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'Predators need to be named and shamed'

October 08, 2018 14:40 IST

'Bullying is not going to scare me.'
'Nana Patekar has no powerful friends. It is just a perception created by his friends.'
'I have really powerful voices like Maneka Gandhi supporting me.'

Tanushree Dutta has become the face of India's #MeToo movement after she alleged that Nana Patekar harassed her on the sets of the 2008 film, Horn OK Pleassss.

"But I don't see a #MeToo movement happening in India. We are a long way from that. Just me speaking about my experience cannot start a movement," Tanushree tells Subhash K Jha.

How do you intend to tackle the legal notices sent by Nana Patekar and Vivek Agnihotri?

I have not really figured out how one tackles a situation where the offender takes a legal recourse.

I am the one who is the aggrieved party and they are threatening legal action against me.

Isn't this ironical?

And we have senior personalities like Shakti Kapoor and Gajendra Chauhan making fun of your serious allegations.

What can I say?

This is the mindset that needs to be changed.

Men in our entertainment industry and in our society at large think demeaning and insulting women is their birthright.

It is such mindsets that leads to serious crimes against women.

 

Are you and your family safe?

I don't know how safe we are.

I was attacked by goons when the incident happened in 2008.

Now, when I spoke about it, I am being attacked by the same goons.

Not much has changed during these 10 years.

I am being bullied, maligned, hounded and a smear campaign is on against me.

The first thing they do when a woman accuses a powerful man of misconduct is label her 'badchalan (of loose character).

What made you speak up about the incident?

It wasn't my intention to consciously draw attention to the incident.

I am in India for a holiday.

I was giving interviews when I was asked about sexual harassment at the workplace. This is when I spoke about the incident in 2008.

I spoke about a lot of other things, but this is what the media latched on to.

I am happy because a debate has been opened up on the issue of sexual harassment.

IMAGE: Tanushree was replaced by Rakhi Sawant in Horn OK Pleassss.

You had spoken extensively about it when it had happened.

Yes, it's not as if I am speaking about it now.

I had tried to get justice for myself when the incident happened from every possible organisation.

When the perpetrator filed a counter FIR, I was advised to keep quiet about it.

They told me, 'Right now you're making the rounds of police stations. If this goes to court, you will be doing the rounds of the courts for 10 years.'

In this country, you need a lot of money and patience to fight a legal battle.

Is this why you left the country?

Of course. I was being bullied into dropping my charges. I got no help from any quarter.

Has the situation changed now?

Not much. I am hoping for more voices to come forward and speak with me.

It is a known fact that the entertainment industry is strewn with predators.

For years now, women have accepted the bullying and harassment as 'normal.'

Now with the #MeToo movement gathering support, I hope some women in the entertainment industry will come forward and speak out. But so far, I don't see it happening.

IMAGE: Even as Tanushree raises a hue and cry, Nana Patekar is shooting a movie! Photograph: Kind courtesy Farah Khan/Instagram

Would you say you are disappointed by the lack of support from powerful voices in the Indian film industry?

Look, I can't complain. At least these voices are bringing attention to the disease.

But I don't see a #MeToo movement happening in India. We are a long way from that.

Just me speaking about my experience cannot start a movement.

How long can I go on speaking about it?

The attitude of women in our entertainment industry to such harassment is a far cry from the West.

What exactly had happened with Mr Patekar?

It was a dance sequence for a film called Horn Ok Pleassss.

He was not a part of it, but he insisted on being on the set.

He bullied me.

He crossed all limits of decency.

He was pulling my hand, pushing me, shouting at me... I had never encountered such boorish behaviour from any of my co-stars before.

Perhaps such behaviour from Mr Patekar is considered normal. Dimple Kapadia apparently called him 'obnoxious'.

Yes, but what happened after that? Just a random comment here or there or powerful voices speaking in ambiguous tones and in parables isn't going to help.

Men who are predators need to be named and shamed.

Aren't you afraid that Mr Patekar has powerful friends?

He has no powerful friends. It is just a perception created by his friends.

I have really powerful voices like Maneka Gandhi supporting me.

Aren't you afraid you may end up fighting a long legal battle?

Bullying is not going to scare me.

Unless the laws regarding sexual harassment change, women in our country will continue to be intimidated and bullied.

How far are you going to go in this fight?

I didn't plan this; I never planned anything in my life.

I believe Man proposes God Disposes.

From being a model to a beauty queen to an actress... it all happened to me without my intervention.

Doors opened for me and I walked through them.

It hasn't always been a pleasant walk through the door.

I am in India with an open ticket. I am waiting to see where this goes.

I am hoping more voices will join me. Otherwise, this will come to nothing.

Would you be disappointed if more voices don't join you?

I've been on a spiritual quest for 10 years.

I have experienced all religions, embraced them all to finally embrace no religion at all.

I strive to find meaning to life.

Who knows where I will go from here?

Subhash K Jha