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Journalist and comedian Mallika Dua who is known for her outright feminism and outspoken attitude, is amidst a controversy, yet again, because of a comment made by Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar, on a popular TV show, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, on Star Plus. Although we're not sure why she's only just brought it up.
Akshay Kumar made the comment - a rather sexist one, undoubtedly - in one of the initial episodes aired where he is shown saying, “Mallika ji aap bell bajao, main aapko bajata hoon."
Dua, who is no longer part of the show, took to Twitter, earlier today, to share the incident, along with the entire video clip, with her followers. Her caption read:
"Hey! Quick question. Does anyone find 5:26 funny? Charming? Entertaining? Family entertainment. GEC."
No doubt the comment reeks of casual sexism that Bollywood and the Indian television industry is, any which ways, full of. But, online, a sort of camp has developed with people choosing sides; some are standing with Dua, while others are slamming her on the timing of her revelation. For those of you do not know, the post was shared by the stand-up comedian on her Twitter, when she had been replaced on the show.
The situation was further heightened when Mallika's father and journalist, Vinod Dua, himself, took to Facebook, to express disgust and disdain for what Akshay Kumar had said.
This is what he said:
Ever since the tweets by the father-daughter duo, there have been comments and reactions from people. Some have called Mallika's an act of vengeance for having been sacked from the show; courtesy of poor TRPs. In fact, a source from within the industry - who wished to remain anonymous - said, “This shoot happened weeks ago. Why did Mallika not say anything all this while? Why take a statement out of context and make an issue out of it now?”
However, there are those, too, who are standing with Dua and calling out Akshay Kumar's comment as off-colour. "Akshay’s comment was indeed off-colour. But look at the vulgar abuses Mallika herself has given in all her popular viral videos. She can’t be having double standards about sexism. If what Akshay said to Mallika as a pun is considered offensive, then how is Mallika’s father telling Akshay that he will screw him any less offensive? The entire attitude about vulgarity being passed off as humour needs to change," said the unnamed source.
Well known trade analyst, Amul Mohan has come forward to address the entire situation, calling it 'a case of sour grapes' for having been shown the door. "This happened while shooting and I am sure they shot this about 10- 15 days ago. Making this noise right now only shows that this is being done because she was fired. The main factor is that none of these guys is television friendly because they have a set market on the web or some other personal video streaming platform, where there is no censorship," he said.
"When your daughter does such things on stage, what do you have to say about that? She herself is known for doing such things. These days if you compliment someone, no one notices but the moment you say something negative, it spreads like wildfire," he further concludes.
Since then, the tweets have been deleted and Akshay hasn’t made any comments on the entire episode, as yet. But, the what remains is the fact that such a comment was, in fact, made - there is no denying that; whether or not the video footage has been deleted. Then, there is also the fact that, while Dua might have timed it rather illly, for her own side of the case, this is what casual sexism in the workplace really looks like. It's the hard truth.
And just because one of the parties - who made the comment - is a superstar with seemingly strong contacts and pull, the other party - in this case, Mallika Dua who is, undoubtedly, a victim of this sexist sense of humour - has to resort to justifying why she felt the need to bring up the topic at all.
As a woman, it becomes necessary for us to overlook the timing of the statement, or even the motive behind it and just see it for what it is. As a woman, it becomes our prerogative to question the man behind the statement. Why was there ever a need to make one, in the first place?
Sure, many would pass it off as a silly comment made in the form of an innocent joke. Only, there isn't much that is innocent about the comment now, is there?
Akshay's Exact Words: “Mallika ji aap bell bajao, main aapko bajata hoon."
Literal Translation: Mallika, you ring the bell, I will ring you.
An innuendo, no doubt. The question is: Why was it even necessary to be made, even if it was part of a joke to be aired on the episode to make it appear funny?
It isn't about whether or not Akshay Kumar is wrong; or whether it's just about a disgruntled actor. The real question is this.
Don't we need to grow up from cracking sexist jokes?
And this isn't the first time it's happening, to be honest. The only first in this case happens to be the fact that Mallika isn't your typical Indian TV actress, or host, who will take an inappropriate joke on her, sitting down; timing and reason be damned. And isn't that what we're trying to aspire to, as women, anyway? Fighting against sexism - casual, or otherwise?