The Actresses Roundtable 2016 with Rajeev Masand is a must-watch for many reasons. As he speaks to Anushka Sharma, Vidya Balan, Alia Bhatt, Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor, our favourite actresses open up about many things – from how they feel shooting sex scenes to the way they see Bollywood, as an industry, change as they move to more and more powerful movies that don’t just have ‘token’ female characters. But perhaps the most poignant and heartbreaking moment of the interview – for me, at least – comes fairly early on in the interview, when Sonam says that most Indian women experience molestation in some form or the other and then goes on to describe what happened to her.
It’s a story that we’re familiar with – either because we’ve experienced it ourselves, or know someone who has. A group of teenagers on a fun outing…with the joy and spontaneity of the occasion shattered by a stranger’s forcible sexual overtures towards someone who is barely more than a girl. Sonam was fourteen at the time she was molested at a movie theatre. I was ten when it first happened to me – I was on a bus on my way to school, escorted by my dad, and a passenger placed his hand on my ass, caressing it; I didn’t know how to say anything to my father, for I was not even sure that the moment had been real. My best friend’s first experience of molestation was at the age of thirteen, when she sat next to the uncle who’d given her a camera – as she explored her gift, asking about shutter speed and what not, the uncle slid his hand up her thigh under her skirt.
As I said, this interview is a must-watch for other reasons too – it’s an hour-long session in which five women are about as brutally frank about life, career, prejudice as anyone can get on a public forum as they continue to work in perhaps India’s most scrutinized industry, one which is constantly under the glare of everyone’s eyes. But the most important thing for me is that it’s an interview in which one of Bollywood’s most glamorous, most talked-about actresses spoke up about something horrific that happened to her, something horrific that does happen to pretty much every Indian woman at some point or the other. And I am moved by Sonam Kapoor’s ability to bring herself off the pedestal of a celebrity and humanize herself as she did.
You cannot NOT watch this.