It has been quite some time since the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements took Hollywood by storm. Many idols fell and thousands of women from across the world and across professions joined in to narrate the harrowing experiences they had faced at their workplace and even otherwise.
However, as is the case with every talk about sexual harassment, it never took off in India on a grand scale despite the truth being ugly. That was until former Miss India and Bollywood actress, Tanushree Dutta, dropped a bomb in a recent interview about the harassment she faced at the hands of an established actor and a celebrity who is applauded for his work to help farmers and the poor, Nana Patekar. And as expected, he denied the allegations and she faced the wrath of the society for being “just another attention-seeker” who is trying to relaunch her acting career or be a ‘Big Boss’ contestant. It took quite a bit of time for at least some from the industry to acknowledge her claims or give her the benefit of doubt. I am sure that none of the big shots will give a direct answer to any question related to this because supporting each other in bullshit and condemning others has always been their way. And the younger ones have their career at stake.
I am absolutely not for jumping to conclusions on an accusation of this gravity. I have seen enough examples of how women have ruined the lives of men by lodging false complaints against them and manipulating the sentiments of people and media. Jasleen Kaur and the Rohtak sisters are only two names from the many. There have been celebrities too in this infamous list.
I have seen Kangana Ranaut launch fresh attacks on Hrithik Roshan every time a movie of hers is about to be released. I have also heard her make dubious claims of her alleged relationship with him, mostly contradicting herself, not able to provide any kind of proof for whatever she is trying to prove (let’s not forget that she keeps mentioning specific incidents on specific dates which are later proven wrong with the support of proper documents by the other party), not ready to cooperate with the authorities by submitting whatever she is asked to submit, and by far only making appallingly cringe-worthy statements. But since people were totally pissed off by the extent of nepotism in Bollywood at that time and she was a superb actress who came out of nowhere and went on to rule the industry in her own way, there was a lot of support she found, especially from women.
Now you might be wondering why I have to speak bad of one woman to support another. As I said before, I am in no way a person who supports another person, only because she is a woman. And in this case, I really find the contrast in reactions from people disheartening. “Since Kangana is already a superstar and does not need such publicity stunts, she must be telling the truth, although there is no logic to it, no evidence and the issue in itself is stupid. But Tanushree hasn’t been in the news for a long time. So this is definitely a publicity stunt.” What kind of silly rationale is that? For people who never went by Kangana’s words, Tanushree is just the same – someone who “plays the victim card” for her gain. Whichever way, this lady with her position of power and influence, has ruined it for lots of women, especially those who are coming out with genuine issues of sexual harassment.
To belittle any woman speaking out about the distressing events that affected them personally and professionally only because there have been women proven fake is sad. When some men and some women, for that matter, keep trying to fight a non-existent feud of the genders with the #NotAllMen movement, I don’t see any of them think the other way round – #NotAllWomen – not every woman who speaks up is a man-hating, attention-seeking bitch, playing the victim card.
It is still early to decide whether Nana Patekar is guilty or not. But Tanushree has been able to bring out proof of filing a complaint at the time of the incident which, according to her, was withdrawn due to the kind of mental harassment her family faced. There have also been a few witnesses from the sets who have backed her version of the incident. Even people who have tried to deny her allegations have not denied them outright; they have only downplayed them. So at least for now, let’s not call her an attention-seeker and write her off.
If not for anything else, I will definitely thank Tanushree for opening the floodgates in India to hundreds of #MeToo revelations from Bollywood and movies industries of other languages, media and just about every other profession. I wasn’t particularly taken aback by the gut-wrenching and pathetic episodes from movie industry, considering how extremely misogynistic it has always been. But the ugly truth about the stand-up comedy scene in India did affect me.
In an age where movies glorifying larger-than-life heroes and daily soaps glorifying “sanskaari bahus” were the only forms of entertainment dished out to us, the stand-up comedians came in like a whiff of fresh air – questioning status-quo and norms, having conversations about social taboos, ‘supposedly’ trying to make things better for women. Stand-up comedy along with online media houses and channels became such a huge hit that the people associated with these became role models for the youth.
The first kick in the gut came when Arunabh Kumar, the founder and CEO of TVF, a much acclaimed idol was caught up in an array of sexual harassment allegations. He and the entire team dealt with the allegations so shoddily that it gave a peek into the reality behind the scenes. That should ideally have been the start of the #MeToo movement in India. But somehow it didn’t take off further. Now with the #MeToo movement in full swing bringing out the true colours of so many of these harbingers of change, including those who openly criticized and condemned TVF only one and a half years ago, it is easy to see that what they preach is absolutely not what they practice. It also proves that men alone are not the predators. Kaneez Surka has accused fellow comedian, Aditi Mittal of forcefully kissing her, thus showing us that women can be equally bad sometimes. Apologies flying all over the place – apologies that look like they were an obligation asserted by the lawyers of the accused – show how there definitely is truth in these accusations and how they don’t even feel it is a huge issue, but just a part of the “harmless flirting” culture.
These were youngsters who rose to stardom with their hard work, went on to become role models for other youngsters and had all the potential to truly bring in a change. But by being bloody hypocrites who are in no way different from any other sexual predator, they have ruined this chance. In doing that, they have also broken the trust of the people who looked up to them. Shame on you guys!
Let’s hope that the #MeToo revolution does not fizzle out in some time, bringing back the days of suffering in silence and shame. Instead, let us encourage and embolden more and more women (and men) to speak up against any sort of sexual harassment they face. Just remember – today it is her, tomorrow it could be you.
Also published on Medium.