The Blooming Sisterhood of Bollywood: Vidya Balan & Tapsee Pannu Speak Up For Rhea Chakraborty

Social Commentary

The Blooming Sisterhood of Bollywood: Vidya Balan & Tapsee Pannu Speak Up For Rhea Chakraborty

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

There will be very few people who look back fondly on the hellscape of 2020, but Rhea Chakraborty has more reason than most to want to forget this year. After her boyfriend Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, the 25-year-old has had her reputation dragged through the mud by fans of the late actor and his family members. Implicated in a conspiracy theory involving Rajput’s unproved murder that grows more lurid by the day, Chakraborty has had to face endless waves of trolls attacking her online and crackpot news anchors assassinating her character on live TV. But as the trolling continues unabated, supporters of Chakraborty have come forward as well, especially her fellow female actors, who have expressed their solidarity against the hate she has been facing for months.

As in any situation involving toxic fans and online trolls, the very act of speaking up for their target turns these actors into targets as well, marking it as a bold step to take while Chakraborty is going through the same ordeal.

Vidya Balan was one of the latest to express her sympathies for Chakraborty. “As a woman, my heart breaks at the vilification of Rhea Chakraborty,” she wrote in a tweet, while also calling for law to be allowed to take its course. Predictably, Balan was also called names like “gold-digger” in the replies to the tweet, revealing the misogynistic mindset of the trolls.

Presenter Shibani Dandekar also supported Chakraborty on Instagram, calling her “a pillar of strength”. In her post, Dandekar mentioned the trauma that Chakraborty’s entire family, whom she knows personally, has had to endure due to the witch hunt in the media and online.

Swara Bhasker, an actor known for her outspoken stance on gender issues, also spoke out in favour of Chakraborty, accusing “voyeurs & shameless conscience-less anchors” of presenting only one side of the story in their attempt to demonise Rhea Chakraborty.

This weekend, Telugu actor Lakshmi Manchu and Bollywood actor Tapsee Pannu also stood up for Rhea. Manchu wrote “If something like this happened to me I would want my colleagues to stand up for me,” and was retweeted by Pannu, who added “it only takes to be a human to understand how wrong it is to overtake judiciary to convict someone who isn’t proven guilty.”

As far back as June, in the immediate aftermath of Rajput’s death, Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor spoke out against those who were blaming those close to Rajput for his death, calling it “ignorant and mean-spirited”. Unfortunately, ignorant and mean-spirited have been the themes of the entire media trial all along.