Vidya: Why don't we celebrate Men's Day too?

MUMBAI: She hopped out of her car in the busy lane leading from our office to her college and familiarly threaded her way to the Times of India building in the peak morning office-hour rush.

I watched her come, our guest editor for the Women’s Day issue, rather severely dressed in a black salwar-kameez to go with a “lovely ikat dupatta” that she was dying to wear. If the harried office-goers recognised Filmfare Best Actress Vidya Balan, they didn’t show it. She herself was unconcerned. “I’m still a little way from that stage where the world recognises me,” she smiled once settled down and having black coffee without sugar.

First, a straight-from-the-heart confession: “Women’s Day doesn’t mean too much to me. It shouldn’t be a one-off thing over which we make a lot of hoo-ha. As women, if we don’t celebrate our womanhood throughout the year, what’s the point?” And then, an argument: “I don’t mean to sound sexist or feminist, but why don’t we celebrate Men’s Day too? Is it because every other day is men’s day? Humanity is about mankind. But, to use a sociological term, a veiled attempt is being made here at the perpetuation of patriarchy!”

Then — her take on women, she was proud that Indian women had come a long way since Independence and were making their mark even in professions unknown to them earlier. She used films as her talking point. “Actresses are getting better roles,” explained Vidya, “no more just apologies for the lead. Earlier, we were being led! I’m not saying jhanda uthao. But stories are about people, that’s man and woman, not just man. Actresses went through a phase when we had nothing much to do. Today, we are individuals in our own right and no longer just a love interest or mother in the film. But there’s a long way to go before we reach a stage where women are equal in terms of opportunity, fulfillment and acknowledgement.”

And so on and so forth it went, with the gorgeous actress discussing BT, from the front page and Page 3 to fashion, cricket, health, relationships, travel, Bollywood and Hollywood... You will find bits and snippets inside these pages, all under the heading of Vidya’s Views, some subjects she was aggressively passionate about, some she dismissed without so much as a by-your-leave. The IPL was just around the corner, but with cricket, Vidya has no connect. Preity and Shilpa, the field is yours! The Lakme Fashion Week was on, but Vidya believed people are becoming an extension of what they wear — instead of it being the other way around. “Sexy is not about what you wear — it’s about how you feel,” she stressed. “And today, women have the choice of exercising our sexuality... even at work. I believe at work it should be about merit, but I also think it’s very cool if women flutter their eyelashes. Understand? You don’t! Go see Ishqiya!”