One Piyali Ganguly’s demeaning insensitive comment about how Sridevi’s “low self esteem” led to her death has gone viral. It speaks of Sridevi’s inability to love her own face, her insecurity and worry about losing husband’s attention. It is in extremely bad taste, and nobody knows who on earth this Piyali is. What is the source of all that she wrote.

The moment I saw it shared by one of the most respected activists I know, I asked, “Are all these for real or speculations?” Turns out it was indeed tabloid gossip. But why did so many fell for it? Including people whose every word I trust. Because at the end of the day we love to find a victim in a woman. A woman is always a victim, so what if she is India’s only true female superstar ever born, she was under pressure, victimized by the industry for her looks, and whatever she did to her body was not her choice but victimhood.

Choice is a slippery slope we know that. Choice is never free from social conditioning. Women chose to do things that we don’t agree with, for eg many chose to die on husband’s pyre, many continue to live with abusive husbands. Many wear full face covers that robs them off their identity and reduces them to cargo, many do fasting for husband’s long life. These are not real choices we are told, but conditioned by patriarchy.

But is there or is there not a real choice at all? My body my choice, is that choice real?

At which point can we accept a woman to have gained her agency, free from any kind of conditioning? Is it never? Can we not accept that a woman who built a career over 5 decades with her large body, big nose and dark skin must have had the agency to decide for herself what kind of lifestyle she wanted in her 50s? Can we not accept that if she did go for various surgeries to look less than her age, that must have been what she really wanted out of her free choice?

These are questions that feminism must face. I have always been fat. But I always wanted to see a thin woman in the mirror. And I still aspire for it. I don’t kill myself over it, but I keep trying in my own comfortable ways. It is not about what society or fashion industry or men want from me, it is what I want to see in the mirror. And i am not a victim.

Sridevi is not your favourite victim of fashion and beauty police. She lived her life, she died. People die. Don’t lament over for her body. Celebrate her legacy. Few women achieve what she achieved. Celebrate that.

A sword yielding horse riding warrior fighting an army alone, suddenly helmet drops, warrior is a woman. A bike race in the dark of night, street smart men flexing muscle. The bike that won the race, shocks everyone, helmet drops biker is a woman. Woman’s entry in a film in the man’s style is a popular motif. But nothing can beat Benazir’s entry during the Buzkashi competition in Khuda Gawah (1992).

That’s my Sridevi, it’s how I will always remember her.

sridevi khuda gawah