#aMENd

Abhay Deol, The Ultimate Feminist Heartthrob

Abhay Deol

Abhay Deol has always stood out as a different breed in Bollywood. For one, the dimpled heartthrob has never shied away from vocalising on social issues that demand attention. Despite hailing from a prominent film family. To that end, Deol is one of the fair few who have managed to retain their authentic selves both on-screen and off in an industry that thrives on trendy affectations and calculated moves.

That Deol’s activism isn’t just a put-on show comes through in his brutally honest takes that any other mainstream actor dare not take for fear of falling out of public favour or commercially big projects. Because that’s what happens when you go against the tide, right? But Deol, as fearless as ever, has professed ideas of equality, consent and feminism in open declaration. His repertoire of work may not mark him as the quintessential ‘Hindi film hero,’ but he has proved, time and time again, that he is the ultimate feminist champion: the kind of hero we like, want, and need today.

Here are all the times Abhay Deol gave us feminist goals: 

1. When he took a potshot at Bollywood’s (mis) understanding of consent

Abhay Deol took to Instagram last November to share a snippet from the classic Tom & Jerry comics, using the cartoon to take a sharp jibe at his industry’s poor understanding of a woman’s consent. The comic strip shows Tom Cat aggressively kissing a female cat to work his charms on her, while she is left lusting after him.

Deol captioned the post, “#tom must have been watching a lot of Bollywood movies! #nodoesnotmeanconvinceme.” Read the full story here. 

2. When he blatantly called out fairness creams and colourism

In a series of social media posts in 2017, way before Bollywood woke up to the ugly reality of colourism post the George Floyd protests last year, Abhay Deol had launched a candid, front-charged attack on India’s fixation with fairness creams, by naming his very colleagues who endorsed them no less.

In what was a jolting event, since Deol took a sarcastic hit at some of the biggest stars including Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, and his co-star Sonam Kapoor, India sat up to take notice. And many women must have felt more comfortable in their skins that day.  

3. When he called out his own film for glorifying stalking 

Abhay Deol’s Raanjhanaa is a film well-known, and well-criticised, for aggressively glorifying stalking of women and popularising the warped idea of a girl’s “no” meaning “yes.” But before anyone could scratch their heads over his film’s inconsonance with the feminist ideals Deol preaches, he cleared the air in an Instagram post last year.

History will not look kindly at this film for its regressive message. It’s been a theme in Bollywood for decades, where a boy can (and should), pursue a girl until she relents… In reality we have seen time and again that it leads to sexual violence of some sort,” he wrote

4. When he reflected on the idea of female narratives by women directors

Abhay Deol, in a live chat held in 2017, had emphasised on issues such as gender pay gap across industries and how different female narratives were when written by women instead of men. “I think women tend to write women better than men. Women directors are much more sensitive with women characters than the male directors. Not that the men can’t do it, but they tend to project their idea of femininity sometimes,” he was quoted saying. 

5. When he was spot-on about what feminism really means

In a widely publicised column in Hindustan Times in 2017, Abhay Deol impressed upon the true meanings of feminism, and how although he doesn’t believe in labels, he doesn’t mind the tag of a ‘feminist’ since it seeks to achieve an equality of genders. “Feminism is much more than just the tag of a feminist. The idea is to sensitise the society about the basics of the movement… You want to call me a ‘feminazi’, call me a feminazi. That’s not going to stop me from being me,” he wrote

Views expressed are the author’s own.