Farhan wants the real ‘MARD’ to stand up

IPL backs Farhan Akhtar’s initiative

Kolkata 26 April 2013
It is a campaign that has become a rage and is the talk of the town at the moment. From film stars and sporting icons, flaunting a moustache in their public appearances, to the common man using the ‘MARD’ logo, as his or her profile picture on social networking sites, the ‘MARD’ (Men Against Rape and Discrimination) campaign initiated by film maker, actor, activist Farhan Akhtar has spread like wildfire.
In a chat with, Farhan speaks about his initiative and talks about how men in our society need to stand up against this social evil. 

What is the idea behind ‘MARD’? What are the issues you are addressing here?

The issues that we are addressing are that the millions of boys who are growing up today need to be well-versed with the concept of manhood they are aspiring to achieve. They need to have positive references to what they see around them; the inputs they take from society; the references that go into their heads for them to be able to define themselves as men later on.
Unfortunately, there are not too many positives references around them because more often than not what we see highlighted is negativity and they equate aggressive behaviour as ‘being a man’. There also needs to be a focus on traits like compassion, gentleness, respect and honour.
Parents and teachers need to start teaching boys that they need to have a slightly more balanced understanding of what is a definition of a man.

What exactly spurred this campaign? Was it any particular episode or a series of incidents?

In recent times there have been a lot of events that have triggered outrage not just within me, but in many people across the country. Every day you pick up a paper and you read of some act of aggression against a woman, girl or a child. This initiative has been a result of all the anger, anguish and helplessness.

Being a celebrity, do you in any way think that it is your responsibility to raise your voice and talk about causes that concern the common man in our country today?

For me, as a member of this society, I cannot move away from the responsibility of having to do whatever is possible within my power, of trying to influence society in a positive way.

People have been very good to me at work and elsewhere which has given me an opportunity to reach out to them. And if I can, motivate them to think how they can contribute, then, together we can make a change. It is time for people to give back to the country what the country has given them.

What is the kind of response and support you have received from this initiative?

The response has been very positive. We have been talking about this campaign for about two months and here we are today talking about it on a platform as big as the IPL which reaches out to millions of people. I think in their hearts, a majority of people in this country want things to get better, but unfortunately it is the minority who have the upper hand. The need of the hour is empowering people and letting them know that every individual can make a difference.

How has the response on the social networking front been?

It has been amazing. The feedback has been tremendous because it is primarily inhabited by the youth of the country who do not want India to stay the same that it is today. They are aware of what is going on in the world.
Why are healthy-thinking people embarrassed because of other people’s actions? It is so unfortunate that India is listed in the top five most unsafe countries for women. We need to ask ourselves why we are such an unsafe society. When you hear somebody say, Indian men are extremely dangerous it is embarrassing, because not all belong to that category. We need to stand up for this cause and work towards it’s success collectively.

How can a layman help in contributing to the campaign?

I think to start with, you have to educate your kids to respect women as people. It is also important that people, who have sons, do not treat their daughters in a different way. They should be treated equally, because we are growing up in a society where there is discrimination and more often than not there is discrimination towards girls, towards women. If we can create a mindset where we almost compel people to treat everyone as equal, people will change. If I want to belong to this group of Indians, I have to start thinking like this. That is what will be a big motivator.

In what capacity can actors like Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta help?

Preity Zinta is someone who has always stood for what is right. There was a time many years ago, when somebody actually said that Preity was the only MARD in the film industry. She is an extremely honest person and is not afraid to tell the truth, and she has an informed opinion.
Same is the case with Shah Rukh Khan. He stands for things he believes in. He is an extremely well-balanced person. I have seen him with his kids, and he is amazing with them. Kids see and replicate what their parents do and I have seen in the case of Shah Rukh, that he is fantastic with them. It is great that they are supporting this initiative.

Do you plan to tie-up with other sports besides cricket to raise awareness about MARD?

I mean currently, cricket is the largest sporting pass time that this country is obsessed with. Not just MARD, but there are a lot of other initiatives in this country that need a lot of support through something that is publicly viewed, like cricket or the IPL. I would hope and request the BCCI to plan these events so we can maybe support two or three different causes through the IPL.

Apart from the entertainment aspect, if we can give the people something more to think about while going back home, we can make a huge difference. Sportspersons are so inspirational that people who look up to them, see their achievements, dream of emulating them and being like them. If these people can make society more positive, safe and, dignified, it would be a wonderful thing. 
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