The third film in director Rohit Shetty's 'cop universe', Sooryavanshi, stars Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif as leads, along with Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh.
And yet, at a press meet, Rohit Shetty commented that in a movie scene with the three actors, no one would look at Katrina Kaif.
If you look closely, she (Katrina Kaif) is blinking during it (a bomb-blast scene). After the fourth take she came to me and asked 'can we take one more?' and I said Katrina, I will tell you honestly, no one is going to look at you. She (Katrina) got so wild and I said three guys are walking with blasts happening behind, nobody will notice you. And I kept that shot. In the promo, she blinks while walking. But kaun dekhega?
Consequently, Twitterati called out Rohit Shetty for his remarks and #ShameonyouRohit even trended on Twitter, as people felt he was being unfair to Katrina Kaif. Soon after, Katrina defended Rohit Shetty by stating that his comments were being taken out of context.
Reportedly, Rohit Shetty then proceeded to unfollow Katrina Kaif on Instagram. However, the case here isn't about celebrities following and unfollowing each other, but rather, about the prevalent sexism in the industry.
Sooryavanshi, and most of these 'action-dramas', have a hollow, unidimensional characterization of females leads.
In most of these movies, female leads have only one purpose - to be the hero's love interest. In fact, in Rohit Shetty's previous film, Simmba, Sara Ali Khan had all of two dialogues in the film.
Because in most such films, the female actors are, for the want of a better term, playing 'arm candy' to the hero. Their role is limited to love songs and dance numbers, and they don't always directly contribute to the story.
And sometimes, they don't even make it to the films' posters!
However, the bigger question isn't just about why such roles are not well-developed. Rather, it is about why the directors feel that's all that a female actor can contribute to the story?
Even if in the current situation Rohit Shetty's comments were taken out of context, there is no denying that he did indeed believe what he said. It's not just about a particular scene, but rather, about the way he believed it was easy to disregard a female actor's presence in a scene.
Bollywood has finally started warming up to female-centric movies. We have female directors lending a female gaze to novel stories and we have more female protagonists.
And yet, comments like these reek of the sexism that Bollywood has been promoting for years. Whether it's the crass practice of calling dance numbers 'item songs' or creating roles for female characters that have no depth, Bollywood hasn't always been fair to its female leads. And Rohit Shetty's comments just add to the practice.
His remark only goes to prove that while we proclaim to make space for women in films, they will still come secondary to the men in the story. Bollywood, you can do better.