Swara Bhaskar vs Internet Trolls: Yes, Females Masturbate.
Swara Bhaskar is an Indian actress, having starred in critically acclaimed films such as ‘Nil Battey Sannata’ and ‘Anaarkali of Aarah.’ In Bhaskar’s recent A-rated film ‘Veere Di Wedding,’ her character Sakshi is caught masturbating, and comically asks her husband to wait before she finishes; Sakshi is therefore caught in the chaos of a divorce. Bhaskar’s deliberate intent to make this masturbation scene humorous is evident. However, as anticipated, the Indian public just refuses to stand silent. Bhaskar was repeatedly trolled on Twitter for performing an ‘immoral’ scene and shattering a woman’s ‘bedroom’ privacy. What makes this incident so relevant? You see, after years of India proving itself to be ‘developing’, these trivial controversies clearly identify the never-changing Indian mentality. Culture from the beginning has dictated discretion, may it be about the menstrual cycle, or self pleasure. However, with today’s progressive lifestyle, most Indians tend to betray these roots. Now, why would I term this progress as betrayal? It’s all about perspective. And that’s why you’re here.
If you happen to google out something like ‘Indian actors trolled for steamy scenes’, the majority of your search results will point out to either Swara Bhaskar’s masturbation scene, or other Indian actresses shamed for their sense of dressing. This, of course, doesn’t directly point to the conclusion that only Indian women can be shamed. But, it does lead to questions such as, why wasn’t say, Neil Mukesh trolled for his ‘steamy’ scenes in the film ‘Jail?’ Or the male actors in ‘Kya Kool hai Hum 3?’
Trolls on Twitter have resorted to accusing Bhaskar of acting out ‘soft porn’, being a prostitute, and shaming society by ‘faking’ her scene. However, she isn’t one to tolerate. Bhaskar shut down a few blatant tweets and shattered such shaming with calling her actions as ‘empowering’ women.
One such tweet read:
‘Just one question, how masturbating related to empowerment? Who is stopping them from masturbating but in public? I think empowerment doesn’t mean that you should mastrubate in public. It’s private.’
To which Bhaskar replied:
‘1. Sakshi was in her PRIVATE bedroom.. not public 2. Masturbation is abt owning ur body, sexuality. Empowering. 3. In a culture that largely silences or ignores or shames female sexuality showing a girl gratifying herself in a film in a non judgemental way is empowering’
The opinion that a masturbation scene was to empower women, may have offended others. Another tweet said:
‘Just Imagine if her dad asks that “Hey, What you did?”.
She will reply “Dad, Today i EMPOWERED my self by masturbation.”
I mean REALLY?’
With a comic edge, Bhaskar said to this:
‘No not really Neha! It’s okay to do something privately and not tell your parents about it. It’s called discretion. Do u describe your morning shit to your parents when they ask you what u did when you woke up?’
Frankly, if people have the time to criticise with such flair, why can’t they spend time on grammar? (a writer’s Achilles’ Heel)
The question of moral ambiguity then subtly arises. Firstly, why not defend Bhaskar, that is, human impulse to defend unrestrictive creativity? Secondly, is a scene about a female’s freedom to masturbate truly empowering? And lastly, was the trolling just a paid nuisance?
When we dream of a stable, developed India, we also dream of the lack of social pressure on females. For that matter, of men too. However, with events such as the public claiming their grandmothers are ashamed of Bhaskar, this dream slowly dissolves. When a film has an ‘A’ certificate, it has one for a reason. It seems disappointing, that some adults can’t accept the fact that yes, females masturbate too. It seems disgruntling that some adults can’t accept a difference in the ethical mindset of others.
At the same time, Bhaskar sells this scene as ‘empowering.’ It is visible that her intent is to motivate women to take control of their own sexuality. However, connecting the publicity of a self pleasure scene with encouraging gender equality, may seem repulsive. You are basically telling the public, that the path to make women more confident, is to masturbate. Knowing that the most viewing audience of ‘Veere Di Wedding’ were women, this may seem even more disturbing. But, is it moral to criticize with such hatred, instead of giving a calm, honest review? As said above, it’s all about perspective.
Even after all this debate, it is possible that this entire controversy is based upon a carefully planned and paid trolling. Bhaskar has since tweeted, explicitly hinting towards the fact that her trolling was fake, with:
‘Looks like a certain IT cell sponsored the tickets- or definitely the tweets !!!!’
Also tweeting with a slay:
‘I wish paid trolls would at the very least re-arrange the sentences and run a spell check before their paid tweet attacks #PaidTrollsKiPolKhulGayi #SakshiSlays’
Bhaskar has talked in a recent NDTV interview about her response to internet bullying. She stated that her pillars of strength were her supporting colleagues, who displayed a bond of solidarity against trolls on social media. She refuses to be scared or silenced, and frankly voices her opinions. As readers, our answers would lie in giving respectful reviews, instead of lashing out at actors who are just doing their jobs.
Coming down to earth from celebrity trolling, the best solutions to any form of cyber bullying found according to Forbes, are to ignore, unmask trolls, and establish a policy for user comments. Well these lessons, are something we all could use.