He presents his heroines mostly as the girl-next-door with minimal makeup and a simplicity that screams emotions louder than the cacaphony of item numbers. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra says he is not against nudity in films, but he has strong views against exploitation of women.
"I don't see art there," Mehra said while talking about the current trend of raunchy item songs.
"I am not against nudity. If that's a part of the story, please go ahead. It's beautiful...our bodies are beautiful. But exploitation for money and exploitation on the part of the audience and society for titillation...," added the filmmaker as he mulled over the matter while chatting on the breezy and picturesque banks of Indus river here. He was here for the second edition of Ladakh International Film Festival.
The need of the hour is for filmmakers to own up the "responsibility" of avoiding "gender bias", for actresses to make the right "choice" and for the audience to "stop watching" anything that stands to exploit anyone.
This, he agreed, all the more at a time when constant "concerns" are raised against showbiz for giving a fillip to the escalating number of rape cases in the country.
"Filmmakers and performers are a part of the society. There is no reason to objectify. The only reason as I can think of is the lust for glamour, and greed for money, and you also get eyeballs. That has to be discouraged," said the 50-year-old looking relaxed in a white shirt teamed with denims.
He practices what he believes in.
Be it Soha Ali Khan in "Rang De Basanti", or Sonam Kapoor in "Delhi-6" as well as in her not-so-meaty-but-mighty role in "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" - Mehra's female protagonists have never had to resort to skin show or sexy numbers to leave an impact. The fact that it has worked proves his point.
"Cinema reflects whatever is going on, and not in a good way, I would say. And when there's gender bias in cinema, it's a shameful act. I hang my head in shame when I see that... whether I have done it or not, I belong to that community. One has to own the responsibility," he added.
Also, the onus lies on the performer hugely.
"Why is anyone doing it? Is there a necessity? Is there someone dying at home out of hunger? Are there younger siblings for whom you have to pay the school fees? ... so there's no 'majboori' factor here at all.
"If there is lust for glamour and it is a girl who is dancing out there, it's her choice! If she refuses, and she can, then there is nothing anyone (either a filmmaker or the audience) can do," he said.
The audience, especially needs to take a stand, according to Mehra.
"Don't watch it! Nobody is forcing you. Don't buy that product, stop buying it, and if there are no takers, one won't make it," he said.
Away from the reel life, in real life, we need to look at ourselves in the mirrors as an individual, as a family unit and educational institutions, said Mehra.
"And that's how reform can begin. It's not easy, it won't happen overnight. It's a slow process, but I am confident that it can be turned around, has to be turned around, it should be turned around," he added.