PTI Photo/Swapan Mahapatra
PTI Photo/Swapan Mahapatra

Mumbai: Actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha says his jocular comments on the MeToo movement are being “misconstrued and used to malign” him. He feels the MeToo movement is tampering with the healthy equation between men and women at the workplace.

“Men are afraid to open their mouths in front of women. Pataa nahin kya bolne se kya matlab nikala jayega (Who knows what is interpreted as what).

“I spoke in good humour about the fear of being called out, that all of us in the entertainment industry are staring at, and look at the way the ‘nari’ protection brigade is out to prove me a lecher,” he said of the criticism of his comments at a book launch.

But the fearless Sinha is not backing down. “I speak with the highest regard for all women, and stand by their right to be treated with dignity and respect. Don’t forget I’ve two powerful women, my wife Poonam and my daughter Sonakshi at home. “My sons Luv and Kush and I happily let them be the boss of our home,” he added.

What had he said that has raised the hackles of so many? “Today is the time of MeToo, and there shouldn’t be any shame or hesitation to say that behind a successful man’s fall is a woman. Behind the troubles and infamy of successful men, there have been mostly women that I’ve seen in this movement.

“I really call myself fortunate that in today’s times, tamam harkate karne ke bawajood (despite everything that I have done), my name hasn’t come out in the #MeToo movement. Hence, I listen to my wife and often take her as a shield with me so that even if there’s nothing, I can show that I am happily married, my life is good,” he had said.

Sinha stands by his words. “Of course I am fortunate that I haven’t been called out. I am a very friendly person, have always been warm and talkative, and I used to flirt harmlessly with my heroines before I got married.

“They never seem to mind my innocuous flirting. But now how am I supposed to be sure that some lady won’t come forward to say she objected to my behaviour 30-40 years ago but couldn’t come forward to speak as I was too powerful?”

He feels the MeToo movement is being misused within the entertainment industry. “There is a difference between being sexually harassed and re-interpreting or misinterpreting an interaction in the past as sexual harassment.

“Names like Subhash Ghai and Rajkumar Hirani are being called out without substantiated evidence. Men who have toiled for years to build a reputation for themselves are losing it over a tweet. So of course I stand by what I said.

“Behind many successful men’s downfall there is a woman or several women these days. This is a fact. How is it disrespectful to women? And who decides what is respectful and what is not? Why have some self-appointed guardians of morality made themselves the MeToo movement their personal property, to be used as when and how they wish,” he asked.

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