Outspoken Women Are Not Appreciated in India: Ratna Pathak Shah

Ratna Pathak Shah added that her family didn't watch Sarabhai vs Sarabhai when it released.

3 min read
Hindi Female

Ratna Pathak Shah of Sarabhai VS Sarabhai fame is a versatile actor and thespian. In a recent interview, she talked about her journey as an actor. She recalled that she wanted to do serious roles like Shabana Azmi but admits that comedy roles changed her mind.


Talking about her nascent days in the industry, she said, “I just didn't get any interesting work for years. People didn't think I was worthy of being cast! But in a way, it turned out to be good for me because then I ended up doing television. That's kind of the first paying job I really got. I did a TV show, titled 'Idhar Udhar', which aired in 1984-85, and was a sitcom that was quite progressive.”

“When I started my career in the early ’80s, I would have done the kind of roles written for women--even the big dramatic roles that people like Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil did--but I didn’t get the chance. I got 'Idhar Udhar', which I feel changed me and my attitude towards my life and work.”
Ratna Pathak Shah, Actor

Ratna also talked about the audience response to Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, adding that her own family didn’t watch it.

“‘Sarabhai vs Sarabhai’ was witty! But we were ahead of our times; when we first aired on Star One, in 2004, our TRP was 0.69. My own family, who were hooked on TV, didn't watch it; they said they couldn’t connect to it. So, after a few episodes, the show was done with. It was much later, when the channel started playing the show on repeat, that people found out about it. And when we went online, the response was phenomenal,” Ratna said.

Ratna Pathak Shah is known for frequently voicing her opinion. She told ETimes that the distinction between politics and art is difficult to make. “Work is always political and what we are trying to do is create some kind of art. But yes, it is political in a way as it's a message that goes out to many people and conveys many meanings of the preoccupations that the society or the government in the country has,” she said.


Ratna added that the roles in her first few professional projects were all exploring stories different from Hindi films. “’Tara’ had women who took charge of their lives, made choices, and did things that were considered shocking or unacceptable. In 'Idhar Udhar', two young girls were living with a man, who was neither romantically involved with the two nor was even willing to,” she added.

When asked if her ‘no-nonsense’ approach intimidates those around her, she replied that people who she has worked with have not been intimidated.

“Outspoken women are not appreciated in India, and probably all over the world. On the other hand, nobody, who has been close to me, has been intimidated. People, with whom I have worked, were not intimidated. It depends on the person interacting with me. It's not my job to worry about them.”
Ratna Pathak Shah, Actor

Ratna also talked about her time at National School of Drama, and added that she has a ‘huge amount of respect’ for Neena Gupta. “I remember when I had joined the National School of Drama, I had a home to come to and a family that would support me. I didn't have to pay my bills from day one, but there were so many other girls who had to,” she said.

Talking about Neena Gupta, she added, “For example, Neena Gupta. She had entered the industry a few months before me and had a completely different experience. I was safe, Neena was not. She had to fight to make her own place in the world. I have a huge amount of respect for her and how she has managed her life today. I am very hopeful that the future looks bright for at least some of the girls I know.”

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