04/04/2015 8:08 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Her Voice. Her Choice.

Vogue India

Back from boarding school for my summer vacation, I announced at home that its my choice--to choose what I want to do, want to wear, want to meet or not meet--my folks knew it was a sign of teenage rebellion. To their credit they never fought me on it. But they had one word of advice: choose with awareness.

Today, as much brouhaha is being created around the #VogueEmpower film, those words resonate. It's clear actor Deepika Padukone is in the video out of choice. And she is certainly not naive not to know the consequences.

Soon after Vogue released the 2-minute film, the initial congratulatory tones turned cynical in no time. Many questioned the purpose of the film--was it to educate, liberate or infuriate?

Predictably, the hashtag #MyChoice film is trending. #MyChoice has also received more than its fair share of trolls. Its been debated and damned. Memes around #MyChoice have gone viral. An "unofficial male version of #MyChoice" has got nearly 6 lakh views.

But the tweets have opened up an interesting debate as well--what really is #MyChoice?

Homi Adajania's film is slickly produced, though he will find it hard to shun the 'elitist' tag. Most of the 99 women in the film belong to the swish set of Mumbai, who make it to the glossies anyway. Had Adajania taken the trouble to include common women and everyday heroes--like Mumbai's first woman taxi driver for example--the message would have had wider impact.

But that's the only negative.

At last count the film has been viewed nearly 45 lakh times on YouTube. Each sentence has been discussed till its worn threadbare. But the broader message has been lost by stripping the verse apart.

The overall message in Kersi Kambatta's prose is about the right of women to be able to decide for themselves. Its about the need to view women as equals in every sphere--equal respect, equal space and the equal right of choice--that men take for granted. Its not about causing men pain or promoting adultery as many have so simplistically claimed. This argument assumes that women lack the ability to evaluate their own choices.

What the prose says is this, "Whether a woman chooses to have sex before marriage, during marriage or outside marriage," its her choice. Likewise, if she chooses not to have sex outside marriage, its again out of her choice. The same holds for a man. The fact that he chooses not to have sex outside his marriage is out of his choice. The idea here is mutual respect. So then, why are men getting so touchy about the film? Is it because the film openly talks about a woman's assertion over her body and her mind, and that idea is threatening men?

Some, of course, haven't digested the fact that Deepika could unhook her bra in a film on women empowerment. She has been called 'disgraceful' and a 'hypocrite'. Others have chosen to draw comparisons that reek of male chauvinism--juxtaposing a screen grab of one professional (Deepika) with another (Saina Nehwal), with the warning--'Don't Fall for Fake Feminism'. Its as if to say, if a woman chooses to cross an unspoken Lakshman Rekha set by society, she can never become an achiever. By this logic no successful man has ever been promiscuous.

Call it pretentious, over the top, or a publicity gimmick if you please, but at least the film has given a voice to a debate that was unspoken of. Its highlighted the need for women to make their own informed choices, instead of others setting the rules.

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