The Force is with Her

Ektaa Malik
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Within hours of Padukone stopping by in JNU, #IsupportDeepika was trending at No 3 globally on Twitter and No 1 in India.

ON TUESDAY, when Deepika Padukone made a surprising stop at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, joining students in the presence of JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh and former president Kanhaiya Kumar at a public meeting, she won hearts on campus and Bollywood alike. After the attack on Jamia Millia Islamia and then on JNU on Sunday, a steady stream of voices from the film industry have come out in support of protesting students, but Padukone is the first big star to have openly showed her support and its significance is not lost on her colleagues.

Read | Deepika Padukone: What I am seeing today, pains me

Actor Taapsee Pannu says now is the time for actors to reciprocate the love and support they receive from the youth. “When it comes to promoting our films, students are the first ones we go to, to request them to watch our films. They give us their support and love. Now when they need our love and support, I am happy to see that many from the film industry from all across the country have stood up for them. It’s not a one-way relationship. We love them as much as they love us,” Pannu told The Indian Express. “Most importantly, I don’t understand why anyone should shy away from standing against violence when this country has forever boasted about non-violence being used as a weapon for our independence,” says Pannu, who has acted in critically-acclaimed films such as Pink and Mulk.

Pannu had earlier participated in a protest against the new citizenship law at Carter Road in Mumbai, alongside Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap and Swanand Kirkire, who got the crowd singing to Bawra mann dekhne chala ek sapna. Written by Kirkire, the song featured in Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, a film set in the backdrop of the Emergency.

Also read | With far more to lose, Bollywood’s women have shown far more spine than its ‘heroes’

Varun Dhawan, who made his debut with Karan Johar’s Student of the Year, and has a huge following among the young, too broke his silence. Speaking to PTI, he said, “It’s dangerous and sad if masked people enter an educational institution and all this happens.” Others like Mishra, actors Bhumi Pednekar and Sayani Gupta, lyricist Varun Grover and filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane too hailed Padukone.

Within hours of Padukone stopping by in JNU, #IsupportDeepika was trending at No 3 globally on Twitter and No 1 in India. Simultaneously, the hashtag #boycottchhapaak made a splash too, occupying the No 2 slot in India. While many praised Deepika for showing courage in supporting students, when many of the industry’s A-listers have chosen to keep silent, some accused her for using it as a publicity gimmick for her film Chhapaak, which releases on Friday.
As the ‘boycott Chhapaak’ campaign gained momentum, support for the actor, who in 2018 had been at the receiving end of the Karni Sena’s wrath for Padmaavat, swelled too. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap tweeted: “The
female of the species is, and was, and will always be the strongest of the two #DeepikaPadukone. Chhapak first day all shows…” Kashyap even made a photograph of Padukone greeting Ghosh as his profile photo. Fellow filmmaker Anubhav Sinha too shared Kashyap’s sentiments. “I have been saying so. Women are stronger beings. RESPECT @deepikapadukone,” he wrote. Actor Bhumi Pednekar tweeted, “More power to you @deepikapadukone Can’t wait to watch #Chappak tonight. United we stand.”

Actor Sonakshi Sinha also took to Twitter to express her views. “No matter which political party you support, do u support violence?… We can’t sit on the fence any longer. Kudos to @deepikapadukone for showing up, & all those who spoke for speaking up. This is not the time to be quiet.”

Padukone, who left for Mumbai after stopping at JNU, hasn’t made any statement since, but her photograph with students spoke for itself. “Kudos to Deepika. For the quiet but firm and clear statement of support for the students. It’s a huge perception win, not just for the protesting JNU students but also for students in India and peaceful protestors and political dissenters in India, who have been termed anti-nationals and ‘Tukde Tukde’ gang and Urban Naxal and what not,” actor Swara Bhasker, an alumna of JNU, told The Indian Express. “India’s biggest female star threw her credibility in with dissenters in India. Will ‘they’ dare to call Deepika Padukone an Urban Naxal, an anti-national now?” asks Bhasker. “As far as the movement goes, the students and citizen protestors are its heroes and sheroes and will remain so,” she adds.

Meanwhile, days after the BJP organised a dinner for Bollywood, it released a video featuring singer Shaan, filmmaker Anil Sharma, actors Tanishaa Mukerji and Ranvir Shorey, in support of CAA. Shorey, though, tweeted in support of JNU students on Wednesday. He wrote: “Any legitimacy that the ideas of the ruling BJP alliance may have is immediately lost by the use of violence and brutality by their surrogates and the enforcement agencies under their control. Protecting the peace is the first responsibility of those in power.”