You know, Mr Johar, I’d initially thought you’d handled yourself well on your show with Kangana Ranaut, especially for someone who was accused of nepotism and manufacturing scandal for benefit. You apologised (though it was qualified) and seemed to actually give your guest the chance to challenge you on her own terms. It was unexpected.
Well, thanks for not letting that unfamiliar feeling last too long.
Yesterday, when the story broke that you’d walked back that apology, and accused Kangana Ranaut of playing the victim and the ‘woman card’, I felt some relief. No more cognitive dissonance. You were, in fact, the ‘Uncle’ we knew you to be. After all, you were the same man who’d been “hurt” when a female actor asked for equal pay.
On the show, you had laughed, and apologised if you’d done what Kangana said you’d had done; and then when asked about it on another platform, pulled the rug out from under her.
A powerful man who produces, directs and occasionally acts in films in one of the largest movie industries in the world cannot tell an actor in the same industry to her face that he disagrees with her? You need to pander to her on your own show, and then stick a knife in her back a few weeks later?
This isn’t new to women in any industry, really—that they’re applauded in one room, while being derided by the same people in another. Strong vocal women especially: They’re used to being talked about behind their backs; they know you do it that way because then they can’t call you out on your hypocrisy.
But you didn’t stop there, did you? You didn’t just say you disagreed with her, which would have at least been a matter of opinion.
You told the world she was playing the victim. You told the world she was playing the woman card. Hmm, where have we heard that before? Only everywhere. Every woman who has ever complained about anything ever in a work environment has heard that. It has been whispered about her in the corridors, at the water fountain, at HR meetings…
We’ve all had to deal with being accused of being *gasp* women. But it’s not the insult you think it is.
You know, I watched that episode. She said she’d become who she was, and made her way in the industry inspite of you and your coterie. She said she grew, she taught herself how to speak “appropriately”, how to behave, because you made fun of her. She said you were the villain in the story of her life, but she never called herself a victim. Because she’s not a victim: She survived the nonsense the industry threw at her and won national awards, carried movies, and inspired millions of women.
Now, can we talk about the nepotism thing? You were part of the AIB roast a couple of years ago, and you were more than happy to let those guys take potshots at you about nepotism. But it’s suddenly so very hurtful and “false” when Kangana calls you out on it? Where did your self-awareness go? Or does it hurt more because a woman who didn’t need you in order to succeed called you out on it? Better face it, the only reason it hurts so much—the reason you aren’t able to shrug it off—is because it’s true. The very fact that you have to list the few people you have supported who aren’t related to you or your friends—that’s telling.
We’ve all made mistakes.
Not all of us get called out on it in the public eye, but that doesn’t reduce the truth. You have been nepotistic. The only reason you don’t seem to be able to accept it is because you don’t like the manner in which you were called out, or the messenger. Well, screw that.
The worst thing you said at the LSE event, though, was something that’s insidious about the patriarchy. That Kangana should leave the industry if she didn’t like the way it worked. If you can’t lump it, leave it. If women thought that way, we wouldn’t have made it anywhere in any battle. Over the past many decades, we’ve chosen NOT to lump it. We’ve fought against that mentality, the idea that work is a choice for women. To tell Kangana she should give up everything she has fought for because he doesn’t agree with her is the worst thing any man in a position of power could have ever said. You only reiterated what she’s been telling you all along: You are the villain in her story.
You have the power in this situation. You are a man in a world that thinks being a man automatically makes you better. You come from privilege, both in wealth and in family connections. You are the ultimate insider. Examine those privileges, and be honest with yourself, if not the world. You can do better when you interact with people who don’t have those privileges that you were born to.
By the way, the word you’re probably looking for is success, not victimhood.