There’s no silencing Swara

The actor on taking on social media trolls and why her latest show is relevant to the #MeToo movement

It has been an eventful 2018 for Swara Bhaskar, on and off-screen. Her performance in the Kareena and Sonam Kapoor-starrer, Veere di Wedding, was applauded for its unabashed portrayal of urban life. This month, It’s Not That Simple, her Voot-original web series, returned for a second season after it debuted two years ago.

Her Twitter bio, she tells me during our chat, is a description of what she is all about. She is a “troll destroyer, a right-wing baiter, a liberal hysteric and a Twitter warrior” — all nouns to describe this modern-day, multi-limbed goddess who spares none (including herself) as she tries to make informed choices about her roles, her social causes, and her unapologetic stances on social media.

A voice for our times

She has been trolled by Bollywood director Vivek Agnihotri, has issued scathing indictments on social issues and politics, and even been reverse-trolled (that is the good kind, to be clear) by fans who created a parody account, @ReallyPMSwara, earlier this year. Superimposing her face on Narendra Modi’s signature Nehru jacket, followers jokingly wanted to know why “Prime Minister” Swara had implemented demonetisation and when “achhe din” would finally come.

But by August, even the outspoken actor needed a break from the unrelenting hate speech that Twitter has become famous for. She went on a hiatus, but did not for a moment believe that she was being singled out. “This is what most people in the country who have a mind are going through,” she says. “A lot of that trolling is manufactured — it is paid for, there are IT cells involved — and so, a part of me knows it’s a hate campaign. I always tell myself that I am in a far more privilege space than most people are; I am a forward-caste, educated, financially secure Hindu.” Her feistiness, she says, is what prompts her to return to the platform so she can call out the haters. “I feel this is a space we have to stand for and protect from hate.”

Taking stock

Social media is also the forum that has seen India’s Me Too movement play itself out, as victims of sexual abuse have used these platforms to call out their alleged abusers. And because of the momentum it has gained, Bhaskar believes that her Voot show is more relevant today than when it was being filmed in June and July. “The movement happened in October, and the show takes place in an office space, and looks at the gender power dynamics in a working place,” she explains. “For instance, ambition has different meanings for men and women, and this is something the show talks about: how a man will be seen as ‘cut-throat’ for focussing on his career, while a woman will be considered ‘heartless’ if she chooses her professional life over her personal. The discourse on sexual harassment has just begun, and the show highlights it in a nuanced manner.”

When It’s Not That Simple debuted, we were introduced to Mira Verma, the young mother with an annoying husband (whose inability to read non-verbal cues in bed was painful to watch). Now Mira is divorced, and she has her priorities aligned. Yes, love and relationships are nice, but financial stability is more important.

The show, co-starring Sumeet Vyas, Purab Kohli and Vivan Bhatena, is described by its producers as one about “a powerful female character and four alpha males”. Directed by Danish Aslam, Bhaskar admits that the second season has “more money” — an indicator that the first was a success.

The actor, who will be seen next as a police officer in Flesh, a web series on human trafficking, and Rasbhari, another web series by Applause Entertainment, admits that she is “content-driven, and not platform-driven. My primary interest is in the part I am getting. There is more freedom of speech in the web space, and people are willing to experiment,” she concludes.

All episodes of It’s Not That Simple are streaming exclusively on Voot.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 11:03:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theres-no-silencing-swara/article25798056.ece

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