Once-bitten Biggies of Hindi Film Industry Remain Politically Correct

The Me-Too movement has gained momentum across India, yet in the Hindi film industry, despite legally-orchestrated and guarded comments from a few, there is a general hush. The hush has an on-the-face-of-it ‘legal’ yet a more real ‘commercial’ basis to it. The Tanushree Dutta episode has exposed the underbelly of self-righteous sections of the film industry.
Actor Tanushree Dutta’s tirade against actor Nana Patekar for having allegedly “sexually harassed” her on the sets of a song sequence for the 2008 film 'Horn OK Pleassss' culminated into a FIR filed by Tanushree against Nana Patekar, choreographer Ganesh Acharya, producer Samee Siddiqui and director Rakesh Sarang on October 10th. Now, while the legal process has been initiated and will meet its logical conclusion, it’s the guarded silence and orchestrated statements made by a selective few, known to be belligerent across media, that exposes them.

With a statement released on Twitter on 10 October 2018 reading “We are not an investigative agency, nor are in any position to pass judgement on anyone – that is for the police and judiciary to do. So, without casting any aspersions on anyone in this case, and without coming to any conclusions about these specific allegations, we have decided to step away from this film,” by Aamir Khan with Kiran Rao, the superstar ended his awkward silence on the #MeToo movement while referring to another issue in question. Why he even said, “For far too long, women have faced the brunt of sexual exploitation,” and, “We condemn any act of sexual harassment, and equally we condemn any and all false accusations in such cases.”

He made things clear, at least on the face of it, and without offending anyone too. Why, he did not even make any reference to the director in question, against whom a sexual harassment case is pending in court or to the movie in question too. One tight-rope walk successfully completed. The Tanushree issue, on its part, remained unaddressed by Mr Khan.

When asked to opine on the Tanushree incident a little earlier, Mr Khan had said, “Without knowing the veracity of something or details of something, I don’t think I can comment on it. It’s not right for me.”

The last time Aamir Khan publicly commented fetching public outrage was on the issue of ‘Intolerance’ when he said, “I feel a sense of insecurity and a growing sense of despondency…For the first time, Kiran asked me if ‘we should move out of India.’ She fears for her child and the atmosphere of India…feels scared to open newspapers.”

He had also said, “Innocent Indians were killed by a leader who is responsible, with his party, for the killings of thousands of Indians. In my opinion, the person and the people who do this are most unpatriotic, completely anti-Indian,” on Godhra and the-then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in a 2014 interview with Shekhar Gupta. On the US refusing a visa to Narendra Modi, he had added, “Hey, we didn’t do this earlier. If US is doing it, we have missed the point and should take cognisance of it now.” Then, Mr Khan was either oblivious to the fact that the Godhra issue had been examined by a Supreme Court Appointed SIT which had not found any evidence against Mr Modi back in 2012 itself or chose to overlook it.

That said, Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone “No means No” fizzled out into a seemingly-lame “My name is not Tanushree nor is it Nana Patekar”, fetching harsh criticism from across industries. His guarded silence on the issue seems odd considering he doesn’t usually pull punches while dishing out opinions on issue pertaining to India, women and the Hindi film industry.

There are two sides to a coin and nobody knows that better than the thespian who was banned by the media for a good 15 years following insinuations of his “hand in the censorship of films” and “role in the clamping of Emergency on the Press” owing to his affinity to the Gandhi family. This, till ‘Coolie’ happened, and the anger dissipated into well-meant concern before all turned well.

It’s pertinent here to make note of an earlier interview with Arnab Goswami when Mr Bachchan was asked about the Hindi film industry’s rallying after Salman Khan after the Hit-and-Run episode and silence towards the victims of the incident. When the interviewer drew parallels to the industry’s silence to Sanjay Dutt’s sentencing in the ‘90s, the icon maintained it was easier for the film industry to identify with people they “know on a personal level”.

On identical lines, of late, on the Tanushree issue, Salman Khan when asked about the issue at the endorsement of a sports event, maintained a stoic silence and said, “I am not aware of this. Let me know and understand what is happening. We will see what is going on. I am not aware of it.”

The price for eloquence among the Hindi film industry’s players is compounded by the frail travesties, political leanings and commercials exposed by one’s silence or guarded comments on the other end of the spectrum.

gajanan@draftcraft.in

A version of this story first appeared in Deccan Herald.