Cleavage tweet about Bollywood star sparks mounting anger online

Bollywood star Deepika Padukone tweeted an indignant response. (File photo: Reuters)

One of India’s leading newspapers, The Times of India, has provoked a weeklong social media storm after it published a tweet drawing attention to Bollywood star Deepika Padukone’s cleavage.

The Times of India on Sunday tweeted: “OMG: Deepika Padukone's cleavage show,” with a link to the related story.

The report and tweet has since been removed, but not before the 28-year-old actor tweeted: “YES! I am a Woman. I have breasts AND a cleavage! You got a problem!!??”

As the furor continues to grow, with a number of high profile Bollywood film stars like Arjun Rampal and Sharukh Khan lending their support to Padukone, the unabated campaign has come together to confront what is increasingly viewed as “entrenched sexist attitudes” within the media industry, reports NPR.

Despite the uproar, the incident has not emerged in isolation. Rather, it follows a pattern of a growing number of other female Bollywood stars making a vocal challenge against flippant comments towards their gender. Most notably, Mallika Sherawat’s angry tirade, in protest at a news reporter’s line of questioning about her patriotic intentions when she stated that India is “repressive for women,” won her praise with audiences.

Similarly, earlier this year, Bollywood singer Parineeti Chopra’s gained praise when she publicly clashed with another news reporter who stated: “when girls are young, they like ‘it’ and when they get old, they start cheering and screaming that a child exploited them.”

Since the gang-rape of a physiotherapy student on a Dehli bus in December 2012, India has been charged with calls for change regarding the treatment of women. Recent months have seen the debate spill out over the streets and onto the airwaves. Early in 2013, thousands of women marched through the streets of Delhi in support of reformed legislation concerning rape.

It is against this backdrop that the widespread condemnation of the newspaper’s tweet led to the creation of the hashtag #IStandWithDeepikaPadukone, which trended on Twitter while Padukone’s responses received more than 8000 re-tweets.

Subsequently, the Times of India deleted its comment, instead suggesting that the actress consider it a compliment, leading to yet further outrage with disapproving tweets dismissing the response as worse than the original caption.

Whilst many commentators have praised the boldness of Padukone’s response, there have also been calls for more introspection within the film industry itself. According to India film critic and commentator, Anna Vetticad who explains on the NPR news site:

“The truth is there are many, many films that objectify women in a disgraceful fashion.”

She adds: “And so it would be nice if these same industry people who are supporting her would also condemn the objectification of women by their own industry.”

Bollywood is a multi-billion dollar industry with a huge audience reach. In a relatively conservative country whose population is enthralled by the Bollywood film industry and its seductive item numbers, there remains a schism about whether these films impact attitudes on gender in India. Some commentators argue that it promotes “unhealthy gender dynamic” whilst others think the impact is exaggerated.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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