Saroj Khan justifying casting couch is the lowest Bollywood could stoop

The veteran choreographer compared casting couch with rape and later apologised.

 |  5-minute read |   24-04-2018
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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.

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.

Actors like Taapsee Pannu, Sruthi Hariharan admitted the presence of casting couch which preys on newcomers irrespective of gender.

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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. 

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. 

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.  

Also read: Is Ali Zafar sexual harassment case Pakistan's #MeToo moment?

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