Sexual abuse survivor actress Poorna Jagannathan says India deeply introspective since 2012 gangrape

Poorna Jagannathan (Photo: Facebook)
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By Ankit Sinha

New Delhi–Indian actress Poorna Jagannathan, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and co-producer of the internationally acclaimed play “Nirbhaya” — based on the 2012 Delhi gangrape — believes that people’s mentality in India is “shifting” since the gruesome incident as they have begun to question and introspect more than ever before.

Poorna Jagannathan (Photo: Facebook)
Poorna Jagannathan (Photo: Facebook)

The play, directed by South African playwright Yael Farber, went on to win several awards and shook the conscience of people. Almost four years after it was staged, Poorna, who has starred in popular American TV shows like “House of Cards” and “The Game”, says that things in India have “changed drastically”.

“I hear people say that things haven’t changed in India, but I definitely feel they have changed drastically,” Poorna, who is currently seen in HBO’s crime drama series “The Night Of”, told IANS in a telephonic interview from Los Angeles.

She also spoke about Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s controversial rape comment, saying that the fact that he was “called out” for making such a remark won’t have happened four years ago.

“The fact that Salman Khan was called out on it and was asked about it says a lot. People wanted accountability. I just don’t think that would have happened four years ago. Then people would have just thought, ‘Oh, it is just Salman being Salman’,” Poorna said and added: “I think the language has changed, how we think and what we do and our beliefs have changed.”

The widely travelled actress, known to Bollywood audiences for her “Delhi Belly” act, said that the subject of rape is now being discussed freely.

“I didn’t even grow up with uttering that word (rape) ever. Now we can have a conversation about it, and use the real word versus the secret words we used to describe it. Mentalities are shifting, I think people are questioning,” she asserted.

She said that it is “time for introspection” now.

Poorna Jagannathan
Poorna Jagannathan

“That’s the biggest gift you can have because we are brought up in a certain way all over the world, just programmed in a certain way. Just like America has Black Lives Matter, it is not only fighting injustice… It is really a time for introspection. I think that India has been deeply introspective since that happened and we desire for change,” Poorna said.

As an actor, Poorna said she realises that she had the privilege of speaking out about her own experience as a victim, unlike many others.

“Sometimes if you even break your silence in some parts of the world, you can be killed for it or get victimised. I am very aware when I broke my silence, it was a privilege. I had the privilege of working as an actor, to be accepted by my family, and I am deeply aware that a lot of people don’t have that,” she said.

“I am very much on the journey myself. I guess I ask myself difficult, vulnerable questions. The play ‘Nirbhaya’ is designed to break silence and encourage people to break silence. (Now I am) Hoping to make a film on a larger scale,” Poorna added.

Poorna, who has a background in theatre, will be seen on the big screen with Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and John Boyega in “The Circle”, the upcoming American science-fiction drama film directed and written by James Ponsoldt.

Her conversations with Watson, a vocal proponent of feminism, also revolved around issues that matter.

“We were talking not only about feminism… I was curious about her journey, we spent time talking about it, and my play ‘Nirbhaya’. We connected through that work for sure in a very personal way,” she said.

Poorna, who was last seen in Hindi cinema on the 2013 film “Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani”, says she currently has no Bollywood offers on the cards, but said she’d love to do more of the genre. (IANS)


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