2020, one of the most tumultuous years of our lives, was replete with, well... tumult. Incomprehensible degrees of it. All that we couldn't imagine happening in our wildest dreams played out in front of our eyes, as the world went into lockdown in the face of a virus that upended it. But such is human resilience that despite the ravages of the coronavirus, we managed to hang on to some semblance of our regular lives. Constituted in large part by controversies. Several of these were heralded by noted women, known for being unafraid of speaking their minds. There was always a constant thrum of activity that kept people on social media busy debating these women's words and actions.
Here are five such instances from this year. Right or wrong, you decide:
1. Aishe Ghosh & Deepika Padukone
2020 began on an alarming note, with an attack at Delhi's prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University by masked goons in January. Students' Union leader Aishe Ghosh suffered a bloody head injury, following which she called for a meeting to protest the violence. In a move of solidarity, Deepika Padukone, one of Bollywood's biggest actors, visited the campus to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with collected students. Several negated the incident as a marketing gimmick for her film Chhapaak, which was slated for release soon after, while many hailed a mainstream star for showing spine. A picture of Padukone gratefully folding her hands in front of Ghosh had gone viral on the internet.
Never forget this image.— Saurabh Khamar (@Saurabhk4u) January 10, 2020
Deepika is folding hands infront of aishe ghosh who lead the violent mob in to JNU and beat the students who were registering for the semester !#LeftBehindJNUViolence @ShefVaidya @TajinderBagga @KapilMishra_IND #JNUTapes pic.twitter.com/pVjDF24wWE
2. Gunjan Saxena
The Dharma Productions film Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, which saw Janhvi Kapoor playing the titular role of Flight Lieutenant Gunjan Saxena, was a film that became the object of ire for many air force officers since its release on Netflix on August 12. The film, reportedly made through consultation with Saxena, known as the “Kargil Girl” for being the first Indian woman pilot to fly in a combat zone during the Kargil War of 1999, was accused of portraying the Indian Air Force in a negative light. It even led to several boycott calls, including many to raise doubts over the authenticity of Saxena's laurels. Saxena faced the music and reacted to the incident by asserting, "Those were my credentials, my achievements. That is my hard-earned trophy and I will never let anybody with vested interests point a finger at it."
Those were my credentials, my achievements. That is my hard-earned trophy and I will never let anybody with vested interests point a finger at it - Gunjan Saxena Responds To Controversy Around Biopic https://t.co/avBSpH31vY— SheThePeople (@SheThePeople) August 18, 2020
3. Rhea Chakraborty
The high-octane climate around actor Sushant Singh Rajput's unfortunate death in June this year was such that at one point, Rhea Chakraborty, his last girlfriend, had been condemned as somewhat of a national enemy. The 28-year-old was targeted, vilified, accused, threatened all at once in the aftermath of Rajput's passing, upon the unproven allegations that she had had a hand to play in his demise. In what many veteran journalists condemned as a "witch-hunt" of a young woman, the Indian media was thoroughly criticised for unethical reporting on Chakraborty, especially since several news channels had fabricated rumours around her and demanded her arrest long before the NCB began its probe into the case's drug angle. She was taken into custody in Mumbai for a few days and later released on bail. Several actors like Vidya Balan, Swara Bhasker, Shibani Dandekar, and Saqib Saleem had expressed solidarity with Chakraborty.
4. Richa Chadha
Richa Chadha, known for making her thoughts known, did so on several occasions this year as well, on a number of issues. But most notably, during the controversy surrounding Payal Ghosh's #MeToo allegations against filmmaker Anurag Kashyap. Ghosh had claimed that Kashyap had sexually mistreated her, and also fellow actors like Chadha and Huma Qureshi. Calling her statements "false, baseless, indecent and derogatory," Chadha had initiated a defamation suit against Ghosh worth Rs 1.1 crore for dragging her name into Kashyap's matter and misusing the #MeToo movement. Throughout the case, Chadha religiously kept social media users posted about the proceedings, sharing pictures of legal notices, etc. In October, Ghosh tendered an "unconditional apology" to Chadha in the Bombay HC, after which the suit against her was disposed of.
Done. 🏹🙏🏽💕 pic.twitter.com/6wx26LHbr1— TheRichaChadha (@RichaChadha) October 14, 2020
5. Priyanka Paul & Kangana Ranaut
Kangana Ranaut was perhaps the woman who courted the most controversies in 2020, but among the most notable was the one in which she was called out by illustrator Priyanka Paul for throwing careless statements about mental health. In November, the two feuded it out on Twitter, after Paul objected to Ranaut's opinion on reservations. In response, Ranaut proceeded to label Paul "suicidal, toxic, creepy looking," something many social media users called highly questionable on part of a national award-winning actor. Giving Ranaut a piece of her mind, Paul proceeded to point out the significance of the mental health discourse. Earlier in the year, Ranaut was also widely opposed when she had publicly raised doubts over the authenticity of Padukone's depression. Read more on that here.
Apni halat dekho kuch lete kyun nahin? Self admittedly Suicidal ho, toxic ho, creepy looking bhi, aisi kaun si kami hai jo aap mein nahin? Mujhe gyan mat do mujhse gyan lo, change that hairstyle asap and learn to meditate 🙏— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) November 18, 2020
Views expressed are the author's own.