How to get away with sexual harassment: Be a Bollywood hero

Tanushree Dutta’s harassment reportedly took place in full public view, which showcases Nana Patekar’s seeming brazenness.

 |  4-minute read |   03-10-2018
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Many people believe that women lie about sexual abuse. This is a strange belief, especially when you consider that most women who report sexual abuse are thought to be lying either to destroy their assailant’s life or for attention. The ones whose stories are accepted are asked a lot of lewd questions because she must have done something to deserve it. Once that is done, often she is told not to report the abuse, so that she can save her family’s honour. She might also be asked not to file a report against a powerful man because she might hurt his reputation. 

nana-690_100318053454.jpgNo complaints. Nana! (People seem to believe if it isn't rape, there is no need to complain). (Source: India Today)

Such people believe that men should not be punished for their behaviour. They also believe that if it wasn’t rape, then it should not be taken so seriously. These beliefs are often exaggerated when it comes to film stars and famous sports personalities. In our country especially, many famous people are idolised and worshipped, which often leads to them thinking they can get away with anything. 

In the case of sexual harassment and misconduct, this becomes especially problematic. It isn’t just the perpetrator of these attacks — the crew and cast around them begin to believe that a big star is justified in making sexual advances. The current debate in Bollywood over Nana Patekar’s alleged harassment of Tanushree Dutta in 2008 is one such example. There were people who are aware of the actor’s alleged behaviour, but they believe that he is just ‘hot tempered’ and should not be punished. Tanushree Dutta even filed a complaint with the Cine & TV Artists Association (CINTAA) back in 2008, but they dismissed the allegation. Ten years later, when the world is more ‘woke’, the same association has come out in support of her. 

Powerful men believe that they can do whatever they want. This trait is perhaps a remnant of the times when tribe leaders were showered with gifts in return for protection thousands of years ago. We continue to let men get away with aggressive and sexually inappropriate behaviour because we value the other things they bring to the table.

tanushree-690_100318053356.jpgTanushree Dutta has shown immense courage in speaking out against a Bollywood star. (Source: India Today)

Essentially, what we’re saying is that even if that famous man goes around sexually harassing all the women on a film’s set, it is okay because his films are super hits. A decade ago when Tanushree Dutta made the complaint against Nana Patekar, Indian society did not even really think anything less than rape was bad. A few years before that, women who were raped would generally kill themselves, while their male relatives got 'revenge'.

India’s defining moment against sexual assault came after the Nirbhaya case in December 2012.

It led to stricter laws and legislation after the Justice JS Verma report. Police personnel were among several groups of men who were subjected to gender sensitisation workshops. Hundreds of years of dangerous perceptions were challenged — hopefully, many were changed.

We saw many women step forward, reclaiming the streets, reporting their abuse, talking about their experiences. Our country missed the #MeToo movement for the most part. Perhaps it was because we are not ready yet to come out against the strong toxic masculinity that shrouds our entertainment industry. As Tanushree Dutta said in an interview, Hollywood managed to get Harvey Weinstein — and he was a massive Oscar-winning producer with tremendous influence in the industry.

Back in 2008, Tanushree Dutta reported her alleged harassment to the producers of the film and CINTAA. Neither the producers, nor the association did anything to help her — eventually she left the industry. Ten years later, she talked about the incident to the media and Nana Patekar supposedly sent her a legal notice. But the incident did not take place in private, which speaks of Patekar’s alleged brazenness. There are witnesses who have corroborated Tanushree Dutta’s allegations.

One has to wonder that if Patekar was reportedly confident enough to behave inappropriately towards Datta in the presence of so many people, how many times may this have happened before?

This is how bullies work. They know they will not be punished for misbehaving and do so with impunity.

It must have been a shock to Patekar that someone spoke out against him, but sadly, he got away with his behaviour for 10 long years. Neither the producers, nor the actors’ association did anything. Patekar was probably not challenged or chastised for his behaviour. In fact, it was Dutta who had to leave the industry.

Many people from Bollywood spoke up about the incident now. A lot of actors have spoken in favour of Tanushree Dutta. They have applauded her courage and support her. Several others have decided not to say anything.

Shakti Kapoor said that this happened 10 years ago and that he “was a kid back then”. Others like Rimi Sen have supported Nana Patekar because he did not misbehave with them. Supporters of Patekar have also said that he is hot tempered but would not sexually abuse anyone and should not be punished for his behaviour.

rimi-sen-690_100318053103.jpgNana. He can't do it: Rimi Sen has said Nana Patekar is short-tempered — but not a sexual offender. (Source: Colors TV)

This is unfortunate because they are accepting that Patekar has issues — but that he should not be held accountable.

Also read: What gives Shakti Kapoor the 'shakti' to joke?

Writer

Subuhi Safvi Subuhi Safvi @subuhis

The author works in the field of development and is passionate about gender issues.

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