Tanushree: Bollywood’s ‘silent movie’

Tanushree: Bollywood’s ‘silent movie’

Tanushree Dutta. File photo. Source: Instagram/Tanushree Dutta

There is a distinct hush in the Hindi film industry. It has an on-the-face-of-it ‘legal’ yet an equally-pressing ‘commercial’ basis to it. The Tanushree Dutta episode has exposed the underbelly of the self-righteous industry.

Actor Tanushree Dutta’s charge that Nana Patekar had “sexually harassed” her on the sets of a song sequence for the 2008 film Horn OK Pleassss has now resulted in a police complaint over the incident.

In the complaint, Tanushree also named choreographer Ganesh Acharya. She has also accused filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri of behaving “inappropriately” with her on the sets of a 2005 film Chocolate, saying that he asked her to “strip” off-camera on the sets of the film. The lawyers of those charged have predictably “denied the charges”.

None of the parties did anything more than level accusations, hold press conferences, make public announcements through interviews and issue legal notices. The issue has become a trial by media, one in which the usual suspects simply do not want to testify. When Amitabh Bachchan’s baritone “No means No” fizzled out into a lame “My name is not Tanushree nor is it Nana Patekar”, the brickbats were directed towards the industry’s biggest icon.

There are two sides to a coin and nobody knows that better than the thespian, who was banned by the media for a good 15 years following insinuations of his “hand in the censorship of films” and “role in the clamping of Emergency on the Press” due to his affinity to the Nehru-Gandhi family. This, till Coolie happened, and the anger dissipated into well-meant concern before all turned well.

Bachchan, when asked about his views on the Tanushree Dutta issue at a press conference of Thugs of Hindostan, swiftly dodged the issue, despite having spoken widely earlier on national issues ranging from ‘consent to sex’, ‘swachhata abhiyaan’ and more, conveniently so in and around the release of a film on similar lines.

It’s pertinent here to make note of an earlier interview with Arnab Goswami when Bachchan was asked about the Hindi film industry’s rallying around Salman Khan after the hit-and-run case and its silence towards the victims of the incident. When the interviewer drew parallels to the industry’s silence to Sanjay Dutt’s sentencing in the ‘90s, the icon maintained that it was easier for the film industry to identify with people they “know on a personal level”.

On being asked about the industry’s silence when Makdee and Iqbal actor Shweta Basu Prasad was charged with prostitution, an allegation that was ultimately proved false, he said, “I don’t know of this case. Maybe because they are not as well known in our part of the world…in our Hindi belt.”

The truth being, when the actor was falsely implicated in an alleged sex scandal, the entire industry had conveniently distanced itself from her.

Price of speaking out

“Without knowing the veracity of something or the details, I don’t think I can comment on it. It’s not right for me (to),” said a usually vocal Aamir Khan when asked about the Tanushree incident at the same event.

The last time Aamir publicly commented was on the issue of ‘intolerance’ when he said, “I feel a sense of insecurity and a growing sense of despondency…For the first time, Kiran asked me if ‘we should move out of India.’ She fears for her child and the atmosphere of India…feels scared to open newspapers.”

He had also said, “Innocent Indians were killed by a leader who is responsible, with his party, for the killing of thousands of Indians. In my opinion, the person and the people who do this are most unpatriotic, completely anti-Indian,” on Godhra and the-then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi in a 2014 interview with journalist Shekhar Gupta.

On the US refusing a visa to Narendra Modi, he had said, “Hey, we didn’t do this earlier. If the US is doing it, we have missed the point and should take cognisance of it now.”

The flak, he drew for his view of Narendra Modi or his support of an opposition-spurred campaign of ‘intolerance’ culminated in his removal as brand ambassador of the tourism ministry’s Incredible India campaign and his present-day mellow demeanour.

Now, when asked about the Ayodhya issue, he is circumspect and conveniently reticent. “I’ll speak after my film’s (Thugs of Hindostan) release…whatever I say will affect it.”

On similar lines, Salman Khan, when asked on the Tanushree issue, maintained silence, only saying, “I am not aware of this. Let me know and understand what is happening. We will see what is going on. I am not aware of it.”

The Hindi film industry and its icons, it seems, have found the price of speaking out on issues can be too high, with not just their personal relationships and commercial interests involved, but it could also draw their political leanings into play.

(The writer is a senior journalist and solicitor heading DraftCraft International)

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