She came, she conquered, she vanished! But now she is back, re-opening old wounds, seeking justice for the ordeal she faced 10 years ago. No one would have expected Tanushree Dutta’s visit to India in 2018 to be a ‘blast from the past’ for some people from Bollywood. Speaking to FPJ, Tanushree opens up about seeking justice for her trauma and more. Excerpts from the interview.
What prompted you to start the whole MeToo movement in India?
It all started when someone asked me why the MeToo hasn’t happened in India, to which I narrated a past workplace harassment incident, for which I had fought, but did not receive any support back then. My interview went viral and it marked the beginning of the MeToo in India.
You didn’t get support back then. What do you think changed and made people from the film industry support the movement?
I think many people in Bollywood and media feel guilty of not supporting me in the past and seeing that the incident had affected me so deeply that I left the film industry. If I had got support from the film Industry and media 10 years back I would have never left my career and Bollywood. It’s never too late to redeem yourself by doing what is right...
Post the whole MeToo movement in India, do you find any changes in the industry?
There is fear amongst harassers and predators that their deeds may not go unnoticed and they may get called out. The movement affected different industries along with Bollywood. There is hope for newcomers now who face maximum harassment by repeat offenders.
There were reports of you making a comeback in Bollywood...
It is God’s will that I make a comeback. That is perhaps why despite staying away from Bollywood for so many years I still get movie offers. But, I want to make sure that I work with the right people and have the right project to mark my comeback. I’m willing to take my time and do something really good.
After flagging off the MeToo movement, people had written you off from Bollywood. What changed?
I had kept a distance from Bollywood and had been vocal about it, but now my mindset towards working in movies again has changed. I had harboured a lot of apprehensions and concerns for many years post the Horn Ok Please incident where me and my family were attacked by goons on the movie set after refusing the advances of a degraded old actor...I stayed away for many years, seeking refuge in God and spirituality to heal myself from that horrible experience and its aftermath. Today, I feel strong enough to take on the world and I think it’s time to rock and roll again.
Once back, what are your plans for the MeToo movement? People have a short memory, so how would you take this ahead?
I don’t think anyone would ever forget and if they do I will keep reminding them. Besides, it’s not just my responsibility, but everyone else’s as well to make workplace safe for women. In my case, I have already taken my case to the court and reopened investigation to send the four accused to jail. I will not stop until I am compensated for my losses and justice is served. I will also continue to raise awareness about issues related to women’s safety at workplace and in society in general.
Living with the trauma of so many months post MeToo, working in the same industry as your accused...must have a been a difficult phase?
I left the film industry soon after the incident in 2008. It was very tough for me since there was lack of support and these accused had destroyed my reputation for speaking up against them. They spread horrible lies about me in the media and film industry which affected my work. I had lost peace so I chose to stay away from films and instead find peace in spirituality. But I knew, one day I will make them pay for everything I endured all these years.
What kind of support did you receive from your family and friends?
My family always supported me as they also suffered the consequences. Over the years, I have come to know who my real friends are as many people chose to simply avoid me and vanished when I was no longer on the silver screen, others stayed but their attitude changed. This phase of my life was an eye-opener. Today, I don’t buy anyone’s crap about love, friendship, etc. I no longer wish to be a trophy friend/girlfriend/wife to anyone, but want real people standing besides me as a voice of reason when I am outta sorts and my support system when the world tries to take me down. I haven’t come across many of that kind yet, though. Mostly, people behave in a certain way when you are with them, but behind your back they cause unnecessary drama. There is much I need to accomplish in this world and I am going to be careful in choosing people professionally, as well as personally, who will be my ally in this journey of life and help me achieve my goals. I have a purpose far greater in life and I am preparing myself for the role I will be playing on this universal stage called Life.