Q. 1 You played a leader of a vigilante group in Gulaab Gang. What are your views on women empowerment and safety in real life?
I strongly feel that strong guidelines and policies should be formulated to ensure women’s safety on a priority basis. My roles in films like Mrityudand, Lajja, Beta, Prem Granth depicts a woman who is not meek and possesses strength of character. Women should be strong-willed.
Q. 2 How much is education vital for women empowerment?
While, it is imperative that women should be educated, it is equally important to educate men to bring about a change that will benefit society. Education leads to information and also changes one’s perception about others. Men will cease to treat women like an object.
Q. 3 What steps would you take to educate and thus empower women?
I will soon start my own academy, Dance with Madhuri where I want every one to learn dancing. It is my passion that I want other women to share.
Q. 4 Are you anything like Rajjo, the character you play in Gulaab Gang?
I enjoyed playing Rajjo very much, because I believe in what she believes in. That is what made me take up this film in the first place, because I strongly feel women should be em-powered in the right sense. Like Rajjo says, ‘Jaise til mein tel hai, jyon chakmak mein aag, Tera saai tujh mein hai, tu jaag sake to jaag’. Likewise, every woman is empowered, it is just that she needs to make her voice heard, come out and say ‘this is me’. The film talks about educating women, equipping them to stand on their own feet and live independently. In the cities we see that a lot, but what about the two tier places and the villages. The film has a message for them too.
Q. 5 Recently, you spoke about self-defence. Are you personally trained in it too?
In Denver, I would take my kids for Taekwondo classes. But, instead of waiting for them to finish their hour-long class, I decided to learn the craft myself. So we took a family class where all of us learnt Taekwondo and we were just five belts away from becoming black belts. This experience helped me during Gulaab Gang.
Q. 6 Would you recommend learning self-defence for the general public?
In today’s world, it is very necessary for girls to be self-reliant. For that matter, even boys need to learn the mechanisms in self-defence, as anything can happen at anytime. You see the world is becoming a crazy place, what with terrorist attacks and unforeseen tragedies, people should know how to react at such times. We are not taught about this and so we do not know what to do. Self-defence should be taught from school itself. The schools in the US have fire drill classes for children where they teach, ‘In case of fire, stop, drop and roll. Don’t just start running.’ This is taught at a young age and so children are aware of how to save themselves even during a tornado or any such conditions. Our schools here are not very forthcoming with such lessons. I think it is very important to be taught how to conduct oneself in stressful conditions.
Q. 7 What is the foremost course that our schools should start?
It is natural for people to panic in case of a tragedy. They should be taught to protect themselves. The first thing they teach you in Taekwondo is if there is a fight walk away from it. But if it is inevitable, like a life and death situation, then you have to not only fight with all your strength, but fight smart. In films we blow punches, that is not possible in real life, but a hard slap should do the trick, or a poke in the eye or a kick in the groin is more affective.
Q. 8 What would be the simplest way for girls to defend themselves; for instance use pepper spray which you recently distributed at an event?
Although learning the art of self-defence is important, it is not physically possible for a woman to fight five men at the same time. But if she thinks right, even those 30 seconds can be useful to help her escape. If someone is pulling you, instead of going away, go towards him and poke him in the eye. That will keep him occupied for sometime which can help you escape and ask for help. Pepper spray is just a temporary weapon to escape nasty situations. But do carry it with you as a precautionary measure.
Q. 9 What would you suggest for the women of today?
I think, the change must come from within. Even men have to rethink their priorities. They are wired in a different way and that wiring needs to be changed.
Q. 10 As an actor, people idolise you.
That’s true but even I cannot tolerate injustice and believe in fighting the way my characters do on screen. Everybody feels that anger because of what’s happening in the society. We should fight for our cause.