident and following the furore over social media, Anjali stated in Balakrishna’s defence!

Well, call it gender discrimination, power politics, or something else, but the truth is that female actors silently and helplessly bear the brunt.

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‘Balakrishna’s behaviour was appalling’

A dubbing artiste, who has worked in over 50 Telugu films, spoke on the condition of anonymity, to South First. She explained how she was forced to work overtime quite a few times in her career.

“There have been instances where I’ve been asked to put in extra hours on a particular day just because the director wanted dubbing to be completed at the last minute. Even when I’ve told a few directors that I needed to be relieved early, I’ve been asked to stay longer,” she recalled.

“Most of the time, it’s not even a heartfelt request. They just expect you to stay and complete the work. Can they behave this way with a male actor? Can they force him to stay and dub a few hours more because they wanted the output on the same day,” she asked.

Reacting to the Anjali incident, the dubbing artiste said it was very unfortunate, and it didn’t look like Anjali was comfortable.

“When Anjali was pushed, it came as a shock, and she didn’t know how to react. Therefore, she ended up laughing, but she didn’t look comfortable. Even Neha Shetty, standing next to Anjali, was completely taken aback.”

Gender discrimination in film industry

Not just young female actors but even seasoned, veteran artistes, too, have faced such discrimination in the past.

In the popular chat show Ali Tho Saradaga, veteran actor Sri Lakshmi, who worked in over 300 Telugu films, opened up about how she couldn’t get to say goodbye to her youngest brother who passed away due to jaundice.

Recalling the incident, she said: “This one time, I was shooting for a serial when I got a call that my younger brother was critical. Usually, my day gets wrapped up by 9 pm, but I wanted to leave earlier as I got the call.”

Though the female actor informed her director, he didn’t let her go. “He kept on saying there were a few combination scenes that we needed to shoot, and you’d have to stay back. He persisted so much and promised to leave me by 10 pm.”

“I only got free by midnight and by the time I reached home, my brother was gone. I was so furious at the director at that moment but there was nothing I could do. Imagine if it was some male lead actor, I’m sure they would’ve cancelled the shoot,” Sri Lakshmi added.

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‘It’s power politics and hero-worship’

Last year, director AS Ravi Kumar kissed actor Mannara Chopra without consent during the trailer launch event of his film, Thiragabadara Saami (2024).

In the middle of the press meet, Ravi Kumar kissed Mannara on the cheek, which left many shocked.

Just like her counterpart Anjali, Mannara too didn’t know how to react and burst out laughing.

Ravi Kumar dared to go on to explain that he kissed her with affection and there was nothing wrong with it.

A Telugu producer, who doesn’t want to be named, told South First that male stars get away with their misbehaviour because of the power and influence they possess.

“These stars with large fan bases always come from powerful families. Their fanbase is so strong that these fans always take their side, no matter what happens. Even after this Anjali incident, so many fans backed Balakrishna but not Anjali. Some went on to say that if Anjali had a problem with the whole incident, she had the right to speak up. And not others on her behalf.”

Filmmaker Hansal Mehta, who questioned Balakrishna’s actions in the video and called him a scumbag, has been viciously targeted by Balakrishna’s fans.

On X (formerly Twitter), some fans dug out a picture of Mehta kissing his wife in public and have shamed him for the same.

The producer went on to explain that revolting against such stars could cost people their careers. “Most of the time, female actors don’t even react to such behaviour because they know they’re dealing with powerful people, and going against them would cost them their career.”

He further added that such behaviour is prevalent in every industry.

“Female actors across industries face discrimination. This is a known fact. They face a lot of awkward situations where they feel helpless and completely dominated by their male colleagues,” the producer concluded.

Also Read: A recall of Nandamuri Balakrishna’s ‘insignificantly unacceptable’ behaviour in public places