Perhaps, we would move on after that! New story feeds would replace this old debate after Hindi cinema-I prefer to call it that-or better Indian cinema, me too moment! The moment may just slip away to create a mass movement against sexual harassment. Hollywood showed us how and the campaign had a searing effect that brought to task several powerful men in the industry who attempted assault, rape and exploited women sexually. Will the Hindi film industry stand up for its women incurring the wrath of sex-hungry predators?
Tanushree Dutta is a victim and not the perpetrator of the crime. She may not have opened a can of worms but spoke about something that has been hidden under the carpet. Hollywood had its metoo moments last year to declare war on sexual harassment? Are we in India going to miss this metoo moment? It’s not a moment but much larger questions need to be asked where we heard countless stories about women harassed in the sanctity of their workplace, not solely restricted to the entertainment industry. There is a dire need to look at the larger picture jutting across industries and in the boardrooms as secret vaults. The time is NOW. Victim shaming or whataboutery will not work! Time to get rid of idiotic arguments on why she waited for a decade plus to speak about it! She did. At that time, she was a young lady whose voice was crushed but nonetheless stood her ground based on moral principles. There were no social media during those days. From what I remember, only Orkut was present that didn’t wield such a huge influence, unlike today.
A young woman who started her career at the prime age of 22 faced sexual harassment from a much senior superstar, old enough to be her father. Granted, he acts well and is a power of immense talent. One can imagine what the young actor must have gone through that she was compelled to leave everything and abandon her career. Her only fault? Standing for truth and daring to take on the powerful and mighty who wouldn’t take NO for an answer! They ganged against her when she was the victim of sexual harassment from a predator and his acolytes. They told she refused to ‘cooperate’. So what if his name is Nana Patekar, a hugely respected actor of immense caliber who uplifted farmers in the state of Maharashtra! We need to bring a demarcation between Nana, the star and the man who wronged a young woman who set her sight with big dreams in the eyes foraying in Mumbai’s film factory.
It’s not a question on how respected an actor is in the eyes of admirers or industry but a question of what is right or wrong. The fact remains that Tanushree filed a complaint with Cine and Television Artistes Association on being sexually harassed on the sets and her car being vandalized by MNS political goons. On the contrary, she was victimized by an entire gang slapping fine and a counter FIR launched against her. This misogyny is blatant. A young girl whose career has been destroyed by vultures. It reflects a larger malaise when a girl suffered for more than a decade for daring to take on the powerful and this whole whataboutery on why she stayed silent is misplaced. Sadly, the Hindi film industry like its Hollywood counterpart is ruled by the Omerta code of silence. Today, there is a huge opportunity to address the trauma of what the girl has gone through and nothing can set things right or compensate for the lost years.
Tanushree doesn’t deserve the criticism or aspersion cast on her character. Rather, we must applaud her courage to ignite this Metoo Movement and we have in front of us an opportunity to address this appalling sexist misogyny. The worst is, will people like Nana Patekar go scotfree and his ilk like so-called and self-claimed nationalist Vivek Agnihotri who has a history of insulting women on Twitter who dare to express dissenting views having the gall to tell an actor to shed her clothes to give co-actors acting clue go unpunished? Are we going to miss this cue? What happened to the FIR lodged by Dutta against Patekar for alleged sexual assault? Why this silence on the part of the biggest voices in the film industry, except few sanest people?
Tanushree is the one who suffered during all those years where she lost so many things, perhaps her own self with this intimidation. It’s no publicity stunt but a woman who has been wronged by a system, a rotten mentality yet being questioned by a patriarchal society. If we cannot stand and make a distinction between what is right or wrong, we don’t have a right to speak about Nirbhaya, women being raped or sexually assaulted or the Vishaka guideline at work to protect women. Perhaps, tomorrow something else will hog the headline to make the breaking news and Tanushree’s side of her story will be forgotten. It would be the perversion of justice in spite of the fact that there were eye witnesses during the shooting of Horns OK with journalist Janice Sequeira and Shyni Shetty as an AD corroborating with Tanushree’s version on the sets.
The film industry reflects a mirror image of society and is a medium of powerful expression. There have been several instances where questions asked whether the Hindi cinema which the world call, Bollywood will ever have a metoo moment or movement. Well! It does now and if this moment ever slips it will be the biggest shame and disgrace. Better for the film industry not speak about poetic justice if they cannot give a woman who has been wronged justice. This incident has taken everything from Tanushree, stripped of her dignity as a human being but it didn’t deter her from walking the tightrope, fighting for every woman who has been harassed.
No man has the right to touch a woman without her consent. The clock is ticking like a time bomb. Tanushree is one who suffered and the fact that she came in the open to narrate what she has gone through, taking the onus and facing unwanted whataboutery casting aspersion on her character reflects the nerves of steel. It was not easy for her in 2008. It is not easy for her in 2018. As a society, we owe justice to Tanushree. Will a case be filed against her alleged molesters, the likes of Nana Patekar and Vivek Agnihotri to be prosecuted in court? We owe it not just to the lady but every woman who has been molested at the workplace, their temple.
I stand up with Tanushree Dutta. Do you? A mass movement must be triggered for her likes to obtain justice or else it will be a real shame for courage to lose its sheen. People like Nana Patekar cannot go and hide behind law suits.