In October 2017, women in Hollywood came together to share their sexual harassment stories with the #MeToo movement. Bollywood, on the other hand, is still looking the other way and letting the culprits get away with it.
A few days ago, actress Tanushree Dutta in an interview with a leading entertainment channel recalled a traumatising incident from 2008. She shared that while shooting for a dance sequence for the film, Horn OK Pleassss, her co-actor Nana Patekar made her feel uncomfortable and sexually harassed her. She further went on to make a statement saying, "Everyone knows about Nana Patekar that he has always been disrespectful towards women. People in the industry know about his background... that he has beaten actresses, he has molested them, his behaviour with women has always been crude but no publication has printed anything about it."
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Actress Tanushree Dutta alleged that Nana Patekar harassed her while shooting for a film Horn 'Ok' Pleassss in 2008. She opted out of the film because of Nana's misbehaviour. In a phone conversation with Aruneel Sadadekar of Mirror Now, Nana Patekar, when asked about Tanushree’s allegations against him, said, “What can I do about it? You tell me.” When probed further, he went on to laugh, and say, “What does she mean by sexual harassment? There were 50-100 people on set with me [at that time]…” Nana Patekar also said that he would see what he could do about it legally. “I’ll see, it’s a waste talking,” he said, adding that the media will “play up anything”. Nana concluded saying that he would continue doing his work and people can continue saying what they want. Aamir Khan Without knowing the veracity of something, it's not right for me to comment on it. But whenever something like this does happen, it's a sad thing. Whether this has happened, that is for people to investigate it: Aamir Khan on Tanushree Dutta accusing Nana Patekar of harassment. #tanushreedutta #nanapatekar @viralbhayani
This isn't the first time the actress has spoken about it. Back in 2008 when she walked out of the set, Tanushree made a public statement about the incident but was ignored and her car was attacked in a public setting. Here is her statement to a leading newspaper about the incident from 2008, “A couple of times, I pushed his hands away when he got too close. But it didn’t seem to make a difference. He continued to direct my steps roughly and aggressively. Things got really out of hand when Ganesh incorporated steps where Nana could get physically close to me.”
While speaking about the issue once again now, 10 years after the incident, the actress is no longer a part of the industry. Last seen in the movie Apartment in 2010, she spoke about the fact that Nana Patekar has still been actively working with A-listers in Bollywood. "Akshay Kumar has made few films with Nana Patekar in last eight years and Rajinikanth also recently worked with him (in Kaala)... If such big stars will keep working with these culprits, then there's no hope for any movement (#MeToo) to happen."
Nana Patekar was contacted by a news agency about the same and replied with a laugh stating, “What does she mean by sexual harassment? There were 50-100 people on set with me.” The choreographer on set, Ganesh Acharya, spoke in Nana Patekar's defence to a news channel. “He’s a very sweet person, he can never do that. He is very helpful and he has actually helped a lot of artistes in the industry, he can never do anything like that.” He also added that he doesn’t remember what happened that day as the incident is from 10 years ago. “When I was called for rehearsal I was told that Nana ji was also there in the song. I don’t have the agreement with me because that time we used to do it verbally. But that particular song didn’t involve any kind of indecent step in the first place. It was pure dancing. That’s all,” he said.
Tanushree has been brave while talking about the harassment when everything is brushed under the glamour carpet of Bollywood. Another celebrity has recently shared a personal experience to encourage women to speak up.
Yesterday, model, actor, author and activist, Padma Lakshmi wrote a piece in an international newspaper making a shocking revelation. "I was raped at 16 and I kept silent." In the article, she begins by speaking about being sexually assaulted at the age of 7 and being sent away to live with her grandparents in India when she told her mother and step-father about it.
I wrote an Op-Ed for @nytimes about something terrible that happened to me in my youth, something that happens to young women every day. We all have an opportunity to change the narrative and believe survivors. https://t.co/pqFt50t4R1
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) September 25, 2018
Then she goes on to recall the incident at 16 with her then-boyfriend, "The two of us had gone to a couple of parties. Afterward, we went to his apartment. While we were talking, I was so tired that I lay on the bed and fell asleep.
The next thing I remember is waking up to a very sharp stabbing pain like a knife blade between my legs. He was on top of me. I asked, “What are you doing?” He said, “It will only hurt for a while.”
“Please don’t do this,” I screamed.
The pain was excruciating, and as he continued, my tears felt like fear. Afterward, he said, “I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep.” Then he drove me home."
She concluded the article by making a statement that should be repeated over and over again until it creates a lasting impact. "One in four girls and one in six boys today will be sexually abused before the age of 18. I am speaking now because I want us all to fight so that our daughters never know this fear and shame and our sons know that girls’ bodies do not exist for their pleasure and that abuse has grave consequences."
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When you watch celebrities, actors on the big screen in a position of power to influence an entire nation, keep quiet, it makes you wonder why. While Tanushree is brave to have spoken up and taken names, most people in the industry would not do the same. Here are the statements Bollywood has made so far on the issue, including the topic of the infamous casting couch.
Mostly, the industry looks the other way when a man or woman is being harassed. The germ is so infested in our culture that they don't even think it's wrong. Famous choreographer Saroj Khan insensitively defended the casting couch saying that the accused rape and abandon women but also provide a livelihood. She even called it an 'age-old issue.'
But actresses like Swara Bhasker and Tisca Chopra have shed light on the fact that sexual harassment is prevalent in the industry. “It is always very subtle,” said Swara Bhasker. “People try to insinuate that there are 10,000 girls for one role – so what can you do? I know the directors who won’t answer my calls because I made it clear I would not get into that relationship situation.”
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Tisca Chopra also stated, “They make situations uncomfortable and load choices in a way where if women want to get ahead, you have to do certain things.”
Radhika Apte, in the BBC documentary about India's lack of #MeToo movement, also talked about the issue of sexual assault and why women do not speak up. "Some people are regarded as gods. They are so powerful that people just don’t think that my voice is going to matter, or people think that if I speak, probably my career is going to get ruined. The way the women, and the men, of course, came together and decided that as a team we are not going to let this happen, I wish that could happen here."
With Tanushree Dutta's latest statement maybe Bollywood is ready to change and grow from the clutches of the harassers who control it.
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