Irony is always lost on Farhan Akhtar. Whether he’s saving Deepika Padukone from a life of “shelling peas” in a 2014 Coca-Cola ad by driving her to an exam, or appealing to base masculinity to tell men to stop raping women through MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination), the organisation he founded to address violence against women, Akhtar’s “feminist” explorations (more of those here) have always been at the cutting edge of clueless. But Akhtar outdid even himself with the latest of his statements on what he thinks women should do today.
Yesterday, Akhtar said that women in the film industry should speak up about sexual harassment, and that this is the “perfect environment, world over, for you to come out and share it”. He said that women would be doing themselves, other women and (of course) men a favour by coming out with these stories, and that “everyone in their mind will be supportive of women to come out speak names and tell the truth”.
I guess it’s safe to say Farhan Akhtar isn’t “in his mind” then. When he talks about the “perfect environment world over” to speak about sexual harassment, I assume he’s referring to what he sees as the post-Harvey Weinstein climate, which is pretty interesting, given that the original allegations against Weinstein came out in the New York Times on October 5th, exactly around the time the entire Hrithik Roshan-Kangana Ranaut controversy was back in the news again.
On October 9th, just four days after the Weinstein allegations, Akhtar unnecessarily took to Facebook to support his buddy and former co-star Hrithik Roshan to announce that “although it is true that in most cases it is a woman that has been wronged, there is a difference between ‘most’ and ‘all'”, to ask why Ranaut didn’t have photographs to prove her allegations, and to darkly warn that “some people are deriving some sort of voyeuristic pleasure by encouraging ‘the woman’ [quotes mine] to carry on speaking”.
Now, this wasn’t even a case of sexual harassment, and smack in the middle of the “perfect environment” for women that he refers to, but it still drew the exact kind of vicious remarks from Akhtar, a leading Bollywood actor and the founder of MARD, that most survivors of sexual harassment dread the most, and all of his statements were just the most basic tricks in every misogynist’s book. You can only imagine what heavy-duty artillery would come out when women in Bollywood start telling the stories of powerful men and their friends sexually harassing or raping them.
Fantastically, Akhtar made all these statements about women needing to come out with their stories in the knowledge that they’ll be supported during the PR for his new campaign, another collaboration with the Population Foundation of India and director Feroze Abbas Khan (who brought us the awesome sex-education soap serial Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, on Doordarshan). The new campaign is unbelievably called exactly what we would all like to say to Farhan Akhtar: Bas Ab Bahut Ho Gaya. #EnoughIsEnough.
An earlier version of this piece incorrectly referred to the Population Foundation of India as the Population Fund of India. This has been corrected.