By Subhash K Jha
Actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha says while the #MeToo movement is noble, it is becoming “free-for-all” and being blown out of proportion.
Excerpts from the interview:
Your dear friend Subhash Ghai stands accused of multiple sexual offences. Your comments?
What happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? I am all for the #MeToo movement, never in my 40-year career have I misbehaved with any woman. I treat every lady with utmost respect. Having said that, I think this#MeToo campaign is being blown out of all proportion.
In what way?
While the cause was definitely noble and praiseworthy, it has now become a free-for-all. Anyone can name and shame anyone. Reputations and jobs are being lost through a trial by media. To all the women who are aggrieved I say, please go to court and make sure the wrongdoers are punished.
You’ve done some terrific films with Subhash Ghai. Would you work with him in future?
Why not? If he is proven innocent, why not? Even if he is proven guilty, and he serves the punishment given to him, I’d work with him. Sanjay Dutt served his jail sentence and is back working in our large-hearted film industry. In fact, we had no problem working with him even when he was an accused in a serious case.
Many of the top stars and directors have vowed not to work with sexual offenders?
This hypocrisy I can’t understand. They have no problem working with Sanjay Dutt who has been convicted. But they want to blacklist people whose guilt is yet to be proven. Just to look like heroes of the #MeToo movement.
A-list actors have dissociated themselves from tainted directors?
I don’t want to name anyone. But I will say this. Sau choohe khaa kar billi haj ko chali (An idiom that denotes someone takes to piety after all the wrongdoing). Those seeking to perch themselves on a high moral ground, should look into their conscience. The problem of sexual exploitation, doesn’t end with some names being put out in the social media. This is just the beginning. The problem runs much deeper.
Your tainted party colleague MJ Akbar initially refused to step down. What is your take on his brazen attitude?
I don’t even know which political party I belong to anymore! Having said that, MJ Akbar is a friend. And a wise one. I know him from the time he revolutionised journalism in this country. He knows what he is doing, and why. I believe he has employed 97 lawyers to defend him against charges (of sexual harassment). He should have employed three more lawyers... It would have been a century... Seriously, how can he afford such a massive legal fleet? I can’t afford it if I ever need it.
Don’t mock the movement: Honey Irani
Veteran writer Honey Irani, maternal aunt of director Sajid Khan who has been accused of sexual harassment, says it’s important not to “mock” the #MeToo movement.
“It’s sad that now that women are talking, most people don’t listen, and ask why did you not speak up then? Well this is exactly why, when you can’t deal with it now, imagine how could you 10 or 15 years back. If you can’t support this movement fine, but please don’t mock it, the Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai writer tweeted.
Sajid has been named by multiple women for sexual misconduct. The actor-director stepped down as Housefull 4 director, saying he
was doing so “till the time I can allay the allegations and prove the truth”.
When the accusations against Sajid emerged, his sister Farah Khan and cousin Farhan Akhtar expressed disappointment, saying if these are true, he has a lot to atone for.
The #MeToo wave has been on high tide in India ever since Tanushree Dutta renewed a 10-year-old allegation against Nana Patekar, leading several women from across professions to name and shame sexual offenders and predators. In some cases, matters have gone to court.
Women now not ashamed to speak up: Madhoo
Actress Madhoo Shah says Indian society has evolved to accept harsh realities of the working environment for women, who are more empowered than ever to speak up about their sour experiences.
Madhoo was interacting with the media at #IBelieve charity gala fundraiser event for underprivileged cancer patients along with Jackie Shroff, Boman Irani, Aamir Ali Khan and Sanjeeda Sheikh. Talking about the #MeToo movement that has gained momentum in India, the Roja actress said: “Today, we have changed as a society. If such incidents would have happened with us when we were working in film industry then, we all would have kept it quiet.
“At that time, if we had to talk about this issue, then we would have felt ashamed. But today, women are feeling empowered and not feeling ashamed to talk about their issues. I am very happy that we have reached this far as a society.” She said she has not experienced sexual harassment in her life.
“I don’t have my #MeToo story, but I am proud and happy to support all girls because we have to stand together. It requires great courage to come out and as a society, we have definitely evolved to be able to accept harsh realities of working environment for women.”
I fully support the campaign: Radhika Apte
Actress Radhika Apte expressed her full support to the sexual harassment survivors, who are calling out their alleged tormentors under the #MeToo campaign.
While interacting with the media at the launch of new collection of Daniel Wellington watches as their brand ambassador, Radhika hoped that the film industry would come up with an “equal and genderless” system to tackle any kind of harassment cases.
Radhika has been associated with Kwan Entertainment — one of the biggest celebrity management agencies in India — whose founder has been sacked after four aspiring actresses anonymously accused him of seeking sexual favours.
Asked whether she will disassociate herself with the celebrity management agency, Radhika said: “I am completely and closely in contact with them. The people who are associated with Kwan have helped me and I have a great relationship with them. They are taking all required action as we all support the (#MeToo) movement.”
On M J Akbar’s resignation as Minister of State for External Affairs in the wake of the raging campaign, Radhika said: “There are so many people involved and there are more things which will come out. So, we can’t comment on every individual case at this stage.”
“All I can say is that, as an industry, we are trying to come together and find a way of constructively making a system where we all have a safe environment and it’s going on. I am part of that and I hope that we come up with a constructive system which is equal and genderless for every human being,” Radhika added.
Women shouldn’t be judged on #MeToo stories: Soni
Veteran actress Soni Razdan, also the mother of Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt, says while the #MeToo movement is a positive change against sexual harassment, women who don’t speak up should not be judged for their silence.
“Living in a patriarchal society I know that such thing is horrifying for any girl and that is why the movement is a positive sign, where people are coming up with their stories,” said Soni.
“It is easy to say that if such harassment happens, walk out of your job. But people depend on that job, it is about their livelihood, a question of survival. So while we must encourage victims for coming up with their #MeToo stories, we should not judge women for not sharing their stories.”
Asked why sexual harassment happens at workplace, she said: “When someone is humiliating and harassing a woman, he must be knowing that the victim is needy and left with no option but to tolerate such harassment to save the job. It is about livelihood.”
The actress, who recently travelled to Busan International Film Festival for her film Yours Truly, said: “Every company should have zero tolerance on sexual harassment so that victims feel secure while taking a stand.” — IANS
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