Indian Women Celebrities Who Fought the System

by Apoorva Malhotra
Indian celebrities who fought the system

The Bollywood industry is brimming with prominent Indian women celebrities who have lent their stature and influence to beat the system and fight against injustice. Recently, the Manikarnika star, Kangana Ranaut, has been actively trying to help bring several reforms to the Indian film industry, be it the rampant nepotism or drug abuse. In her attempt to cleanse the system, she found herself in the middle of a war of words with the Shiv Sena party. Things took a dramatic turn when the BMS demolished her Mumbai office, citing “illegal alterations” as a reason. 

In this post, we will look at other Bollywood celebrities that raised their voice against injustice:

Kangana Ranaut

Kicking off the list of Indian women celebrities who fought against the system is Kangana Ranaut. 

The actress has had fallouts with people in the industry and keeps making headlines. She openly admits that she had a tough time in Bollywood, and the industry made her feel like an outcast. She wants to unify the Indian film industry by bringing the different regional entertainment industries like Bollywood, and Tollywood, together, so that they can have a collective identity.

She has also spoken against the classism that prevails in the Bollywood industry, and how the system shuns those who are less privileged. Moreover, she has often spoken against the prevalence of nepotism in the film industry. In an appearance on the talk show Koffee with Karan, she remarked about Karan Johar being the flag-bearer of nepotism. 

Recently, she was locked in a verbal spat with the Shiv Sena, the party leading the coalition government, as her statement that compared Mumbai to “Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir” left the Shiv Sena irked. As a result of overreaction, the actress’s Mumbai office was razed down by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. 

Swara Bhaskar

Swara Bhaskar, a self-proclaimed unapologetic feminist, has appeared in popular films like Tanu Weds Manu and Raanjhanaa. She has always been vocal about issues, especially ones pertaining to women. The quintessential actress has also opened up on being stalked and harassed by a director while shooting for a movie in her budding days.

She prides herself on taking the unconventional route and often picks up roles which demand courage and resilience. As a response to troll attacks, she has tweeted, “I believe sexist attacks are meant to silence and suppress women, but my response is that I don’t really give a **** about all this rubbish and I will call it out.”

Aside from being one of the leading Indian women celebrities fighting against the system by supporting the release of imprisoned activists, she also lends out a hand in support of migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The empathetic actress felt “ashamed” about sitting in the comfort of her house at a time when scores of migrant workers were facing hardship to reach back to their homes. Hence, she decided to extend support to the migrant workers walking on the streets. 

Taapsee Pannu

Taapsee Pannu has managed to make significant statements through her roles in landmark movies. Her recent film, Thappad did an excellent job of touching upon the delicate topic of domestic violence in Indian households. And, of course, who can forget the Indian women celebrities’ performance in the film Pink?

The actress has been delivering nuanced performances that resonate with the contemporary Indian women. As she was raised in an environment where she could question anything and everything, she understood the real meaning and impact of patriarchy only when she stepped into the world of Bollywood. While she refuses to be bitter about her experiences, she likes to speak up and address vital issues to help empower other people. She spoke up when she was wrongfully replaced in Pati Patni Aur Woh. Additionally, she has also called out wrong practices and is not scared to voice out problems. 

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy, the Man Booker Prize winner for her fictional novel “The God of Small Things,” has never shied away from voicing her strong opinions. She is one of the few Indian women celebrities actively involved in social and political activism to raise awareness of human rights issues and environmental concerns.

She uses her greatest weapon – writing, to leave no stone unturned in displaying the dark underbelly of the country or its people. Her essays and other pieces are precise, satirical writings that observe the country from a critical lens. She has, to her name, a long list of comments and statements that some find revolutionary while others find inflammatory. 

In her quest for justice and equality, she has attracted a lot of flak from trolls. However, that does not stop her from working towards her goal. In fact, she actively engages them in enlightening debates and conversations that can get one thinking.

Shabana Azmi

Shabana Azmi has stuck to social activism despite people dismissing her dedication as a PR gimmick. However, one can trace her love for a socio-political change back to her roots of growing up in a secular Muslim family headed by the patriarch and scholar Kaifi Azmi. 

She is a staunch believer that art can be an instrument for a social change, and this reflects in her work. Rather than settling for a mainstream role in commercial films, she took the road less taken and forged her standing in parallel cinema. Throughout her career, she has managed to push the envelope by taking on titular roles in films where women were no longer abla but the masters of their own fate and destiny – a quality that was rare in the Indian women celebrities of those times. Some of her edgy movies, such as Fire (1996), were met with public outrage, but that did not deter her from producing such masterpieces.

Apart from her movies, she has been rather vocal in criticizing the Government and the parties in power, be it the Congress or the BJP. Shabana Azmi believes in maintaining her independence as an individual capable of thinking and making their own deductions rather than affiliating with a political party. At one point, she was even conferred the title of Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Population Fund.

The above Indian women celebrities have inspired a whole new generation of empowered women. Have we missed any Indian women celebrities that ignite the torch of justice as they faced the system? Let us know in the comments below!

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