Padmavati row: The problem with pitting Shabana Azmi's feminism against Kangana Ranaut's feminism

What began as a blind item in Rajeev Masand’s column has spiralled into a full-blown controversy. Masand’s column was about a petition floated by a “a senior female actor, a firebrand feminist”, objecting to the way certain groups “threatened physical violence against the leading lady of a controversial Hindi film”. Apparently, three actresses refused to sign the petition. A “famously rebellious actress”, “a top star” and another actress who “holds a foreign passport”. The first actress declined to be part of the campaign because “few have supported her in her own crises”, the second one “wanted to consult her lawyer”, and the third one has a foreign passport.

Well, it’s not difficult to guess who is who, except for the lady who wanted to consult her lawyer. The veteran actress is Shabana Azmi, the threatened actress is Deepika Padukone, the famously rebellious actress is Kangana Ranaut and the one with a foreign passport is Katrina Kaif. But now this piece of blind item in a gossip column is driving a different kind of conversation. Several news portals chose to carry the story Kangana focusing on it. Many ran their pieces with the headline “tit for tat”, many ran reports about how Kangana wanted to be a part of Padmavati, and that’s the reason she refused to lend her support to Padukone. Not one to stay mum when fingers are pointed at her, Kangana issued a statement putting an end to such petty talks of cold war between the actresses. She said:

I was filming Manikarnika in Jodhpur, got a call from my dear friend Anushka Sharma to sign the petition written by Ms Shabana Azmi, I explained to Anushka that Deepika Padukone has all my support but I am a bit wary of Shabana Azmi’s investment in left wing vs right wing politics.

She also accused  Azmi of not supporting her when she was bullied

I have my own set of ideas and opinions about the current situation in our country, I am on the fence about many things and being a part of a feminist movement called ‘Deepika bachao’ lead by someone who character assassinated me when I was bullied, seems to be one of them.

With this statement, in one stroke not only Kangana got back at Shabana Azmi, but also gave us a peek into her political worldview- that in the battle of right-wing and left-wing, she is a fence-sitter. She also stated that the campaign was named “Deepika bachao”, which seems to mimic the government’s “beti bachao” initiative.

Social media is going gaga over this statement of hers.

Read some of these tweets:



As is clear from these tweets, the statement helped has deviate the focus from Karni Sena and other right-wing groups’ abhorrent calls for beheading Deepika Padukone.  Suddenly is  about pitting Kangana’s feminism against Shabana Azmi’s feminism.  Suddenly, everyone is celebrating Kangana’s feminism while vilifying Azmi by calling her activism as “agenda driven”.

The fact of the matter it’s unfair to compare support for a personal fallout between two individuals and a threat to someone’s physical safety.

Her personal equation with Kangana Ranaut not withstanding, Azmi has been vocal critic of religious extremism all her life.

She has been equally critical of practices like triple talaq.

While Kangana is entitle to her opinion on Padmavati. It is a personal stand, not a feminist stand.Those using the crutch of Kangana’s statement to discredit a well-meaning initiative is doing a disservice to the more relevant issue of freedom of expression, tolerance and law and order situation in the country.