My surname is a protective barrier: Shruti Haasan
Actor Shruti Haasan says she has learnt to navigate through the "lopsided" gender dynamics on a film set, where the hero gets preferential treatment, while most women use silence as a defence mechanism.
Shruti, who has worked across Tamil, Telugu and Hindi film industries, said she has had a combination of factors that have acted as a "protective barrier" for her in the industry, which included her surname.
"The combination of my surname and my resting b**** face has kept a lot of people at an arm's length. Now after many years, I feel comfortable and safe enough to open up and say whatever I want," Shruti told PTI in an interview.
The actor said in her initial years, she realised, "little" things on set which would be considered impolite.
"I chose silence and withdrawal as a protective mechanism. I think a lot of women on set feel that way. They'd say 'Don't keep reading a book, it looks impolite'.
"So I'd just keep going to the vanity van because I didn't know who to communicate with. It took me a long time to learn how to navigate things," she added.
Shruti said the gender dynamic is so imbalanced because of the patriarchal society, which will always look after the men first, even in a film.
"So the chair will be first kept for the hero. In my first few films, I was never offered a chair first, or on any other set. The guy always got the chair first. 'Oh the hero has come near the monitor, get him a chair,' they would say.
"It's the good men who said, 'No, you please sit first.' I don't face that anymore. But what I can do as a woman is be sensitive to the women on set."
The 34-year-old actor currently features in the short film, "Devi", directed by Priyanka Banerjee and produced by Niranjan Iyengar and Ryan Ivan Stephen.
The film depicts how nine women belonging to different strata of society are brought together by circumstance and end up forming a sisterhood after they share their stories of abuse.
"The script moved me as a woman. It wasn't like a public service announcement. It's life represented beautifully.
"It also targets the mindset which is always quick to blame the survivor - 'What was she wearing? Why was she out?' Tragedy doesn't discriminate. A rapist doesn't quantify, qualify and calculate."
The "Behen Hogi Teri" actor said when she started her career, she felt her opinions weren't valued enough, but that has changed.
"Now I find myself in a position where I'm able to discuss things with my co-stars, directors. I have been heard and acknowledged and that feels wonderful. Maybe my approach to wanting to be heard changed.
"I was initially reclusive and I generally don't engage with men or women who don't learn the value of other people's opinions," she added.