Aishwarya’s Pregnancy Triggers Bollywood Controversy
This is the scenario faced by B-Town’s leading ladies. At the centre of the firestorm controversy sits Bollywood’s queen Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. National Award-winning Indian film director, scriptwriter, and producer Madhur Bhandarkar was allegedly up in arms when his biggest project of the year, Heroine, had to be waylaid due to the leading lady’s pregnancy.
Apparently a huge amount of money had already been spent on the film, and there’s been no decision on whether the project will have a new leading lady or be scrapped entirely.
The loss of time and money suffered by Madhur Bhandarkar triggered alarms across Bollywood. Reportedly, several filmmakers have been assessing the viability of including a pregnancy clause in actors’ contracts.
Is it sexual discrimination? Hollywood insists on many clauses including no pregnancy to safeguard huge monetary investments. An actor (of either gender), for example, may be asked to refrain from riding a motorcycle while filming.
However, the idea is still relatively new to India. There’s only one case of precedence: Subhash Ghai had a clause in his contract with Madhuri Dixit stating she couldn’t get married or pregnant during the making of Khalnayak, when she was in a romantic relationship with Sanjay Dutt.
Naturally, there are champions on both sides of the fence. Mahesh Bhatt’s has publicly adopted a stance that “people would be foolish to have such a contract suggesting such a clause. It`s the leading lady’s privilege to get pregnant. In B-Town the real contract is the unspoken one, which has more weight. Being a member of the Film Producers Guild of India, I would refrain from this absurd exercise.”
Meanwhile Ekta Kapoor felt the clause was reasonable, citing “ as a professional I can say yes, we should have a clause and ways of compensating the producer, but on the personal front, as a woman, I think it`s a big deal. Pregnancy is a very happy moment for any woman, and I can`t think like a producer in such a situation.”
Vipul Shah also seemed to be in favor of the clause: “In B-Town, everyone is like a family. I don`t know how such a clause will be seen by stars. Having such a clause or clauses for male and female actors will bring more discipline into the film industry. Anything that derails the process of shooting or leads to financial losses should be discussed and certain guidelines laid down preventing that.”
There’s no doubt that women’s right groups and activists around the world will watch with great interest as the scenario unfolds. It’s already been noted that the Indian film industry seems much more sensitive to this natural and sometimes unintentional occurrence in a woman’s life than profit-driven Hollywood.
The stance adopted by Bollywood will be a small notch in a debate that’s been raging for centuries. Nonetheless, it represents an opportunity for India to shine as a family focused and forward-thinking country.