On Wednesday the nation and its favourite tabloids woke up to allegations of sexual harassment against Jeetendra…Yes, the same veteran actor who was quite a hot favourite in the 1960s and 70s with a string of superhits like Farz, Caravan, Bidaai and Himmatwala to his credit.
Jeetuji who is now 75, apparently made a sexual advance on a cousin more than 50 years ago. By a miracle worthy of evangelical anointment, the alleged victim suddenly remembered what grave harm had been done to her when she was 18(thank God!) and he was 36(thank the libido). She says she was inspired by the ‘me too’ campaign in America.
It looks like Harvey Weinstein has a lot to answer for. As for Jeetuji, an affable man with a twinkle in his eye,whom all his heroines have always been fond of, all one can say is, the Indian entertainment industry is paying a price for being reticent about genuinesexploitation for too long. Hence the exposes expose the me-too mindset more than a real urge to expose the sexual predators in Bollywood.
There is no doubt that Jeetuji was quite a flirt in his heydays.I spoke to several of his leading ladies . they all vouch for his “flirty but harmless” attitude to women.
“He loved flirting with his heroines. Sometimes he would go a little too far and I’d ask him to stop. But there was never any attempt to push himself on anyone. He didn’t need to. There were enough women falling all over him,” says one of his prominent leading ladies from his heydays.
Another heroine calls Jeetuji, “a ladies man but certainly not a sexual predator”. According to this yesteryear heroine, “Women were constantly throwing themselves on him. His future wife now Mrs Shobha kapoor, had a tough time handling his female attention.I remember he once took off to Chennai to convince Hemaji’s mother to allow her to let him marry her daughter. Shobhaji had to chase him all the way to Chennai to bring him back.Jeetu’s intentions towards women were never dishonourable.”
This heroine recalls a top heroine hugging Jeetendra warmly in greeting and then squeezing his “most tender and size-varying” body part right in front of the entire unit.
“Jeetuji responded by blushing a beetroot red. He used to blush a lot.He was a full-on flirt. But force himself on women? Never?” says the veteran actor’s former leading lady.
How would this allegation affect Jeetendra and more importantly his daughter the empress of la-la land Ekta Kapoor?
Not much. The allegation is too ancient, nebulous and irrelevant to stick. A very close friend of the veteran actor calls it ‘witch-hunting’.
“We all did wild things when we were young reckless bachelors. Isn’t that normal? We never needed to force ourselves on heroines. There so many women who were more than willing to indulge in pleasurable romps with us. To have to go through this humiliating allegation at this stage of his life when he is a doting grandfather, is not fair to him.Don’t make a HarveyWeinstein out of celebrities who probably did what all young people do when they think no one is watching,” says a close friend of the actor whose spectrum of roles ranged from T Rama Ro to Gulzar and who was pal to nearly every major actor and director in the 1960s and 70s.
Today no major figure is willing to defend Jeetendra on -record.
“Leave me out of this please,” says a veteran director who was closely associated withJeetuji over several films.
It remains to be seen if this mindboggling allegation remains a one-off event in Bollywood. Or is it the start of a Hollywood-styled naming-and-shaming that’s seen the downfall of dozens of denizens of American cinema in three months