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“One woman who I consider god is Oprah Winfrey,” says Lakshmi Manchu

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Acclaimed Indian actress, producer and TV presenter who works primarily in Telegu cinema and American television, Lakshmi Manchu is a name that needs no introduction. 

With several eminent awards to her name and a body of work that speak volumes about her career spanning over a decade, we thought of speaking with the ‘Anaganaga O Dheerudu’ star about International Women’s Day. 

In an exclusive interaction with DNA, the ‘Chandamama Kathalu’ actor revealed what the day meant to her, the women who shaped her life, the female public personality she looks up to for inspiration and more. 

Here are some excerpts…

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Initially, I was very resistant to celebrating women’s day because I thought, is there a man’s day? Why should we be celebrating women’s day? But, when you understand the significance of it and what women went through to be at the place they are today after all the suppression they encountered and endured, and to think that we are only celebrating this day for over a hundred years, and for the rest of our lives that we have been denied our rights, any women who spoke her mind was witch-hunted and we see that a lot today too. I think it is important for us to stand up for the women who created this movement because it’s on their shoulders it is that we stand upon today. It is really culture and achievements in all walks of life let it be economic or political or in our day to day lives to be even able to vote or drive a car or hold a position in a political party. So, I really think it means the world to me now than before because it is celebrating all these achievements. 

Do you think there should be a day like this to celebrate womanhood?

I think celebrating women’s day is itself celebrating womanhood. I think we need to embrace all aspects of it, being feminine, being masculine in our body and to be able to embrace and celebrate that. 

How would define the woman of this decade?

The women of this decade are commendable, standing up for their own. Before it was for their husband or family, or for someone else. But I think now, the women of this decade are looking at what it is that they want for their family, they want in their husband, they want in their work and I think more women should stand up and celebrate who they are as an individual, as a human being so that they can live a better life for themselves and for the society and family around them. I love the woman of this decade. 

Who is/are the women who changed and shaped your life? 

There are many women who changed and shaped my life. Definitely, some who taught me how not to be, and I have to say that my mom taught me how not to be dependent and she also taught me how to hold her own in a household of such strong men. She taught me the good, bad and the ugly and how to be like her and how not to be like her. B

A female public personality who you look up to for inspiration?

One woman who I consider god is Oprah Winfrey. She really is the epitome of womanhood who knows how to live life on her own terms and yet is able to do so much for the world while wearing the diamonds that she does. She’s the public personality I look up to for inspiration and someone who has also shaped my life. I have watched every season and every episode of Oprah and I really dedicate who I am today to her. 

Do you think even in a free world, women have less freedom when it comes to social media since many are subjected to online hate for sharing certain kind of photos, posts in comparison to men who get a polar opposite reaction?

Yes, at any given point in time, we are easy targets for men, especially when we are living in a patriarchal society, largely in this world. I think it comes naturally to men to target us because they are afraid of the freedom that we have and what we can truly achieve with it. I, myself, as someone who voices her opinion so publicly, think should I put this picture up or not? What am I going to get trolled on? But, I have a great support system of beautiful friends to whom I send the pictures asking is this too much? And then, for them, it’s never too much because they really think that I need to do and follow what my heart says so that other women can do the same. And I do laugh at it. A man ‘shirtless’ is so ogled upon, on the other hand, if a woman did that it’s sexual, sexist and degrading. At any given point, they will make us a target, so, it’s up to us how we hold our power. 

How do you think women can empower other women?

The way women can empower each other is to celebrate each other in the smallest of things. To commend them, to speak proudly about each other, I think that is the way women can empower one another. 

A lot of people confuse feminism with male-bashing. What do you have to say to them and how do you think this mindset can be changed?

It is a thin line when we talk about feminism and if its the right or the wrong thing. But, what I really believe is that it is not about male-bashing, it’s about celebrating each other. And for me, it’s just being equal. If you can walk on a road nake, I should be able to do that too. If you can get on top of a stage and scream your lungs out, so should be able to do. There’s no comparison actually. A woman can do and multi-task so much better than a man can. And, it’s not putting a man down, it’s just that we are genetically and spiritually capable of doing a lot more. 

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