Recently, Bollywood actor, Akshay Kumar, who is judging the Star Plus’ show, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, is in the news for making a deeply insensitive and sexist remark about Mallika Dua, who’s one of the mentors. What Akshay Kumar said to Mallika was, undoubtedly, sexist but as is a norm in India (and elsewhere), for some it was ‘just a joke’ and there’s no need to make an ‘issue’ of it. This has started a debate on Twitter and obviously, terms like feminism are being used again, (incorrectly, of course) with people shamelessly pointing fingers at Dua.
To give you the context, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge requires the judges and the mentors to ring a huge bell hanging over a raised platform if they like a contestant. So when Mallika climbed up to ring the bell for a contestant, Akshay Kumar is heard saying: “Mallika Ji aap bell bajao, main aapko bajata hoon.”
Which, according to his fans, is his idea of a joke and a ‘light-hearted’ comment.
Mallika Dua’s father and veteran journalist, Vinod Dua took to Facebook to express his displeasure 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” at 5:26. This is his sense of humor and language.”
He later deleted his post.
All this comes after a week of the vigorous #MeToo campaign where women (as well as men) came out in solidarity, made themselves heard and shared their stories of sexual harassment. ‘She Says’, which describes itself on Twitter as a ‘youth-led movement to end gender discrimination and further the rights of women’, posted a tweet with the video clip.
— SheSays (@SheSaysIndia) October 25, 2017
This started a debate and some of the responses on the thread are quite disturbing:
remember deepika’s my choice video of talking abt sex outside marriage! had the same words used by any man…then imagine
— Sushant Agarwal (@sushant_ddn) October 25, 2017
And not to forget, she is out of the show. Remember what zuber did when eliminated from Bigg Boss. Frustration speaks.
— Anurag (@AnuragDhyani_) October 25, 2017
— Akshay Kumar (@KattarAkkian01) October 25, 2017
Akshay kumar is most humble man in industry.it was just a sense of humour
— kushalparekh (@kushalparekh501) October 25, 2017
Yeh hota hai Programme se bahar hone ke baad ka reaction..Grow up Maine to is secne ko dekhkar aisa kuch socha bhi nhi..Kitne ghatiya log ho
— Akshay Kumar 2.0 (@Poll2indian) October 25, 2017
What u r doing in AIB viDeos in the name of comedy? Use filth as comedy ?
— Bania ki Dimaag!! (@bharathbunny27) October 25, 2017
There was obviously no ill will behind this comment. It was an unfunny joke that’s it.
— Raunaq Singh (@raunaq_singh_) October 25, 2017
Baja dunga is sexually implied ? So every time someone assert itself ‘band Baja dunga’ & ‘barah Baja dunga’ its sexual threat ? Well Played
— Maddy (@indianchevalier) October 25, 2017
Then, there were some sane voices as well:
Unexpected but unacceptable.
Bhaisaab ko jail me raggdo thoda, shayad akal thikane aajaye..
— Gaurav S Patel (@gsppatel) October 25, 2017
If that statement made @MallikaDua feel uncomfortable, it is not “choti baat” and feminists batangadh nahi bana rahe.
— Geethu (@rebellioussnail) October 25, 2017
— Ishmeet Nagpal (@IshmeetNagpal) October 25, 2017
@akshaykumar I respected you so much…
— Inderdeep (@rollininderdeep) October 25, 2017
Well, To be honest i want to know what @mrsfunnybones has to say on this…
Coz This is real shit like Akshay Kumar’s movies…
— Khooni (@KhooniBhai) October 25, 2017
If we still don’t (and refuse to) understand the difference between sexual harassment and comedy in the name of sexual harassment, there’s a long way to go for us.