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OPINION | Why Bollywood Can't Ignore Tanushree Dutta

But why pick on Salman Khan alone? Amitabh Bachchan's response of 'Why ask me, I'm neither Nana Patekar nor Tanushree Dutta' was a masterclass in lack of empathy and insensitivity, especially coming from a cinema icon who's a brand ambassador for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.

Sayoni Aiyar | CNN-News18

Updated:September 30, 2018, 7:29 PM IST
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OPINION | Why Bollywood Can't Ignore Tanushree Dutta
Image: Tanushree Dutta/ Instagram

A woman is sexually harassed by a famous man, forced to abandon her career, and returns years later to... well, if this were a Bollywood script, she would have returned to wreak bloody vengeance. But this is simply Bollywood in real life. Tanushree Dutta's story may one day inspire a screenplay but right now, the tide is nowhere close to turning along Juhu Beach.

The message is loud and clear, and it's coming from the very top. A woman journalist asked Salman Khan for his opinion on Tanushree Dutta's story at a sports event. The star and those who flanked him at the press conference, including Minister of State Kiren Rijiju, made it amply clear, even while she was still speaking, how very unwelcome her question was. The journalist, unidentified and unflustered, reiterated her question, explained with great respect why she was raising it at a sports event ('Because we so rarely get the chance to interact with you’) and refused to be cowed down or quietened. More power to that voice that publicly questions not only those who are being accused, but those who have the power to make a difference, but won't.

At that press conference, Salman Khan was more ostrich than man. He first put up his hand to hide his face as soon as the words 'Tanushree Dutta’ were articulated. He then denied any knowledge of the entire controversy, and finally wound up with the finger-wagging diktat 'This is a sporting event, be sporting.’ It was meant as a joke perhaps, but the message it sent was more hostile than humourous.

But why pick on Salman Khan alone? Amitabh Bachchan's response of 'Why ask me, I'm neither Nana Patekar nor Tanushree Dutta' was a masterclass in lack of empathy and insensitivity, especially coming from a cinema icon who's a brand ambassador for Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.

Earlier this year, Telugu actress Sri Reddy staged a dharna outside the Movie Artistes’ Association (MAA) headquarters ‘Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce’ in Film Nagar. She was protesting against the casting couch menace in the Telugu film industry. In the middle of the road, she stripped, and sat down in protest, bare-chested. No one budged. She has, yet again, sunk back into obscurity. Tanushree Dutta herself was dismissed across the board ten years ago. But today more and more people, some of them Indian cinema's biggest names, are speaking out in her support. Perhaps, change in the air?

Commenting on a Twitter thread posted by journalist Janice Sequeira who narrated her account of the incident, Farhan Akhtar tweeted, "Even when #TanushreeDutta had career concerns to keep quiet 10 years ago she did not & her story hasn’t changed now. Her courage should be admired, not her intention questioned."

Priyanka Chopra, in turn, responded with, “Agreed... The world needs to #BelieveSurviviors." Sonam Kapoor tweeted that she believes Tanushree Dutta. She also wrote, "Many of my co-workers, female and male have been harassed and bullied, but it’s their story to tell. If we don’t encourage their voices and instead vilify and question them, how will victims ever become survivors? Let them speak up! Stand up with them!" Director Anurag Kashyap said people should stop questioning the victim.

But shouldn't this be a time when all of Bollywood come together in support?

Despite some support, the best and brawniest choose to remain in denial. These are stars who hold great sway over the lives of others. Onscreen, they save damsels in distress and push countless products for crores. But taking a stand in real life? Not on your life.

Forget solidarity, sensitivity, and plain common sense, Bollywood is desperately trying to protect celebrity status in a world where heroes are zeros and heroines are victims. Clearly, for Bollywood, Being Human is impossible.

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