When a website called The Zoya Factor actor Dulquer Salmaan’s film, it didn’t go down well with Sonam K Ahuja who is playing the titular role. She immediately took to Twitter to point it out that she played Zoya in the film titled The Zoya Factor. What more do women actors have to do, to command equal spotlight in both the industry and society? They have to ask for credits from websites and they have to fight for equal pay for films where their roles are as big and pivotal as their male co-stars. When will actors like Sonam not have to point out at these glaring and sexist discrepancies in the way we talk about films?

SOME TAKEAWAYS:

  • A website chose to give the spotlight to Dulquer Salmaan over Sonam K Ahuja for their upcoming film.
  • Ahuja then pointed out that she was playing the role of Zoya in this film titled The Zoya Factor. 
  • When will actors like Sonam not have to point out at these glaring and sexist discrepancies in the way we talk about films?

The said website doesn’t even mention Ahuja’s name in its tweet, which is all about its clash at the box office with that of Vidyut Jammwal’s Commando 3, as some kind of testosterone-fuelled battle.

How is the spotlight on a male actor even for a film where a woman plays the titular character? The said website doesn’t even mention Ahuja’s name in its tweet, which is all about its clash at the box office with that of Vidyut Jammwal’s Commando 3, as some kind of testosterone-fuelled battle. The box office still remains dominated by alpha male stars in our country. It is they who command bigger fan following, get meatier roles, and thus are credited above their female co-stars in the press and even credit rolls. Even in 2019, it is a struggle for women artists to command meatier, grander and equal (if not better) roles as compared to their male counterparts.

Even when they do manage to score titular roles, it is hard to retain the focus. As it happened with Ahuja, someone or the other makes it more about the male star power of the film than the female lead. This tweet, in fact, is a great commentary on our psyche, as to how we have normalised predecession of men. We seek it even where it doesn’t exist. Dulquer is a fantastic actor. He commands a massive fan following in South and has emerged as a heartthrob slowly in the northern belt.

Even in 2019, it is a struggle for women artists to command meatier, grander and equal (if not better) roles as compared to their male counterparts.

But he is yet to command the secure fan following and stardom in Bollywood that he enjoys down South. Which means that today, Ahuja is a bigger Hindi film star than Salmaan. So what could be the possible logic behind calling The Zoya Factor Salmaan’s film and not Ahuja’s, if not sexism? Should the box office battle be always between two male leads? Are women actors not even fit to compete even in a tweet?

Thankfully, the industry itself is changing its approach to credit roll today. In last year’s Raazi, Alia Bhatt’s name preceded that of other actors. Similarly, in the super hit film Andhadhun, Tabu’s name came before that of Ayushmann Khurrana. This despite the fact that Khurrana had emerged as one of the most bankable actors in the industry by the time the film came out and Tabu wasn’t even playing the titular character.

Since it is male stars who get to call the shots, because of public demand, they get more screen time, larger than life roles and they even get to play women’s saviours in women-centric issues.

But this slow change is yet to precipitate into how the general public and even the media talks about films. Most people still want to know hero kaun hai, when you tell them about a film. It is this mindset which is responsible for the shorter shelf life of women actors. Since it is male stars who get to call the shots, because of public demand, they get more screen time, larger than life roles and they even get to play women’s saviours in women-centric issues. Remember how the film Damini ended up being about Sunny Deol’s dhai kilo ka hath, over the guts of a woman who takes on her own powerful in-laws, to seek justice for a maid who has been sexually assaulted? Or how Toilet Ek Prem Katha wasn’t about a brave bride who walked out of her marital home because it didn’t have a toilet, but a man who takes on the whole system build a toilet for his wife?

Precedence in credits is just one of the many things that women lose in our film industry, where both maker and consumers were glasses tinted with patriarchy. However, kudos to actors like Ahuja who refuse to put up with this attitude and demand their rightful share of the spotlight.

Picture Credit: The Indian Express

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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