Actor Rahul Bose is known for making movies that put women first and highlight the possibility of a gender-inclusive world without compromising on entertainment. In his recent interaction with over a call, the actor gave an insight into how a more comfortable world for women is both needed and possible. He said it’s important to see movies through the lens of gender equality, non-discrimination and intolerance. Rahul also talked about the pandemic and how it has caused cases of domestic violence to rise, especially in India. He has been rigorously fighting to make the world more gender-sensitive but his views on the entire discourse around bringing a law about marital rape are reserved. Excerpts:Also Read - Sona Mohapatra on Masakali 2.0: Makers Should Take Legal Action Against Music Label; Have a Spine Like Aamir Khan

You were a part of a campaign against domestic violence. How did you manage to bring all the celebrities together to talk about #lockdownondomesticviolence and what was the idea behind the entire cause?

Women become most vulnerable after natural calamities – a hurricane, Tsunami, earthquake, after any kind of crisis among the population. It is no different now. The difference is that men are now home all the time. The cases of abuse against women are on a rise all across the world. Even people who have never indulged in domestic violence have now become abusers. The same holds true for India. Akshara Centre decided to do something by doing a social media campaign on it. They came up with an idea where women were given a dedicated number to talk about the abuse. The idea was to make #lockdownondomesticviolence viral. Also Read - Neena Gupta on Being Removed From Sooryavanshi: Rohit Shetty Never Came, Production Assistant Told me About Decision

The Maharashtra government helped us in reaching out to people. They made the number 100 available for the cause. My contribution was just to make some personalities come together to talk about the cause in a campaign that was designed by the Akshara Theatre. Within 24 hours, we had everyone ready. Madhuri ji (Dixit) did videos in Hindi, English and Marathi. Sachin Tendulkar also did in Marathi as well as Hindi.

What is it that celebrities can do to curb domestic violence apart from just talking about it in campaigns?

What else can you do apart from raising awareness? It’s very awkward because the situation is not like COVID-19 or something which is in a public domain. This is something that is done behind closed doors. There are a lot of issues of privacy and individual rights associated with such incidents. It’s not something where you can march inside and make changes. It has to be handled very sensitively. It cannot be counterproductive. For a celebrity to say ‘I am donating this amount of money to the cause’, this can’t happen when it comes to domestic violence. It’s a very delicate issue.

While we are discussing domestic abuse, a very important discourse is whether or not to pass a law on marital rape in India. What side are you on?

It’s a very complex, multi-layered nuanced issue. It’s contextual. The issue has many questions and many answers. This is a question that a lot of us who are fighting for gender justice, have been talking about and debating. Honestly, I would never ever give an answer to the question about marital rape in an interview. I would rather write about it where I can put out every context and every nuance I want to talk about.

What about misogyny in Hindi movies? What, as an industry, can we do to make more gender-sensitive films and make sure a film like Kabir Singh is not being glorified?

I will not talk about a specific film. But, I will tell you that if a film propagates something which is against basic human values, it has to be called out. These basic values are tolerance, non-discrimination, compassion and non-violence. No film can propagate intolerance, discrimination, violence. What is important is to think about how a film is showing misogyny and if it is glorifying it. In Dil Dhadakne Do, I was a misogynist. But, the overall message of the film doesn’t glamourise misogyny. It has to be positive and inclusive. The film can show misogyny but it should not propagate it.

Image courtesy: Gaurav Gautam

What should the actors do to make the industry more gender-inclusive?

Say no to films that don’t show gender equality, and I do. Certainly, you don’t need to make just the kind of films that preach gender inclusivity. Some films just have it up the parcel of their DNA. Like Poorna doesn’t hit you on the head about gender equality. It’s about the power of a little girl. Films don’t need to be preachy because that will kill the story. We are here for entertainment first. I want my viewer to cry when Poorna reaches the summit. It’s about the journey of a girl who has been a victim of patriarchy. The point is that as an actor, you should make the right choices. Look at the film from the lens of secularism, gender, non-violence and compassion.

Coming to the kind of films that you have done, your characters usually provide a platform for the women in your films to shine. Chameli, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Poorna… there are many examples. Why do you let the woman in your films be in the driving seat?

Why not? Why can’t women be in the driving seat? If men won’t support the right of women to take equal space, how is equality ever going to happen? Women don’t need our protection, they need the freedom to be who they want to. That choice should be entirely up to them. The freedom of choice is theirs.

Rahul Bose exclusive interview on gender equality

Rahul Bose and Kareena Kapoor Khan in a still from Chameli

You have been associated with many causes. You work for gender equality, women’s rights, environment protection, you help raise funds whenever there’s god-forbid a natural calamity…I want to know if you can recall any incident while you were growing up that triggered you to give back to people in life?

Not really. I have had a very fortunate life. In a positive way, a lot of things that I learned in my childhood while growing up, I believe in them even today. For example, my desire to have a gender-equal world is because my family life was very gender-equal in many ways. My mother never cooked, my father used to cook. Both I and my sister, more or less not completely, were treated in a gender-equal way. She was given as much freedom as I was given in a larger way. In terms of my friends, the Bombay I grew up in… it was a very secular upbringing. I would say that from the positive experiences of life… when I went out into the real world and realised that it was very different from this, I think that was definitely the point where I decided that it should not be this way because I have seen the positive effect and the happiness it has given me when it is the other way – when it’s secular, non-discriminating, gender-equal.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the film industry and when do you think will the ‘normal’ come again?

It’s going to be up and down for the next 18 months. It’s very difficult to predict things like when will the film industry re-open. I can’t say it will re-open in three months. These are very uncertain times and nothing will go back to being ‘normal’. Until a vaccine comes. If things become better, restrictions will be lifted but it will be imposed again when the times are not better. There will be an up and down rhythm.

The new normal will definitely entail washing our hands regularly. We will get used to not touching alien surfaces and maintaining physical distance when physical contact is not required. We will get used to being careful about our health and watchful of whether we get a cough.