By Kouser Fathima
Actor Tanushree Dutta has gone public with sexual harassment allegations against prominent actor, Nana Patekar, after 10 years.
There is nothing new about the allegations. Stories about casting couch and sexual abuse in Bollywood have been making rounds for ages but very few have come out in the open publicly. When Tanushree Dutta speaks about her ill-treatment by Nana Patekar, very few from the industry show any solidarity with her. Bollywood has gone into a mute mode. Along with the male stars, the female stars hardly bat an eyelid or make any statement, exhibiting the shallowness of one of the biggest industries. The bigger the star, the louder the silence of the industry. The worst part about such allegations is when people start questioning the motive of the victim, instead of speaking out against the perpetrator. “Why now after so many years?”, “Why didn’t she speak earlier?”, and the age-old statement, “Oh! she must be doing it for publicity or to get back into limelight”. These are some of the common allegations hurled against the victims, while the alleged offender is left unquestioned.
Dutta mightn’t have accused Patekar earlier because she was scared. She was new in the industry with few friends. She might have taken time to realise the severity of the incident. There can be many reasons why she was silent. It’s never easy for the victim to muster courage and come out openly, especially if the alleged offender is a big name. When heroines spoke against big stars in the past, the end result was uncomfortable for them. Being dropped from a movie to being completely boycotted by other production houses, speaking out has ruined many promising careers. When Parveen Babi spoke against Amitabh Bachchan, she was labelled delusional. Mamta Kulkarni’s promising career ended abruptly when she spoke against Rajkumar Santoshi. A foreign model’s accusations against Subhash Ghai ruffled many feathers. Madhur Bhandarkar was accused of false promise of marriage and lead role in return of sexual favours by Preeti Jain. These are few of the cases that were in the limelight. In almost all these cases, the career of the female actors was ruined completely and the alleged offenders continued to flourish as respected entities in the industry. As the reaction of industry in these cases sent a particular message, very few actresses dared to speak out against the powerful and famous personalities. Not only do they risk ruining their careers but also face character assassination. Most of them continue to suffer in silence. And the cycle continues.
Now after years when Dutta opens up against Nana Patekar, people are busy questioning her and trolling her endlessly on social media. Her story is silenced with allegations and attacks on her character, allegations of publicity stunt. Nana Patekar has gone scot-free. Although Dutta has openly said how violent and abusive he was with many of his other costars, no one has come forward to share their experience. His fans are referring to his good social work and commenting on her botoxed face. The reaction to Dutta’s allegations reflects the misogynistic views of the society and lack of fortitude in Bollywood to take up the issue of casting couch and sexual assault faced by many newcomers both male and female. While many applauded the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, they are silent when someone from Bollywood narrates their story.
We hope that someday Bollywood would learn to speak and stand for a right cause. The question remains: will Bollywood ever allow a #MeToo movement?
Dr. Kouser Fathima is a Bangalore-based dentist who writes on issues concerning women, especially Muslim women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @drpiscean.
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