I remember the first time I watched you on the screen, it was the movie Gangster. I was a little kid then and the movie obviously wasn't aged appropriate. Over the years, I saw glimpses of you in various films but it was only while watching Queen that I was introduced to your extraordinary talent. The one question that most people were asking after watching the film was - "How had it taken me so long to acknowledge her?".
Your journey from 2006 to 2014, had been our ignorance and not your loss. Amongst the glittery dresses and Manish Malhotra sarees we had overlooked authentic talent. Between the slender waists and the pin straight hair, we had ignored the curly haired girl from Himachal. You had not been an overnight success but a struggling actor long after your debut. It took you a long time to become a household name but when you did, we couldn't stop talking about you. You have always been swimming in the sea, it is only now that we realize your importance.
This letter is not a debate between your truth v. Hrithik Roshan's truth instead it is an analysis of your journey from an underdog to a star in your own right. You belong to a small town in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. When you were a little girl and you were gifted a doll while your brother received a plastic gun, you stood up and questioned the discrimination. At the age of 16, you left your home and the complicated science books to find your "space and freedom" and relocated to New Delhi. In comparison, when I was 16 I was sitting on my bed and completing my assignments.
You decided to pursue acting without any professional training or in cinema terms, a godfather. You have bravely spoken out about the physical assault you experienced from a much older Aditya Pancholi. Later, you were treated like an unwanted object for not knowing how to speak English. None of that was able to deter you. More recently, you called out the industry for being a network of insiders who practice nepotism while the outsider waits at the door.
In a country, where women are relegated to second class citizens you decided to speak your mind and put forward your side of the story. You did not care about the consequences and rested on the fact - Talent sustains. From Rani in Queen to Julia in Rangoon, you have liberated the way a woman is portrayed on screen.
When one scrolls down the comment section of YouTube there is a mix of opinions floating around. Some people call you brave while others say you are nothing but an attention seeker. These comments don't change the way I look at you but they make me contemplate about the prevalent sexism. When a man openly puts forward his side of the story, he is called "macho" when the woman does the same, she is reduced to a mentally ill person. Our society believes women should be demure, quiet and submissive and if they "try becoming like men" they will no longer be considered good.
You are an inspiration to the small town girl who dreams of becoming an actress. You are a beacon of hope for the middle class boy who dreams of making it big in the city. I remember watching you confidently glide across the stage and receive your third National award. A Hindi speaking, small town girl who without any support had made it in the big bad world of Bollywood.
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