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'You've To Choose Your Battles Carefully'

April 11, 2024 12:04 IST
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'If you are a strong-minded, opinionated woman, scars are inevitable.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Geetika Tyagi/Instagram

After speaking about her new film Yes Papa, about a survivor of child sexual abuse, Geetika Tyagi opens up about the dark chapters of her own life.

The actress made news when she filed a molestation case against Jolly LLB Director Subhash Kapoor.

In the concluding part of the interview, Geetika tells Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya, "When this incident happened, I was busy with a lot of work. I did not think about how it would affect me because I was focused on doing what I felt was right without considering the repercussions."

Did you file a sexual harassment case against Subhash Kapoor?

It was a case of molestation, not sexual harassment at the workplace or related to that.

This was long before the #MeToo movement.

It's a part of public record.

My appeal is pending in the sessions court and therefore I do not want to comment any further.

I am relieved that now we have agencies like the Vishakha Commission which are pushing for systematic change overall, urging women across the world to stand up to any kind of harassment, advocate their rights and demand accountability.

I would say I got the courage from my upbringing.

My father brought up his three daughters in a way that we never thought we were lesser than boys in any way.

I could talk to him about anything without being embarrassed.

I remember confiding to him once, when I was in the ninth or tenth standard, and a boy in my tuition class gifted me a pen and a rose.

It upset and embarrassed me.

How did he react?

He laughed and said this was just the beginning and it would keep happening, I should not let it bother me.

But if someone really troubled me, I should tell him immediately.

My parents were equal partners in a marriage and there was never any kind of gender discrimination at home.

Then there was my maternal grandmother who had been widowed in her early 40s and her life revolved around theatre, art, the library and social service.

I spent my vacations with her and she would take me along to solidarity meetings.

I would hear women like her speak and they made an impression.

Strong women bring up strong children.

Have you ever felt that raising your voice against someone from the film industry has adversely affected your career?

If you are a strong-minded, opinionated woman, scars are inevitable, you just have to choose your battles carefully.

In my case, the incident was not related to casting, work or even the film industry.

It did not happen on a set or a studio.

When this incident happened, I was busy with a lot of work in the industry.

Even at that time, I did not think about how it would affect me because I was focused on doing what I felt was right without considering the repercussions.

I felt the perpetrator needs to be punished.

I didn't worry about whether work would stop because I believe good people and good directors recognise good talent and sooner or later, your good work will shine through.


IMAGE: Geetika Tyagi shoots with Jaideep Ahlawat on the sets of Suparn S Verma's Aatma. Photograph: Kind courtesy Geetika Tyagi/Instagram

Did you miss out on any big banners or lead roles?

I was doing commercial films like Aatma, with Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Bipasha Basu, and One By Two, with Abhay Deol then.

If I did miss out on any projects, I was too focused on all that was happening to think about it and repent later.

I've always been very selective about my work and have turned down roles that had nothing to offer me as an actor and objectify me as a woman.

Even when it was a light-hearted, commercial film, like the madcap comedy Tera Mera Tedha Medha, which I accepted to break out of the rut, it was important that there was something in it for me.

There's an interesting film, Okay Tata Bye Bye, on the Bachhada community of Madhya Pradesh which survives on prostitution.

The Bachchads live close to the highway and fathers and brothers themselves bring their daughters and sisters to the truck drivers when they break journeys.

It's all very normal and something that has been going on for years.

I play a documentary film-maker, Pooja, who goes there with her boyfriend, Jim Sarbh, to interview a young girl from the community, Seema, but she cleverly eludes her.

But Pooja, through the journey, learns some harsh truths about the society we live in where both girls are two sides of the same coin.

There was an anthology, The Owner, helmed by 25 directors across five continents...

Yes, I played the wife of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, a bullock cart driver in a remote Indian village, who lands a bag that has travelled across 18 countries and has the job of reaching it to its final destination.

Both of us were very excited about being a part of an international project though it didn't take us outside India or even Mumbai.

We built a kutiya on a piece of land opposite Govinda's bungalow, got a cart and bullocks and shot our portions in Juhu.

Another exciting project was YRF's Powder, in which I played the lead, an officer of the Narcotics Control Bureau. My character's main motive is to prove herself in the world of men.

Your other release, Dukaan, released last week.

It was great fun shooting with Siddharth-Garima in Gujarat.

My character, Dr Navya Chandel, is based on a well-known doctor in Anand and Ahmedabad, who has hospitals in Mumbai too.

Dr Navya sells dreams to couples who can't have children, there are 30 girls working in her clinic as surrogates.

It is another sensitive, socially relevant topic that talks about fertility, IVF and surrogacy, but in a commercial package, with songs, dances and lots of colours.

What's the next project?

I was to start shooting for an OTT series on boxing, but it was delayed by the farmers' protest and no new dates have been announced.

I thoroughly enjoyed doing the two seasons of Nagesh Kukunoor's Web series City of Dreams.

I played an opinionated, enigmatic, journalist who takes it upon herself to expose a powerful politician, played by Atul Kulkarni, and is killed.

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