Bollywood’s #MeToo marks two years of the movement that started with allegations of sexual misconduct against Nana Patekar and has now stung Anurag Kashyap. But India’s legal system has been sluggish whereas Hollywood predators are already in jail
It’s a comeback, but not a pleasant one. The MeToo movement seems to have resurfaced yet again – but this time it’s the accuser who is in the eye of the storm, and not the accused. Yes, I am talking about Anurag Kashyap, and the sexual misconduct allegations made against him by actor Payal Ghosh.
When Ghosh accused the Gangs of Wasseypur fame filmmaker of harassing her – people were shocked! I, being an ardent fan of the latter, was also taken aback. But soon enough, his colleagues came out in his support – from Tapsee Pannu, Saiyami Kher to Kalki Koechlin – many B-town celebs openly showed their solidarity with Kashyap.
And then various theories started doing the rounds — that Kashyap is being targeted and this whole “drama” has a “political agenda” behind it. But then there is another section of people who are not ready to give into such theories so easily. And they believe a woman deserves to be heard too.
Two years back, the MeToo movement touched Bollywood and shook the entire nation. It was September 2018 – when actor Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual misconduct on the sets of the 2008 film Horn OK Pleassss. What followed thereafter was a series of such disclosures, revealing the skeletons that were long kept in the closet.
Dutta’s act was no mean feat! She sparked off a fire that burnt all over India as women got the courage to come forward to name and shame sexual predators. In Bollywood, big names cropped up one after the other — Rajkumar Hirani, Sajid Khan, Vikas Bahl, Subhash Ghai, Alok Nath, Anu Malik, Ganesh Acharya, Kailash Kher, Rajat Kapoor — the list goes on.
The news channels, social media, newspapers – all these were filled with accounts of sexual misconduct allegations by numerous women from the industry – from models, actors to singers and crew members. But now, after exactly two years – where does Bollywood’s MeToo movement stand?
In 2019, the movement seemed to fizzle out – and worse, the men who were accused even got back to work. According to many, the complicated and delayed legal system of our country has kept the accused as well as the victim in limbo! No case so far has reached any conclusion. And some are not even registered yet, whatever the reasons.
But such wasn’t the case in Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Sterling Van Wagenen have been sentenced to imprisonment. Some other accused men, like Kevin Spacey, were dropped from projects. Their Time’s Up movement, thus, has been a success – unlike Bollywood’s MeToo.
So, can we say MeToo has been a failure? It seems so. The accused are back on sets, are even seen partying and at gatherings. Moreover, the industry should have come up to stand in solidarity against such sexual predators – but many have maintained their neutral stance. This is also what caused the movement to fall flat.
Also, Bollywood films – even after all this – have time and again showed how misogynist they can be. Let’s take for instance the film Pati Patni aur Woh (2019) – which not only normalised cheating, but even made jokes on marital rape! Also, the same year a film that received rave reviews – Section 375 – seems like it dismisses the MeToo movement.
An article on ‘Film Companion’ correctly says: “Section 375 dismisses the MeToo movement as a kangaroo court; the film uses the phrase ‘the honourable Twitter court of India’. It also twists the existing narrative of the courtroom drama. Here, the system is fair, functional and feminist, and rape is a ruse to settle other scores.”
Like these, there are many films which continue to be sexist, thereby fanning a culture of sexual predators and normalising toxic masculinity. Also, what’s worse is the B-town actors themselves often dismissed the movement all together! A few months back, Nawazuddin Siddiqui in an interview with Pinkvilla – hinted towards this.
“…Then kaam nahi hoga toh gaaliyan denge industry ko. Jin logon ko kaam nahi hota, woh duniya bhar ke ilzaam lagate hai industry pe, duniya bhar ke movement nikalte hai phir (If there is no work, people will abuse the industry. People who have no work abuse the industry, and then bring out all sorts of movements),” he said in the interview. Siddiqui even denied that the ‘casting couch’ exists, and said he feels it is all just a plot to defame the “safest place” — Bollywood!
And amid all these, when we were sure enough that the movement had died down – it revives. But to everyone’s disappointment – this was not the revival we were looking forward to. Keeping the conspiracy theories aside, if Kashyap gets a clean chit – then this will definitely prove how MeToo can be misused, thereby giving scope to actual offenders to make a point. But then again, for women (and men as well, because MeToo is not a gender-biased movement) who were actually wronged – this movement will always be much more than just a social media hashtag.
And this reminds me of what actor Parvathy said during a session on MeToo at 20th Jio MAMI Festival: “There are a lot of us sitting here who have yet not acknowledged that this has happened to us. When it happened to me, I was very young. It took me 17 years to realise that this happened to me. It was not my fault. I didn’t ask for it but I was still assaulted. It took me another six years to sit and speak about it. This tag of a ‘survivor’ is important for me because it is still a struggle for me every day to realise it, acknowledge it and get past it. “And then to let my friends know, to have my parents know… This is an extreme exercise on a daily basis. It’s like a loss. I draw a lot of strength from the word survivor.”
(Cover: Alok Nath)