Bollywood legend’s advice to granddaughters divides opinion
Mumbai, 8 Sept – When ‘the greatest star of stage or screen’, as voted by BBC online users in 1999, releases an open letter about the role of women in Indian society, it was always going to go viral.
But when the letter is addressed to his granddaughters it adds an extra poignancy that both captivated and angered social media users.
Amitabh Bachchan, who beat Charlie Chaplin to be voted “Star of the Millennium”, is still a leading man in the Hindi film industry at the age of 73. He is also an active on several digital platforms and was named ‘Social Media Person of the Year’ by Internet and Mobile Association of India in 2015.
In a video posted on Facebook on Monday, he urges his two granddaughters, Navya Naveli and Aaradhya, and “all of India’s granddaughters” to become independent women.
Bachchan, who is the father of Bollywood star Abishek Bachchan and father-in-law of former Miss World, actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, says that although his granddaughters carry the legacy and privilege of the Bachchan surname, it will not protect them “from the difficulties you will face because you’re a woman.”
“Both your Pardadas (paternal great-grandfathers) gave your present surnames celebrated fame, dignity and recognition,” He reads from a letter on the video, “And because you are women people will force their thinking, their boundaries on you. They will tell you how to dress, how to behave, who you can meet and where you can go. Don’t live in the shadows of people’s judgement. Make your own choices in the light of your own wisdom.”
The three-and-a-half minute video has already been viewed around three million times and the reaction has been mostly positive. A Facebook user named Shitol Kamrun posted “very well said, thank you sir. It is really difficult to be a girl”. And another named Sajitha Ali wrote “Wow and wow. Wish every Indian male thought like Amitji (a respectful nickname of the actor).”
However, there was also criticism. Some said that although the letter seemed to be about feminism, patriarchy was at play. One Twitter user called Sandhya posted: “Nice patriarchy-tinged letter, Mr Bachchan. For starters, your granddaughters carry the legacy of their grandmothers too.”
Others pointed to the timing of the letter, pointing out that Amitabh Bachchan’s new thriller ‘Pink’, which deals with sexism faced by women in India, is scheduled for release next week.
However, Bachchan, is the UN ambassador for women empowerment initiative Girl Child and has spoken out about equality in the past.
“Women power! Women must have the respect of equality…they are the stronger beings…when they prosper, society prospers, mankind (and I use this word specifically to address the menfolk, as opposed to womenkind in other references) can and shall only exist with them, not without,” Mr Bachchan wrote in his official Tumblr page in 2015.
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