by Elton Gomes
Bollywood actor Nana Patekar has been charged of sexual misconduct by Tanushree Dutta. In speaking out against sexual harassment, Dutta seems to have become an ambassador for the #MeToo movement in Bollywood. It remains to be seen whether Patekar is guilty, though he has been called out for his mood swings, with Dimple Kapadia calling him “obnoxious”. On the other hand, several insiders within Bollywood claim that Dutta’s accusations are nothing but an attention-grabbing ploy.
In a patriarchal setting like Bollywood, Dutta voicing out her accusations can encourage victims of sexual assault to not keep quiet. In an interview with Mumbai Mirror, Dutta said that the #MeToo movement had “definitely inspired” her. Perhaps it is time that Bollywood witnesses its own #MeToo.
What has Tanushree Dutta said
In an interview with IANS, Dutta recounted Patekar’s “misbehaviour” on the sets of the movie Horn ‘Ok’ Pleassss in 2008. During the interview, Dutta said that Patekar made her feel so uncomfortable while shooting for a song that she eventually had to opt out of the film. To make things worse, Dutta said that goons from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) bashed up her car.
In a recent interview, Dutta said that India will never have its #MeToo due to Bollywood’s hypocrisy. Her comments have sparked a debate on how increasingly patriarchal Bollywood is. “I have always been hoping for an apology from all of them. It was not just Nana Patekar, but (choreographer) Ganesh Acharya who was an accomplice in that, director Rakesh Sarang, and producer Sami Siddiqui. And the entire industry that has been an accomplice through silence,” Dutta said, IANS reported.
Dutta then recalled the string of incidents that took place on the sets of Horn ‘Ok’ Pleassss: “It all began when I saw Nana Patekar on the set around 6-7 am, when he was not required. And mind you, he was staring at me like a freak.
I had been told that it was my solo song. I checked with the director (Rakesh Sarang), who then told me that he is required for just one line. He shot for that one line of his, but continued to be on the set. When I told him ‘Hello’, he didn’t even reciprocate. Slowly he started coming closer,” India Today reported.
Dutta said further, “Next day, he was even more close. And then, he started behaving bizarre. He asked Ganesh Acharya (choreographer, whom I had recommended for that song) to move out, grabbed me by my arm, and started telling me: Idhar khadi ho ja, Udhar khadi ho jaa. He wanted to teach me how I should dance. He was just obnoxious,” as per the India Today report.
Nana Patekar dismisses allegations
When Patekar was contacted by Mirror Now, the actor laughed over the allegations and asked, “What does she mean by sexual harassment? We were on the set and there were 200 people sitting in front of us,” Hindustan Times reported.
Asked if any legal action would be taken against Dutta, Patekar said, “I will see what can be done legally. Let’s see.” Patekar remained unavailable for comment after the news broke, but told Mirror Now, “What can I do about it? You tell me,” according to Hindustan Times.
Ganesh Acharya says Patekar never misbehaved with anyone
In her allegations, Dutta also said that Patekar wanted to do an intimate scene with her in the song. When Dutta refused to do the scene, he allegedly called MNS members to intimidate her.
Furthermore, Dutta alleged that Ganesh Acharya, the director, and the producer of the movie Samee Siddique, witnessed everything but remained silent spectators.
Acharya told News18, “First of all, it’s a very old incident so I can’t really recall everything very clearly. But it was a duet song as far as I remember. Something did happen that day because the shooting was also stalled for over three hours. There was some sort of misunderstanding. But I can confirm that nothing this sort of happened. It’s a wrong statement that Nana ji called members of some political party on set. It never happened,” DNA reported.
Acharya further said about Patekar, “He’s a very sweet person, he can never do that. He is very helpful and he has actually helped a lot of artists in the industry, he can never do anything like that,” Times Now reported.
Reporter Janice Sequeira backs Dutta’s claims
Patekar’s denial suffered a setback when a potential eyewitness spilled the bean on Twitter. Former India Today reporter Janice Sequeira revealed, in a string of tweets, what happened when Dutta refused to shoot the song with Patekar.
“Some incidents that take place even a decade ago remain fresh in your memory. What happened with Tanushree Dutta on the sets of Horn Ok Pleassss is one such incident—I was there,” Sequeira wrote on Twitter, India Today reported.
Sequeira saw Dutta looking “visibly upset” whereas Patekar, choreographer Acharya, and producer Samee Siddiqui were having a discussion. Sequeira further said in a tweet, “The official version was that the ‘heroine was not cooperating’,” as per India Today. The entire thread put out on Twitter by Sequeira can be read here.
Priyanka Chopra, Swara Bhasker, among others, support Dutta
Some actors from the industry showed their support. Swara Bhasker, Richa Chadha, Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Farhan Akhtar, Siddharth, Twinkle Khanna, comedian Vir Das, director Anurag Kashyap, and writer Varun Grover tweeted in support of Dutta. But Dutta remained skeptical of the support from Twinkle Khanna and Priyanka Chopra.
Casting couch: Bollywood’s shameful secret
In his article for Mumbai Mirror, former film critic Khalid Mohamed laments that “chauvinistic attitude towards women” is sadly a given in filmmaking.
Shedding light on the casting couch in Bollywood, Mohamed cites an unnamed “rage from the 1970s” who says, “This thing about the casting couch is so passé now. Every one of us has gone through it, without exception. Once during a lunch break, when I was alone in my make-up room, this famous director barged in and pounced on me till I began to scream.”
Mohamed recounts a near-similar incident when Mamta Kulkarni alleged that Rajkumar Santoshi had demanded a kiss during the filming of China Gate in 1998. Around 2004, Mohamed writes, acting aspirant Preeti Jain had claimed that Madhur Bhandarkar had raped her 16 times between 1999 to 2004 and had promised to cast her in his films.
Actress Ileana D’Cruz seems to understand why no one in Bollywood wishes to speak up against sexual assault. In a recent interview with Bombay Times, D’Cruz said, “The fact of the matter is that if an A-list star is accused of something like this, you will require a large number of people to come forward, including A-list actresses and actors, to make a difference. Actors in this country are worshipped. So it will take many voices for people to acknowledge that huge stars could have such an ugly side,” Hindustan Times reported.
D’Cruz said further, “It might sound cowardly, but I do agree that if you speak out about the casting couch, it will end your career.”
The #MeToo movement
In October 2017, actress Alyssa Milano suggested on Twitter that anyone who had been “sexually harassed or assaulted” should reply to her tweet with “Me Too”. Milano received half a million replies in the first 24 hours. After that, countless allegations have emerged against high-profile men in entertainment, the media, politics, and tech, many of whom deny any wrongdoing.
Milano’s Twitter idea turned into a global movement that strongly urged women to name and shame sexual offenders. Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey’s outstanding reporting propelled the rise of #MeToo. In India, Raya Sarkar’s list of alleged predators remains a notable example of calling out sex offenders, that eventually led to the creation of India’s first ever sex offenders’ database.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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