Recently, Rashmika Mandanna went through a massive slut-shaming attack on media and social media alike after her romantic video snippets from her recently released Telugu flick Geetha Govindam started going viral. She is under attack for supposedly insulting her fiancé, Rakshit Shetty, by acting in such romantic roles alongside another actor.
The rumour mills started working overtime to peddle all kinds of perverse speculations about their souring relationship, and Rakshit Shetty announcing a hiatus from social media added further fuel to fire. The slut-shaming however reached its peak after it was reported that the engaged couple had decided to split.
The kind of comments being made on Rashmika based purely on speculations, whether intended to be funny or serious, highlight not just how jobless and intrusive we are as a society, but also how disgustingly sexist, misogynist and patriarchal. The incident has exposed the extent of double standards in how people treat male and female actors. It is time to call out all the regressive undertones and hypocrisies behind such an outburst, and bring to the fore how public misogyny and gender dynamics in cinema are both skewed against the women actors.
There was a near unanimous opinion that she is responsible for the split even without any idea of what transpired between them. There is a resounding sympathy in favour of Rakshit and tremendous anger against her, so much so that Rakshit himself had to come back from his social media hiatus and request people not to abuse her.
This is a painful reiteration of how society puts the blame of any soured relationship on the woman, while not only extending a benefit of doubt to the man but also singing sympathetic hymns in favour of him. It is disgusting how easy it is for people to deduce by default that her professional association with another man has “polluted” her personal relationship. They abuse her for going ahead with it instead of prioritizing her personal relationship, like an ideal Indian woman should have.
Rashmika has been facing the vilest of attacks for acting alongside an actor from another industry while no such shaming had occurred when she acted alongside other Kannada actors like Ganesh and Puneeth Rajkumar. She is being blamed for insulting her people by acting with actors from other industries while being engaged to an actor from the state. This is text-book misogyny, of placing the honour of a community on its women and considering it an insult when they associate with men from another community, even if it is for purely professional purposes. Ironically, the same people beam with joy when their favourite actors act with popular women actors from other industries on screen.
She is also being blamed for opportunistically using Kannada cinema as a platform and shifting her loyalty to other industries as soon as she started receiving lucrative offers there. But people have to realise that it is foolish to blame actors for being ambitious. It is a fact that Kannada cinema has a miniscule market and visibility, which puts an upper limit on an artist’s profitability and popularity.
While actors can compensate for this by having long careers spanning decades and enjoying all-weather support of their fan bases, women actors enjoy neither of the luxuries. They have remarkably short careers because they mostly have to play young damsels in distress and they don’t enjoy the support of fan bases as well since there is nothing which drives the masses to identify with eye candies which show no character on screen. It is therefore perfectly reasonable for women actors to look for work outside their own industries.
Moreover, it is commonplace in all industries for women actors to take up projects in other industries but such decisions are seen with suspicion only in Kannada cinema because people here are insecure if one success elsewhere can take them away from the industry forever, as has happened with many artists before. This is because the miniscule industry is seen by most aspiring stars only as a stepping stone to reach greater heights elsewhere.
There is no point in blaming women actors for this because it is the size and stature of the industry which is the culprit. When Kannada cinema sheds its insecure mindset and establishes its own forte with competitive zeal, artists will stop looking at the industry like a stepping stone and will remain rooted despite taking the opportunities they get elsewhere. It is easier to shame women actors but it will be like treating symptoms instead of the disease.
It is saddening how a twenty-two year old newbie had to bear the brunt of slut-shaming stemming out of all these undertones of public misogyny and insecurity, for no known fault of hers. It speaks volumes of the kind of double standards which people exercise while moral policing cine artists that no actor has ever been at the receiving end of such an attack, even when they have been complicit in despicable incidents. It is disgraceful that even in this age, people frown upon and cast their aspersions on married/engaged women actors sharing screen space with other male actors, when they see no fault in married male actors romancing women actors their grandchildren’s age, on screen.