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  Entertainment   Bollywood  28 Sep 2018  Bollywood’s deafening silence

Bollywood’s deafening silence

THE ASIAN AGE. | CHERYLANN MOLLAN
Published : Sep 29, 2018, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Sep 29, 2018, 12:00 am IST

Tanushree points out how she was not only left alone to fight her battle, she was also showered with unsavoury labels.

Tanushree Dutta had claimed that everyone in the industry was aware of Nana Patekar’s misbehaviour with many women.
 Tanushree Dutta had claimed that everyone in the industry was aware of Nana Patekar’s misbehaviour with many women.

As the controversy around Tanushree Dutta’s allegations against Nana Patekar rages on, senior actors of the Hindi film industry are yet to take a stand.

When the #MeToo Movement hit Hollywood, ripples of the impact made their way to us too, but only through articles that chronicled instances of harassment and abuse in the Hollywood industry. But now, with Tanushree Dutta speaking up about her encounter with sexual harassment on the sets of the 2008 movie, Horn Ok Pleassss, one wonders if Bollywood is on the verge of experiencing its very own #MeToo moment. The actress has accused Nana Patekar of misbehaving with her when they were shooting for a song and dance sequence for the film and though her claims have gained currency now, it’s important to remember that the actress had spoken up in 2008 as well, had even quit the film and shortly after, the industry.

Among the first few to come out in full support for Tanushree was journalist Janice Sequeira, who has been privy to the incident that took place 10 years ago. In a series of tweets, she recalls that in 2008, she was assigned to cover behind-the-scenes shots of the song being shot for the film. Along with giving a detailed account of all she witnessed, her thread also mentioned that “The chat I had with Dutta hours after the incident was identical to the account she’s come out with now. How could a person’s version remain the same a decade later if there wasn’t any truth to it?”

Recollecting the incident, Tanushree says, “The industry never stood up for me, they never condemned it. When women speak up, they are given different names and pulled down. I quit the industry and went to America because staying here would constantly remind me of the humiliation I went through.” Her revelation, or must we call it a ‘re-revelation’, has drawn mixed reactions from those within the industry.  Twinkle Khanna who tweeted, “Please read this thread before judging or shaming Tanushree Dutta. A working environment without harassment and intimidation is a fundamental right and by speaking up, this brave woman helps pave the way towards that very goal for all of us.” Others such as Swara Bhasker, Farhan Akhtar Parineeti Chopra, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and others have expressed their support for the actress through Twitter posts and hashtags like #BelieveSurvivors and #BelieveYouTanushreeDutta, others, who can be rightly called the ‘heavyweights’ of the industry, have taken a softer, safer stance. When quizzed about his thoughts on the incident,  Amitabh Bachchan, who was praised for his performance in Pink, said in an interview, “Neither is my name Tanushree nor is it Nana Patekar.” This kind of an evasive retort was given by Aamir Khan too, who said, “Without knowing the veracity of the details, I don't think I can comment on the matter, it would not be right. Whenever something like this happens, it’s really sad. But whether it has happened, is for people to investigate.” Salman Khan, on the other hand, chose the route of ignorance to escape the question in an interview.

It is guarded responses like these that dissuade victims from naming names and stating situations. Tanushree points out how she was not only left alone to fight her battle, she was also showered with unsavoury labels. “When I spoke up in 2008, I was slut-shamed and called unprofessional. Even now, I know people would say, ‘she’s doing this for publicity’. But it’s been 10 years since I left the industry,” exclaims the actress. She also highlights how though her career was brought to an abrupt close, Nana Patekar continued to get work in the industry. “Most of the work he (Nana) has done ha been after 2008. Everybody worked with him even after the incident and that was the most disappointing part of this saga,” she says.

Actress Usha Jadhav, who has in the past been vocal about her own casting couch struggles, says that actresses hesitate to be vocal about incidents of harassment and abuse because they are afraid of the repercussions. “Actresses are scared that they will not be offered work if they open up. Also, there is not enough support for them if they do. Very rarely do people come out and support them,” she says. She also believes that accusing someone who speaks up as being a liar, gold-digger or publicity hungry is ‘the quickest way to pull a woman down’. “But, I do think people should come out and talk about their experiences,” she adds. Actor Neeraj Kabi feels that support is crucial in cases like these. He says, “There has to be a code of conduct that is emphasized where collectively we rise against something like this. The entire unit should stand up, not just one person,” and adds that “We have to individually build that sense of respect in our minds in the way we treat women in the industry.”

Keeping in mind that this isn’t the first time an actress has spoken up about sexual harassment in the industry, and also that instances of sexual harassment are rampant in most other professions, it would be naïve to assume that the problem doesn’t exist in Bollywood. But, a true #MeToo Movement can only transpire if, when someone plucks up the courage to say ‘Me Too’, we have the spine to acknowledge their words and the implications that come with them.

— With inputs from Uma Ramasubramanian

Tags: tanushree dutta, nana patekar