“This is a job interview which I feel I am not going to get.”
With this opening, actor Swara Bhasker set the tone for the Express Adda Thursday evening.
Blending the personal with the professional and political, she fielded a range of questions — from her choice in films to her social media account.
She has been at the receiving end of trolling on social media platforms for her liberal opinions. During the question and answer session, she was asked about contemporary feminism by a BJP worker who drew parallels between women across the globe who voted for right wing leaders like Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
Quick to the take, she responded: “I have not used the term feminism today on this platform. It’s a historical movement, very diverse…replete with conversations and contradictions. For me, it’s all about equality — not just of representation, but also of opportunity and accountability — which not just women but many communities in India lack,” said the actor. We need to have more of a say in subjects beyond what we are going to cook today, she said.
“Feminism is about choice. If women want to deny themselves their own rights, sure. If you want to wear a saree, keep a karvachauth, vote for Trump, or Modi, sure go ahead — they are doing it already. As long as people are having conversations, all is good. As long as people are not being lynched, they are not being burnt alive, as long as they are not being tied on jeeps and being flogged, and as long as our leaders are not attending pro-rape rallies, I think all is good,” she said.
Swara Bhasker talks about feminism at Express Adda
The actor also touched upon the choice of roles she has been offered and the ones that she would like to be offered. “A historical character for sure — a biopic. And yes I would like to play a man, not just a tomboy or chop my hair. But to cross gender lines,” she said.
“It was fully the naatch gaana of Bollywood that motivated me to move to Mumbai. It is completely pathetic, sad and narcissistic — the reason that I wanted to move to Bollywood: to appear in the TV show Chitrahaar,” said Bhasker as she spoke of her journey in the Hindi film industry.
The 30-year-old also touched upon her personal privileges as well — coming from an academic background and the kind of education that she has had. “I am very privileged, all thanks to the support of my parents. Also, the kind of background I come from, equipped with a cultural and social capital. Added to this, is the fact that I speak English in Bollywood. I will say this, that maybe at that time I was not the most talented actors around. I am sure there were more talented girls from small towns, who did not quite look like from the same class as I was. I could perhaps go up to a producer and crack a joke,” she said.
The actor, whose notable works include Nil Battey Sannatta, Anaarkali of Arrah and Raanjhaana, also touched upon caste and various layers of privilege. “When we talk about nepotism and the kinds of privileges and places that we are born into, there are many invisible kinds in operation as well. There is this critique that I have been reading. If you look at the caste profile of Bollywood — the actors and stars — there are hardly any Dalits. This is something we need to think about and ponder carefully,” the actor said.
At the Express Adda, Bhasker was in conversation with The Indian Express film critic Shubhra Gupta and National Features Editor Devyani Onial.
Watch: Swara Bhasker at Express Adda
The Express Adda is a series of informal interactions organised by The Indian Express Group and features those at the centre of change. Past guests include the Dalai Lama, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, veteran journalist Mark Tully, herpetologist Romulus Whitaker, Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, actor Tabu, writer Amitav Ghosh and cricketer Virat Kohli.