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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 IPLT20.com, 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.
It was only last month that Shikhar Dhawan announced himself to the world with a rampaging 187 against Australia – the fastest century on Test debut. The dream, however, was followed by instant frustration as he had to miss the next Test with a hand injury sustained while fielding.
Dhawan was out for close to six weeks, forcing him to sit out the first seven games of Sunrisers Hyderabad. The team missed him too, as they managed only one 150-plus total without him. Dhawan’s first game in IPL 2013 came against the Chennai Super Kings at Chepauk. And Dhawan defied the post-injury rustiness to smack a fluent 63 off 45 balls. Sunrisers managed 159.
Although the visitors lost by five wickets, Dhawan’s return to the side and the continuity of his form holds a huge promise for his team. After the match, the flamboyant opening batsman spoke to iplt20.com about how he planned his comeback and how he approaches a T20 game.
Did you really come from an injury layoff? It didn’t seem so from the way you batted?
Of course I came from an injury (laughs). But it was good to have a break. I got fresh and hungrier to bat again. Before coming into this match I was at the NCA (National Cricket Academy) for a weak to 10 days. I practised there and prepared for the match.
How did you approach this innings?
When I started batting in the nets I found that I had the same flow and rhythm that I felt during the Test. So, I just came in keeping in mind how to pace my innings and plan it. I worked on my skills in the nets and decided to plan the rest on the basis of the wicket and the bowling.
Do you change your game a lot going from one format to another? Your strike-rate on your Test debut didn’t say so.
I do change my game a lot. Yes, I did score the fastest century on Test debut but I didn’t plan to do so. It was a lucky day for me and it just happened. But generally when I am playing days of cricket I do go slow. I do prepare very differently for T20 format, mostly suiting to the demands of the game.
Given the form you were in when that injury happened, did the time on the sidelines test your patience a lot?
Yes, it did. I batted so well in my first Test and then to miss out on playing the second one was very tough. But I tend to see things in a positive way. I believe things happen for the better.
R Ashwin was trying a few variations today and you picked one of them well to smash it to the extra-cover boundary. Tell us about it?
I watched the ball coming out of his hand and I knew that he was going to bowl something different. I just waited on it and found it was a leg-spinner. It was pitched in my area and I hit it.
Do you practise the scoop shot a lot in the nets?
Yes, I do. I plan to use it mostly only in the T20 format. In the one-dayers if the situation arises where I have to try something different to create scoring opportunities, I don’t mind using it there too. Today (Thursday) I could feel that I wasn’t able to hit big shots. I didn’t hit a single six. So, I thought instead of wasting the ball I should use the bowler’s pace and sneak in some runs, if not the preferred way, the other way.
When you came back to bat after getting hit, wasn’t it hard to continue in the same vein? You hit four boundaries straight away!
I didn’t think about that, honestly. I was just feeling good that the pain had lessened and I was again ready to go and bat. I’m pretty used to this pain – I keep getting fractures and such injuries. The pain doesn’t take the smile off my face.
What did Dwayne Bravo tell you as he escorted you to the dugout when you retired hurt?
He asked me, ‘Are you okay, bro?’ I told him I’ll have to get myself checked by the physio first. We play against each other but when a player is hurt, we care about each other too and give them a good hug.