Farhan Akhtar: “Behind every successful woman can also be a man!”

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Farhan Akhtar has always been a vocal critic of gender inequality, and under his social awareness campaign, MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination), he has made short films with tennis player Sania Mirza-Imran Mirza and National Award winner Vidya Balan-P.R. Balan to show how fathers of these two women have stood for them and supported them to fulfill their dreams. Read below what he has to say about the mainstream statement: “Behind every successful man there is a woman”

Around the time I was starting the MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination) initiative on gender awareness, I was shooting Shaadi Ke Side Effects (2014) with Vidya (Balan). We were generally chatting about the campaign, when she told me her own story. And that her father, after having two daughters, faced tremendous pressure from within his family and the community to go for another child — in search of the male child, I suppose. Vidya’s father stood his ground. He had two healthy kids, he said. So why should he treat them differently?

Years later, his kids have done him proud. Vidya has put the Balan surname on the global map. He didn’t need a son to do this! This is the reason we did a film with Vidya’s inspirational father for the MARD campaign on Father’s Day. As we’ve done with the tennis star Sania Mirza and her father as well. These are incredible examples of fathers single-handedly turning the tide.

We’ve heard this age-old adage: “Behind every successful man is a woman.” This needs to be turned on its head. For, behind every successful woman can also be a man — whether a father, husband, brother, or friend — helping her get a fair chance at fulfilling her dreams, and ambitions. Someone who’s equally proud, happy, and complementary of her success. This is the story that needs to be told more, and more.

Over centuries, the role of a woman has been relegated to that of serving the man, or raising a family. As if marriage is her ultimate goal. Even when she has a career, and is following her passion, there is the biological clock that’s shown to ding-dong before her with the deadline striking at 30: “Arey, uske baad kya hoga?” There is the classic gender stereotyping of a woman’s role in life being that of eventually becoming a mother. It’s great to be a parent. But your life can’t end with that. As men, we live under no such pressure.

Even within the film industry, you notice that female actors reach their threshold way before male actors do. There are such few roles written for aged women. They hardly have as thriving careers after marriage or kids. It seems to be a challenge. No such tacit rules apply when it comes to a man, once he’s married, or has children. There is a strange mental block as much with the creators as with consumers of entertainment. There are no similar restrictions or roadblocks in a career if you’re, for instance, a woman politician or lawyer either.

But, of course, the world is changing, with gender discourse, at present, right up there with the most major issues of global importance right now — whether that be climate change, or eradicating poverty. For species that have managed to do such amazing things in history — reached Mars, discovered the God particle, invented the Internet — it baffles me no end that we’ve not been able to figure our way around something as basic as fight for equality for another gender, which is half of the human race anyway!

This has to change. It’s time now for us to stand up and be counted. At least the percentage of voices speaking up everywhere has grown louder than ever before. It must even more.

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