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This article was published on CNN.com on September 29, 2016
Mumbai, India (CNN)Bollywood mega star Amitabh Bachchan is redefining pink. If that makes you think of ribbons and dolls, Bachchan latest film may make you change your mind. In Bachchan’s view, the color stands for courage.
“Pink” is a gripping courtroom thriller in which Bachchan plays a lawyer representing three young women who are the victims of unwanted sexual advances. In a highly charged scene, Bachchan questions his client about the incident. “What did you say?” he thunders. She replies: “I said no.”
No means no, the lawyer repeats in the courtroom. Those three words are resonating across India, a country that’s trying to fight rampant sexual violence against women. Bachchan says he stands by all the dialogue in the film.
“No is an entire sentence in itself,” he says. “No means no and when somebody says it you need to stop. And the woman could be your friend, your partner, your girlfriend, or a sex worker, or even if it’s your own wife,” he tells CNN.
The message has struck a chord with the Indian public. Social media is full of stories of people leaving the cinema halls feeling empowered.
“Tears still rolling down. So moved. Such a powerful film,” tweeted the Bollywood singer Shreya Ghoshal.
Even the men aren’t holding back. “Congratulations on creating such powerful cinema,” tweeted the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. “What a fantastic film and an even more important message.”
The film mirrors several uncomfortable truths in Indian society — the pressure women face for the clothes they wear, for the time they come home at night, and for being independent. “‘What will people say?’ Is a feeling every Indian girl grows up with,” says Bachchan.
Bachchan recently wrote a letter to his granddaughters that was the subject of much debate in India. It was an open letter to all young women in India, with the basic message that young girls should have the confidence to be themselves.
He urges them not to let others dictate their lives for them. “Because you are women people will force their thinking on you, their boundaries on you. They will tell you how to dress, how to behave, who you can meet and where you can go. Don’t live in the shadows of people’s judgement. Make your own choices in the light of your own wisdom.”
In our interview Bachchan said he strongly supported pay parity – even if he was making less than his female co-stars. Bachchan admitted that he was paid less than his co-star Deepika Padukone in the movie “Piku” since she was the lead character — a bold revelation from the man who is idolised by a nation of a billion people.
As with many Bollywood films, “Pink” ends with justice being delivered – victory. Will it create real change in India? Perhaps that is an ambitious goal.
But it is shining a light on a pressing issue. It’s engaging the country. It’s creating a conversation around ‘no means no’. And for a country that has been in the news for many a gruesome rape story, that’s a big win.
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