The world witnesses the impact of the MeToo Movement as Hollywood's disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for rape and sexual assault. However, it is saddening to see Bollywood take bare minimum cues from this act of justice. Indeed the women who accused Weinstein only had their heart-breaking accusations as proof that cost them their reputation and career, but it’s refreshing to see all of that not go down the drain.
That being said, it itches to know that despite the same movement gaining momentum in India, has managed to provide only partial relief to survivors as the accused roam freely with their head held high. These women put their image at stake to name and shame the person who was responsible for making their life hell once upon a time. But what did the close knit fraternity do instead? It waited for social media outrage to back their decisions. Not just that, but our idolised celebs also didn’t follow suit and simply dismissed it under ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
Former Miss India, Tanushree Dutta, had accused Nana Patekar of harassment on the sets of her film in 2008. However, the Mumbai police filed a closure report due to lack of evidence. Has the industry supported the accuser in any way? For someone who was on the peak of her career to drop everything and cross borders, only to return with a strong gut to face consequences, by going against a renowned actor, Patekar didn’t pay a hefty price as compared to Dutta. While she remains jobless and uplifting other women under this cause, Nana has moved on to working on his next project, Prakash Raj directorial Tadka, co-starring Ali Fazal, Shriya Saran and Tapsee Pannu.
Dutta who also accused filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri of misconduct on film sets saw the latter only deny the same. Done and dusted for the day, and Vivek saw a plunge in his career by helming The Tashkent Files, which he claimed should have been an Oscar entry.
Similarly when the most sanskari man of Bollywood Alok Nath, was accused of rape by Vinta Nanda, and was granted bail by Mumbai sessions court stating Nanda "did not lodge the report immediately after the alleged incident for her own benefit". She had accused actor Alok Nath of raping her 19 years ago. Despite all the chaos, and being called out by other women including Renuka Shahane and Sandhya Mridul, he managed to find work in Ajay Devgn's De De Pyaar De.
Filmmaker Sajid Khan who was accused of sexual harassment by several female colleagues such as Mandana Karimi, Saloni Chopra, Rachel White, Simran Suri and journalist Karishma Upadhyay wasn’t taken into consideration by his peers until they realised the possible flak for their multi-starrer Housefull 4. He was replaced by Farhad Samji, with the film body Indian Film & Television Directors' Association suspending him for a year. Does this mean that we will see Sajid back to work in the second half of 2020? Not to mention his films are as bizarre as his actions.
If that wasn’t enough, music moguls Anu Malik and Kailash Kher, who were accused by singer Sona Mohapatra also didn't face much flak despite being called out. Anu, who almost resumed being a judge on Indian Idol didn’t go through since the channel didn’t want to risk a show with good TRP falling at the hands of a MeToo accused. But that wasn’t the case for Kailash who performed at US President Donald Trump’s India visit. Are we out of performers to only make accusers entertain us? Clearly India is a potboiler of talent that keeps churning one every minute. So why bother.
Not to mention ace directors like Vikas Bahl and Rajkumar Hirani who were also accused in the movement but still managed to helm films like Super 30 and Sanju respectively. While there haven’t been reports of them signing any new projects it’s only a matter of time when production houses assume that the storm has been cast away with the magical spell that their legacy holds, and everything comes back to normal.
What does the Weinstein trial teach us? Even though the US federal court’s system differs to ours, the jury didn’t hold back when several woman came forward and shared their ordeal. The trial went on for two years till the final sentence. It saw several ups and downs, including the producer shelling out money for his bail in millions, and denying every allegation to the core. Harvey’s legacy and his Oscars didn’t save him from what was inevitable. It is sad to see one opt for desperate measures to stay afloat when they have jeopardised the career and lives of several women who only aspired to be good at their job.
Sadly, Bollywood has a lot to learn, as it takes magnitude of attempts to shatter ages of patriarchy. Doing a film on empowering women is nowhere going to subside for the actions that occur within the industry. However, as things stand, most of Bollywood's so-called feminists would rather virtue-signal on Twitter about standing with each other instead of taking real steps to fight the malaise. The same goes for powerful producers, which makes us wonder, how many of our top stars would come in the MeToo storm if we were really being honest.