Saroj Khan justifying casting couch is the lowest Bollywood could stoop
The veteran choreographer compared casting couch with rape and later apologised.
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Every time there is a debate on the casting couch, a can of worms opens. While Hollywood is up against the practice of extending professional favours in exchange of sexual favours, entertainment industries in the country are mostly living in a denial. Worse, there are voices justifying the practice.
During a recent event, veteran choreographer Saroj Khan said that the casting couch is an “age-old” practice and the film industries should not be held responsible for being its sole breeding ground. She also said that it abides by the principle of consent. The artists always have a choice of saying “no” to the person. “Why will you sell yourself, if you have art?” she said in a failed attempt to shield the entertainment industry from vitriolic attacks.
Yeh chala aa raha hai Baba azam ke zamaane se. Har ladki ke upar koi na koi haath saaf karne ki koshish karta hai. Govt ke log bhi karte hain. Tum film industry ke peeche kyun pade ho? Woh kam se kam roti toh deti hai. Rape karke chhod toh nahi deti: Saroj Khan on Casting Couch. pic.twitter.com/xvHxSbvhzg— ANI (@ANI) 24 April 2018
In doing so, she established the fact that the entertainment industry has been running on such sexual favours for a long time. She also shamed the victims of the casting couch at a time when protests against it had taken the shape of a global campaign as #MeToo.
Also, she compared it to rape and glorified the casting couch by saying "Woh kam se kam roti toh deti hai. Rape karke chhod toh nahi deti (At least, it gives you work and doesn't abandon you)".
This is not the first time that a Bollywood celebrity washed his or her hands off the debated issue of casting couch. Taking a leaf out of the #MeToo movement, entertainment industries of the country have been gradually waking up to recognise the issue. Naming a perpetrator who obviously wields power is not easy. Still, actors have been opening up and sharing their experiences without divulging names.
Contrary to what Saroj Khan said it does not always guarantee a role in a project, as evident in the accusations of Telugu actress Sri Reddy, whose nude protests made the casting couch a hot-button issue in the recent times.
The aspiring Telugu actress had alleged that despite giving in to the demands of the powerful people in the industry, she was not getting enough opportunity in Tollywood. Had she got a role, it could not have justified the vicious cycle of casting couch.
Glorifying a deplorable practice by comparing it to a heinous crime like rape does not behove a Bollywood veteran like Saroj Khan. It can’t be her honesty that forced her to blurt out the dark truths of the entertainment industry. She dismissed talent and also the efforts of breaking the culture of silence. And after all these, she apologised.
Social media users called out Bollywood personalities for not slamming the statement, though a few of the celebrities have expressed their shock.
#SarojKhan justifies casting couch,calls it age-old practice done with consent,says Film industry at least gives livelihood after Raping.Most actors & actresses are High Class Prostitutes at a price.Same people pretend to be Feminists 😂 #Bollywood hypocrites won't outrage now.— Jagrati Shukla (@JagratiShukla29) 24 April 2018
Equally angered & sad at Saroj Khan's statements. Looking at sexual harassment as an occupational hazard is also internalising victim blaming...— Vasudha Venugopal (@vasudha_ET) 24 April 2018
#Saroj khan ji women of india are competent based on “merit “ in every field , we do not require the “casting couch “to prove our capability. #Women are not victims of circumstances , we choose the circumstance that we want to be a part of.— Shaina NC (@ShainaNC) 24 April 2018
I didn’t expect such derogatory & uncalled for statements from a veteran like #SarojKhan and totally condemn it. Our #EntertaimentIndustry, like all other industries respects women. #Exploitation of women is a crime and should be fought in all spheres of life.— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) 24 April 2018
WTH?!!!! So much respect for Saroj-ji as a choreographer but this is how she uses her position to protect girls?!!! If I didn’t come from a financially sound background I would have returned to London within a month of being in mumbai cos of “industry folk” who think like that!! https://t.co/mUqql4MpFh— Sophie Choudry (@Sophie_Choudry) 24 April 2018
A lot of our friends are actors & none of them sleep around for work . Terrible after Ramdev #SarojKhan makes such deplorable statements !— Tehseen Poonawalla (@tehseenp) 24 April 2018
In an attempt to cover-up the dirty realities of her industry, Saroj Khan ended up defending the indefensible. Flesh-trade for marginal gains even if consensual, sets a bad trend and is going to be very damaging to one’s self-esteem in the long run. Nothing to be proud of.— Sonam Mahajan (@AsYouNotWish) 24 April 2018
On being asked to comment on what Saroj Khan said, Ranbir Kapoor said he never faced it, but if it exists it's sad.
Actor Richa Chadda said Saroj Khan's statement is being misinterpreted.
I think people are making mountain of molehill. There's narrative that people in Bollywood are the worst&indulge in malpractices which isn't the case. She meant to say it takes place in all industries, why is Bollywood being singled out?: Richa Chadda, on Saroj Khan #CastingCouch pic.twitter.com/m2omh0n6tN— ANI (@ANI) 24 April 2018
A few days ago, Pakistani singer Meesha Shafi shared on social media how she was abused by Zafar Ali. This was not a case of casting couch. But her coming forward encouraged many young Pakistani artists to share their stories. What Bollywood and other entertainment industries need is a strong pursuit to uproot the casting couch without analysing where else the practice exists. Justifying it will only bring shame.