Aap Ki Adalat, a show hosted by Rajat Sharma on India TV, has featured many big names to its credit, including Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi. The show follows a courtroom-questioning interview format. So when Kangana Ranaut was invited as a guest to the show on September 3rd, the most she was grilled about – no prizes for guessing – was her relationship with actor Hrithik Roshan. But Sharma didn’t leave it at one question about Roshan. He questioned Ranaut repeatedly. Ranaut didn’t cower and chose to answer his questions unflinchingly.
But perhaps the intent behind questioning women, especially female celebrities, about their relationships is to make them flinch. Ranaut has courted questions about her personal life with grit but that’s not to say it warranted the onslaught of probing questions thrown her way. She’s not alone. A barrage of actresses’ private lives have been scrutinised through very public lenses. Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor publicly announced their break-up in 2009. They have been reported to have buried their differences and have even collaborated multiple times on-screen. But even seven years after their break-up, Padukone is often asked about her failed relationship with Kapoor. Kapoor, somehow grabs less headlines for the same ‘failure’.
The infamous Rekha and Amitabh Bachchan relationship had caused a furore in Bollywood. But even today Rekha’s role in the relationship is talked about openly in newspapers and at tea parties while Bachchan’s equation is talked about in hushed whispers – who will question such a huge superstar, right? Yes yes, and Rekha has been just jollying around for three decades in the industry.
But the Indian gossip circle of failed relationships’ favourite child is Sushmita Sen. Every time she comes out of a relationship, she finds her ‘character’ under intense scrutiny. A single mother at 41 and a fiercely independent entrepreneur living a happy life without the need to fall back on the men she choses to share her time and affections with? Unacceptable.
On foreign shores, there’s Jennifer Aniston, who is still being asked how she feels about her ex-husband Brad Pitt splitting up with Angeline Jolie. Sure, they were touted as the ‘golden couple’ of Hollywood and their break-up collectively broke their fans’ hearts. But in spite of a decade passing between their split, Aniston is still questioned about her feelings for Pitt and ‘animosity’ towards Jolie. Reports surfaced yesterday about Pitt ‘apologising’ to Aniston for leaving her 12 years ago. I mean, wut. Here’s a radical idea – maybe, just maybe, she simply doesn’t care and has you know, moved the hell on with her life.
But beyond the gossip columns and the TRP ratings, there lies a tendency to hold women accountable for their relationships. As though the consensus of maintaining a stable relationship falls entirely on a woman. It’s almost suggestive that the entire relationship is a tribute to the man in it. So much so, that even the failure of the relationship is suggested to be a tribute to the ‘man who walked away’. This constant questioning of actresses’ (and women’s) previous romantic relationships is suggestive of a culture that thinks it’s entitled to details of the private lives of women. The more autonomous they are, the more newspapers and gossip circles feel entitled to knowing how they’re getting on in life without a man – the “gaping hole” the ex-partners must have left in their lives.
The likes of Ranaut, Sen and Rekha owe nobody an explanation about the ups and downs of their relationships and lives. When a man is never reduced to one (or twenty) failed relationships, what gives anybody the right to reduce Ranaut to the Roshans of her past? She may have made a choice to answer personal questions in the face of relentless probing, but we’re certain that she and many women, would rather their relationships be kept far, far away from sniffing, insensitive noses.