On Tuesday, Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone stopped by Jawaharlal Nehru University, which has been embroiled in chaos and protests for the past three days, in order to show her solidarity with the students.
The actor was in town for promotions for Chhapaak, which is due to release on Friday and arrived at Sabarmati T-Point in the university where a public meeting was being held.
The said meeting had been organised by the JNU students' union and the teachers' association against the attack on students by masked men and women armed with lathis and iron rods on Sunday which resulted in more than twenty people getting injured and hospitalised.
Deepika, however, did not address the crowd. She stood by as former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar raised slogans and left just as current President Aishe Ghosh, who too was injured in the attack, began to speak.
Soon after news of Deepika making an appearance at JNU broke, social media was split into two sections.
On one hand, people lauded the actor for having taken a strong stance and condemning the attack on students. Indians, who have desperately been looking at their "role models" over the last couple of months for support finally found one in Deepika.
Last month, when protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act resulted in violent clashes between the students at Jamia Milia Islamia and Delhi Police, social media demanded that Bollywood do not remain mere spectators.
This time around nevertheless, Bollywood has seen support pouring in from all corners as stars took to the streets to voice their dissent. In Mumbai, celebrities such as Anurag Kashyap, Swara Bhasker, Shweta Tripathi, Vishal Bharadwaj, Vishal Dadlani among others joined the protests at Carter Road.
However, mainstream members of B-Town chose to stay away. The Khans, the Kapoors, the Bachchans didn't have anything to say about CAA, other than tweeting cryptic emojis. Deepika, however, changed the idea of Bollywood stars through that one move.
But here's the thing. Among the ones who supported Deepika's decision, many argued that the actor would never have turned up at JNU had she not been in Delhi for Chhapaak promotions. Some even claimed that her appearance was a mere publicity stunt. But, even if that's true, why is that a problem?
It would do well to remember that every time a woman in India speaks up against injustice, against bias or against violence, she has been brutally shut down and attacked - in the form of rape or death threats, in the form of demeaning comments and insults and in the form of acid attack threats. The actor faced threats too, on social media.
In the past few hours, Deepika has seen the very worst of keyboard warriors spewing venom and hatred on social media. "Anti-national", "Urban Naxal", "Pakistani" - these are just some of the things she's been called. Yet, she chose to bear the brunt of angry fans (or shall we say former fans?) who'd rather she stick to the stereotypical "no comments" act that most celebs tend to put up.
I never imagined that actress like Deepika Padukone will support These JNU Goons and Afzal Now Deepika shows True colour This is my final decision that I will never watch any Film of these actress who Support anti nationalist goons😡😡#boycottchhapaak pic.twitter.com/sO1uEBz1AU — गोपाल सिंह राजपुरोहित (@Gopalrajdoli) January 8, 2020
Blocked @deepikapadukone Country is important for me not actress who stands with anti nationalists.. #BoycottChapaak pic.twitter.com/leYBzxxi0K — Amit Singh 💯 % FB (@RPSAmitSingh) January 8, 2020
Congratulations to be in this list ... Now you will be quoted by pakistani general to act against India and they will use your cheap publicity to defame india .#boycottchhapaak @deepikapadukone pic.twitter.com/QVUey6PuQ2 — Harmeet Singh (@I_am_HS_khalsa) January 8, 2020
Cancelled booking. .#boycottChhapaak @deepikapadukone #BoycottChhapaak pic.twitter.com/gl3snHWNrn — Me (@Manjuna76120410) January 8, 2020
Need we remind you that Swara Bhasker, who's always gone out on a limb to raise her voice against what she believes is wrong, was recently called "sasti" by a filmmaker? Or of the time when Deepika alone waged a war against right-wing extremists who raised objections to her film Padmaavat, threatened to cut off her nose and even put a Rs 10 crore bounty on her head?
Deepika must have known that her appearance at JNU would trigger sparks and be termed controversial - something that most actors would choose to avoid just two days before a major release.
Meanwhile, #BoycottDeepikaPadukone and #BoycottChhapaak have been top trends on Twitter for the past few hours. Even if Deepika had her film's interests at heart, she perhaps deserves round of applause for taking a risk by willingly subjecting herself to virtual hatred and incessant trolling.
Imagine taking a stand two days before your film release when it's your money and hard work on the line. This is not publicity. This is an ardent call of the conscience. I Support Deepika Padukone for life, not just for Chhapaak. #ISupportDeepika — Atika Chohan (@atikachohan) January 7, 2020
Cynics who think @deepikapadukone’s appearance at #JNU is a publicity stunt, remember this: The right wing publicly threatened to chop her nose off, *and* delayed her film’s release, only 2 years ago. Don’t pretend like she isn’t aware of the stakes. — Aniruddha Guha (@AniGuha) January 7, 2020
Today I'm a bigger fan of her when she showed solidarity with JNU Students. Despite knowing the outcome of her upcoming movie #Chhapaak she stood against the Fascism. Some Bhakts may Hate you, But Lady you have earned Tremendous Respect by this!! @deepikapadukone#ISupportDeepika pic.twitter.com/4rptKZzuDZ — Mohammed Saif (@Mr_Saif47) January 8, 2020
Thank you @deepikapadukone for giving this movement a mainstream narrative. For using your position to choose the correct path. It always comes to the women and yes, they do deliver! Big love sister! #WeAreWithJNU #noplaceforfascism — Sayani Gupta (@sayanigupta) January 7, 2020
Thank you @deepikapadukone for letting us know that they can’t snatch India from Indians this easily. More power time you! #ISupportDeepika pic.twitter.com/zJ1PUmBrvh — Chaukidaar pakodi wale.. (@Godimedia123) January 7, 2020
Here's the thing - in an era where people would rather turn a blind eye to atrocities fearing loss of stardom and being subjected to online trolls, Deepika coming to JNU is a refreshing sight, a brave move if you may - even if Chhapaak promotion was her ulterior motive.