At ‘The Bridge Talks’, a conclave on gender and sexuality that brought together politicians, journalists, media personalities, and more, I witnessed Farah Khan spew the most culturally and intellectually ill-informed and insensitive statements. ‘The Bridge’, by the Caravan, took place on the 8th of October at the Imperial Hotel, New Delhi. Of course, Farah Khan felt in her natural habitat, the bourgeois space.

To begin with her quotes from her on that day, here are some of them.

“I say there is enough talent in our country and we should work only with them.” – Farah Khan, on the Pakistani-artist ban

“When you talk about feminism, you don’t think about the women who want to be in an item song. Nobody put a gun to Kareena’s head to do an item song.” – Farah Khan

“In an item song, the actress is not the item. It’s just called an “item song” because it has nothing to do with the movie.” – Farah Khan

“I don’t think I have ever shown any girl in an obscenely sexual way in any item song.” – Farah Khan

“Only actresses who don’t get item songs say that they don’t want to do item songs.” – Farah Khan

“Madhuri Dixit got famous because she did sexy item songs.” – Farah Khan

“I am a living example of feminism.” – Farah Khan

This was a conference about gender empowerment, foremost. No doubt Farah Khan made various statements that had a positive impact, including strong support for surrogacy, and certain highly impassioned statements that she raises her children to be as feminist as possible. However, here’s where she went wrong.

To say it is the actor’s fault to commit to item songs, though not entirely wrong, is a rather hypocritical statement from the Director themselves. We’re in a film industry where credit and responsibility goes to the Director to decide how these films are shot. To say Kareena Kapoor wants to do item songs and nobody forced her to do so, is to defend drug dealers and say that it is only the fault of those buying. By saying so, she is incriminating herself of visuals which not only set back the feminist movement, but also promote a culture of women being the “other”.

The feminist scholar Simone de Beauvoir spoke of how feminism is not always about happiness. In most cases, the oppressed do not know of the magnitude of their oppression, because they believe it is how things should be. Farah Khan, with her views on “item songs” not being about the woman “item” at all, is as incorrect as she is arrogantly affirming that incorrectness in a rather Donald Trump-like way. Beauvoir mentioned of how in the case of feminism, happiness cannot always be used interchangeably with private interest. It is a matter or impact and perception, not merely the assumed intention. It is not of the intention with which an “item song” is shot, but of its perception and the effects that it will have on its viewers. Her defense to this was that she objectifies men as much as she objectifies women. Well, that’s twice as much an issue.

For here’s the real reason why these songs are called “item” numbers. It’s to do with this matter of reducing the actresses to objects – showing merely parts of their body in isolation, and using just their to elicit reactions. An “item” is a name that arose as a consequence of this itemization, where the women in these songs are seen as objects of sexuality, and not as individuals with characters, not as people with personalities and convictions, but merely the seductive vamp or the sexually complicit woman. It’s not about Kareena choosing to do item numbers, it’s about a lack of choice options – of the option of an “item” number even existing. The excuse of public desire for “item” numbers does not hold – for the film industry holds with it an ethical responsibility to portray that which promotes a progressive change in the opinions of its viewers, and viewers will continue viewing what is shown to them, and what is shown as “correct” to them, in this case these being the objectification of women.

Why, Farah Khan, then do you not eliminate these “item songs” altogether? Why give Kareena a choice, if you are so deeply passionate about feminism? With regards to her views on these “item songs”, I wouldn’t mind inviting Farah Khan to attend my college electives on “Feminism 101” and “An Introduction to Critical Film Studies”, for of course, education must be open to all. But then again, education is only for those minds who are ready to listen, not merely pretend to and wait for their turn to talk.

Let’s move on. Her passive-complying statements in response to a questioning of her views, on the recent social media wave of individuals wanting a ban of Pakistani artists in India, was where she stated that we have enough talent in our own country and don’t need them. Here’s the deal with nationalism. We love pride, we love speaking of India and villainizing other nationalities who seem to be against it. A few terrorist outfits aren’t Pakistan. The Pakistani government isn’t Pakistan. Pakistan is the people in it, the common public, who are as confused and distraught with the conflict as an incredibly patriotic Indian is. Pakistan is a nationalism carved out of Hindustan, made out of consequences of events that caused its national identity to be defined in opposition to our own Indian one. But here’s the deal, dearest Farah Khan: Your statement that implies that it is alright to ban Pakistani artists, according to the perception of the public, will extend to you too. Surprised? Don’t understand why? Here’s the reason. You speak of banning artists who have spent a lot of their lives in this country of India, of banning artists whose childhoods and place-of-birth aren’t in their control. You speak for and generalize the banning of Pakistani artists and hence further villainize an entire nation. And in that context, if “Pakistani” is the identity that you seek to tacitly agree to a villainizing of, how different is it from the ill-informed geniuses who generalize Muslims to be anti-national and not Indian? Does a mere pretext of the country they are born in, automatically make them unfit to apply to the same human privileges as an Indian can avail?

Historically, the people of Pakistan and India are one. We are no different. We belong to one land, and these nationalisms, to anyone who has ever given a second thought to them, are abstract “imagined” concepts that exist to create a sense of unity. And for someone like Farah Khan, to do anything but fervently oppose such a trend of wanting a ban on Pakistani artists in general, is to subscribe to the view that India is a nation hostile to “outsiders”, which is not who we are.

India is hospitality, and always has been. It has never been one nationalism, but a collection of them. From linguistic differences, to regional, cultural, religious, and personal differences, India is the land of diversity and an acceptance of diversity. If we are to generalize the Indian as the patriotic, as the “Jai Hind” proclaimer, as the Hindu heterosexual (yet not sexual until married), as the non-consumer of “anti-national” beef products, of the one who never questions the idea of nationalism and patriotism, then we must also admit that perhaps half the population of the country or more, isn’t Indian. India is hospitality, the incorporating body, and our spirit is that of taking in people who aren’t a part of us, and making them a part of us. It is lovely to proclaim in uninformed patriotism that Pakistan had it coming, and surgical strikes mean that India is giving it back to them, but it goes against the very spirit of who we are as a history, and is hypocritical. When we say that we are against Pakistan, what it means is that we are against its people – its people who are historically, the same people as we are. We are Pakistan, Ms. Farah Khan. And for you to agree to banning people based on an antagonism of an abstract concept, a government, or a few terrorist outfits, is to antagonize yourself, and every other individual who doesn’t conform to a single ethnic sect.

No longer must the Indian mass-media be concerned with their authorial intentions, but look to how the perception of the result is. Whether it be about supporting or condemning surgical strikes, artist bans, women portrayed in “item songs”, or more, this is about how the people of the country think. No more can we be content with people using the objectification of women to justify sexual harassment and rape, no more can we be content with people referring to Farah Khan’s statements to justify the alienation of Pakistani-born artists. No more can we, the people, be content with patriotism or rage – it’s time to be critical, and revisit out options.

Farah Khan said that India was liberal in the context of Muslim families in India, by stating, “But I think women are allowed to drive in this country.” She said on, “When you have a big star, studios don’t care about script. They greenlight anything.” Was she talking about herself?

Everything she said at ‘The Bridge’ was about herself. It was about her uninformed views.

Here are my informed ones, and the readers can decide which one stands. That is a dialogue, that is an acceptance of Farah Khan, despite her idiocy. That is India.