Thanks to one doughtly damsel in de-stress , Bollywood and India have found their MeToo voice. And about time too. I don’t know where this naming and shaming will stop. But predatory behaviour will now be very controlled, if not entirely extinct, in work places.
If we talk about Bollywood –because that’s where the revolution has hit the hardest—the really Big Guns are well protected from exposure. What we are exposing are the small fish, the minor players in the paradigm of perversity. So okay, Sajid Khan and Vikas Bahl are not really small players in the game. But they are not the actual movers and shakers.
The rot goes much deeper than them. Some of the most respected,revered and iconic names are the biggest exploiters. And really, how far down the road do you want to go to dig out the dirt? It’s really up to the MeToo movement to keep up its momentum. Because some of the most legendary names revelled in sexual exploitation.
There was this Showman , one of Bollywood’s most honoured filmmakers who would sleep with all his heroines, would get drunk and slobber over women’s bosoms which he affectionately called ‘duddhu’ .His cronies smirked and chuckled. You see they too had no choice. They had their careers to think of.
Male actors have considered it a matter of entitlement to do what they like with women who work with them. A very prominent leading lady of the 1960s tell me, “Of course it happened. The bigger they were the more entitled they felt.”
By bigger she means the heroes’ stardom. There was India’s dancing star, coincidentally the brother of the ‘duddhu’- obsessed hero we just spoke about, who was “extremely rough and crude with the heroines who didn’t oblige.”
Or take the biggest hero of them all, India’s first superstar who had the girls across the country in a collective swoon. His behaviour with women was so shocking and shameful he would most certainly qualify as a prominent harasser in the current Me Too movement.During his time heroines giggled when he pinched their bottoms.
Back then such behaviour was an accepted part of the entertainment business. There is a story(unverified) of the legendary Raj Kumar sitting with a journalist-friend , getting a call from an iconic heroine known for her tragic image.
Mr Kumar finished the call , turned to the journalist and grinned, “Unless I go to her she won’t be able to sleep.”
Heroes openly bragged about their conquests.Indian cinema’s he-man would turn the pages of film magazines and point to the heroines he had conquered. They still brag. The dark intense hero cracks up telling his friends loudly about the women he has slept with. The irony of thisdeeprooted misogyny is that some of the big names filled with righteous indignation about those culprits who are named and shamed, are themselves guilty of widespread exploitation.
And it won’t stop. The MeToo movement will. They won’t. No one will point a finger at the Big Guns.Big-name actresses who have suffered in the initial stages of their careers won’t call out those who have exploited them.
A very big leading lady told me, “Of course I’ve been through it. But I can’t complain. I am where I am and it’s best to not rake up the past.No one rapes anyone. If you feel like giving in , you do.It’s as simple as that.”
So only those who have not “made it” will come forward. Their voices are being heard, of course. But none of these has the clout and power to push the movement to the next level.
Swara Bhaskar spoke about a director who harassed her during a long outdoor shooting. Why doesn’t she call him out? “Because he is not doing any work as far as I know. I don’t want him to get publicity if I call him out.”
I am sure the director must have wiped the sweat from brow on hearing this. But if selective shaming and that too via several anonymous accounts, is all that the MeToo movement has to offer in Bollywood, then I am afraid the movement will die down for the want of heft.
There will be no Harvey Weinstein in India because there is no Ashley Judd calling him out.