The currently ongoing year 2017 will most definitely hold a special place in history. It will conspicuously be viewed as the year that saw a rather large majority of women who reached or were rather made to reach a breaking point endowing to the entrenchment of sexism in our very ‘pious’ Indian society. From giving rise to a movement of solidarity and empathy called #MeToo and to a Dalit feminist challenging the elite and upper caste predatory behaviour, Indian women seem to now not be afraid of lashing out at an established name in Bollywood.
Comedienne Mallika Dua on October 25, slammed and lashed out at Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar for making sexist remarks about her on Star Plus’s television show, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, where Kumar is the judge. She was joined by her father Vinod Dua, a veteran journalist in this endeavour.
She took to Twitter to express her views which later had to be deleted, she wrote: “So, I want humour to be limitless. I also don’t want to be uncomfortable at my workplace. The lines are blurred.” She also shared the video on Twitter and wrote: “Hey! Quick question. Does anyone find 5:26 funny? Charming? Entertaining? Family entertainment. GEC.”
Meanwhile, Vinod Dua took to Facebook and wrote: “I am going to screw this cretin Akshay Kumar for telling his co-worker Mallika Dua that ‘Aap bell bajao, main aap ko bajata hun (You ring the bell, I will bang you)’ at 5:26. This is his sense of humour and language. Star Plus. Wake up.”
Reports claim that the video got leaked after Mallika Dua’s exit from the show as a mentor since she was sacked by the channel for poor audience ratings. Zakir Khan and Hussain Dalal too have been reportedly sacked from the show.
Vinod Dua has also said that “I don’t expect an apology from Star Plus as they have not aired this episode. However, I do expect an apology from this fellow [Akshay].”
HUMOUR AGAINST SEXISM
Mallika Dua was later compelled to remove her tweets addressing the blatantly sexist comment that Akshay Kumar made. Why? Because she was trolled and mocked at by Akshay’s fans on social media, and that she, in her own words, does not “enjoy abuse and cyberbullying”.
Trade analyst Atul Mohan made a remark towards Vinod Dua when the later rose in support of his daughter. Mohan has said, “When your daughter does such things on stage [comedy], what do you have to say about that? She herself is known for doing such things. These days if you compliment someone, no one notices, but the moment you say something negative, it spreads like wildfire.”
Akshay Kumar’s fans too have come out in his support saying that Mallika herself relies on vulgar comedy and humour very often. And they unfortunately or fortunately feel that this isn’t any different.
Most commenters who have called Mallika Dua’s humour derogated and vulgar seem to be taking in context an All India Bakchod sketch in which she is seen playing the role of a nymphomaniac while portraying the humanisation of the ‘infamous’ dating app Tinder. As is the case in most AIB videos, this one too has a strong and mature use of language and content. However, it is silly or rather immature to equate talking about sex with the term sexism.
Mallika Dua wrote a blog for Quint in which she addresses the issue by writing: “This isn’t about Akshay Kumar. This is about every big Bollywood star and every other big shot, who cannot tell the difference between charm and harm. This is about every big celebrity who thinks his colleague enjoys being grabbed by the waist and twirled without her consent.”
A lousy comment or remark that makes a woman uncomfortable at her workplace is a matter that must be treated as sexual harassment. Harassment is after all entrenched in most workplaces and tends to occur when one person exerts formal or informal power over another. The crust of the matter remains that people desperately need to try to understand that the issue here is not about the brand of humour, it is about the improper and incorrect behaviour at the workplace. It’s about the workplace behaviour and about grasping the idea of professional interaction so that nobody is made to feel uncomfortable in their place of work.