Bhubaneswar: The recent arrest of actress Rhea Chakraborty has launched a fresh conversation into the greater scrutiny on women when it comes to taking accountability for a widespread practice like taking drugs.
Her arrest has been followed by reports of several actresses like Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor, Rakul Preet Singh and others getting summons from the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
And yet, no names of male Bollywood stars have so far come out in connection with the drug investigation, which was launched after late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s family alleged Rhea abetted his suicide by making him depressed and getting him drugs like marijuana.
“Up to the 1970s, Bollywood often relied on the figure of the vamp – a cabaret dancer, a tawaif (prostitute), a gangster’s moll – to provide musical entertainment of a more sexually-explicit nature. The heroine might sing and dance, but the vamp wore more revealing clothes, smoked, drank, and sang in bolder terms of sexual desire,” academician Sharmila Sen was quoted as saying by News18.
Cut to the last decade and Bollywood’s use of smoking as a narrative to symbolize a certain type of woman has undergone an arduous transformation. While earlier the smoking woman was seen as detestable and unworthy of true affection, today she has come to be identified with a perceived version of feminism which modern filmmakers seem to adore.
When it comes to characters like Tapasee Pannu’s Rumi from ‘Manmarziyaan’ or Kangana Ranaut’s Tanu from ‘Tanu Weds Manu’ and its sequel, from being the accessories of vixens, cigarettes are now the friends of feminist girls who just want to “have some fun” without the binding obligations of gender.
Kangana portrayed the other side as well in films like ‘Gangster’ and ‘Fashion’. In the former, she played a drug addict who later lost her marbles and, in case of ‘Fashion’, ultimately ended up dead.
With this, it is clear about the prism through which popular support for the sudden spotlight on actresses and their alleged involvement in drug rings is viewed. If the so-called witch hunt itself was not enough, the media trials and social media malignment of the actresses is proof that while the online depiction of women smoking may have evolved, the mental make-up of Indians with regard to women and their own habits remains lopsided as ever.
It is as the actress Divya Spandana recently put in an outraged tweet. “When men smoke up its ‘shiva shambho’ when women do it’s dum maro dum”.
When men smoke up its shiva shambho when women do it's dum maro dum https://t.co/DExkXnTa5t
— Divya Spandana/Ramya (@divyaspandana) September 24, 2020