Tanushree Dutta Speaks To Subhash K Jha On The Failure Of The MeToo Movement In Bollywood, Of Which She Was The Triggering Point
Sajid Khan’s welcome to Bigg Boss has appalled all?
I am appalled too . I am speechless at the sheer irresponsibility of this action and the impact it would have on the public. I don’t watch Bigg Boss and I think I never will after this.
As a harassment survivor what do you feel about the way the MeToo movement has gone in Bollywood?
The #metoo movement was an iconic phenomenon in India, given the culture of silence and secrecy in India about sexual harassment. Being a modern Indian American girl I always found it hard to understand why this kind of silence is encouraged at the cost of a rotting eco- system. I mean, if people get punished for bad behaviors then only the communities will remain safe. It’s just logic. And why so much hush and stigma around calling out predators? You go complain to police if someone robs your house, right?? Then why not complain if someone hurts your honor or tries to trouble you for their devious pleasures. People think I’m just too American but I’m just upholding my honor as an Indian woman.
Instead of supporting you, there were defamation cases filed against you?
There were defamation cases on me in 2018 by few people I called out. But this year started on a great note and the courts decided to dismiss all those cases without a trial even. I never had to step foot inside a courtroom. That is the power of truth! Truth always wins. I consider this a victory given that they tried their best to trouble me but law was on my side.
Do you find it difficult to find work in Bollywood because the big guns have ganged up against you?
There was a production house backed by a big business conglomerate that offered me 15 Crore + 15% profit share to sell them the rights to my life story to be made into a 2 part web series. It would cover my childhood years, growing up, modelling, Miss India, movies, Me too etc and then they would also explore in flashback the lost 10 ( 2008- 2018) years and my journey into spirituality. Much of that it still shrouded in mystery and the webseries wanted to tap into that to see what all I experienced including the supernatural and esoteric stuff that made me the person I became. Where did all that power and fearlessness come from to do what I did. It was an ambitious project and if it went through they were planning on approaching a top Bollywood actress or someone from theater to portray me. They also considered getting me on screen partly on every episode to narrate my feelings through my journey.
So what happened to this project eventually?
I almost agreed to this biopic but I had 3 conditions. 1) legal indemnity from any claims arising out of the project 2) creative control and overview 3) Since I’m still very young and will do so much more going forward I wanted to time bound it to 7 years and not a lifetime exclusivity. And I wanted to keep the book rights and biography rights to myself. They weren’t agreeing to the first three conditions and kept offering me higher and higher amounts up to 25 crores and percentage profit upto 50% for full life rights. I had no option but to refuse. Didn’t want to rush into something I’d regret later. I had similar offers coming to me since 2018. All this has happened. I did not speak about it .There was no point if my core conditions are not met and im not going ahead with it.
You have spoken of being threatened and a risk to your life…how urgent is this danger?
I started connecting with some Big banners and Big production houses. They seemed very interested to work with me in solo lead women centric projects. But there are a few people within the film industry who are trying to avenge and help #metoo accused. So these are the people who try to spoil things for me. Whatever is meant to be will be. My job is to just put my best foot forward.
How does the future look to you?
2020 was a watershed year for me. 2018 & 2019 I was confused if I even wanted to return to Bollywood. In 2020 I was struggling to convince the big banners to work with me. In 2021 I confirmed three Independent movies each with a high 7- figure paycheck same as what I commanded way back when Ashique Banaya Apne and my other movies were the talk of town. That shows that the film industry is more than willing to work with me.There were quite a few movie projects in Hindi and Telugu that I’ve myself turned down. Reasons vary from not liking the script too much, unknown banners to not wanting to align with certain people. When you are making a comeback there’s so much that happens in the background before breakthrough that talking about it doesn’t make sense. But my silence has been misconstrued as inactivity. Also too much has happened so I prefer to just chill out and move forward with a clarity.
How much has the whole traumatic experience changed you as a person?
It’s just that now I’m older , wiser and more aligned with the artist within me. I have understood how positioning and branding works in entertainment and media. I will not have to start from scratch thats obvious but I wish to grow. All I have to do is make smart choices within the available options. Thus I just don’t wish to take up projects just to look busy. Therefore I’ve had to let go of a lot of what was offered to me just so I can avoid being a part of something that doesn’t build me up from where I left off. All of this for me is an indication of Bollywood and South Industry’ s willingness to work with me. But since that one perfect Bollywood film has not manifested yet to my liking, I’m now showing a little more interest in exploring the south Industries and speaking to some US people too. I’m very enterprising n I keep building and networking in my free time. Anything or anyone that I feel may waste my time and energy and not get me where I want to be .I just cut it out at the start. So this is the scene. My life is not a sob story as many have assumed it to be although I’m quite emotional as a person and cry easily. I do recognise my blessings always despite the free and abundant display of emotions.