By Sharanya Gopinathan
It’s almost surprising how little the Harvey Weinstein scandal has touched Bollywood. In India, its explosive effects came straight out of left field, with Raya Sarkar’s infamous, widely-shared and controversial list of men in liberal academia who were accused of repeated sexual harassment. Some people in the film industry, like Swara Bhaskar and Priyanka Chopra, have spoken a bit about experiencing or hearing of such things, but not one person has been publicly named, despite public calls for people to come forward with their experiences, and more importantly, with their knowledge of known harassers within the industry.
I bet Bollywood feels like it narrowly dodged a bullet (speaking of which, did you know director Vikas Bahl was welcomed back to Phantom Films earlier this year, despite having been chucked out back in April after he was accused of sexual harassment by an employee there?). But now, about a month after the Weinstein allegations, the creeps are really starting to come out of the woodworks.
Bollywood producer Mukesh Bhatt gave an interview to Reuters in which he was asked about sexual harassment in Bollywood, and he was quick to answer that India’s film industry shouldn’t be singled out, and then, that absolutely nothing could be done about sexual harassment in the film industry.“What can we do? We cannot do any moral policing. We cannot keep moral cops outside every film office to see that no girl is being exploited.” Er, well, at least he told us where it happens.
Even more shockingly, he goes on to actually blame women for the kind of rampant and twisted abuse that goes in Bollywood, saying, “I am not saying men have not been exploitative. They have been for centuries. But today’s woman is also not as simple as she pretends to be. But just as there are good men and bad men, so also there are women who are exploitative and very cunning. Also blatantly shameless to offer themselves.”
After some media outrage, Mukesh Bhatt issued a statement saying that what was presented in the Reuters interview was in fact the opposite of what he actually said. He clarified, “Sexual harassment is not gender specific and in some instances men take advantage of it and in some instances women take advantage of the same. But it was twisted, turned and completely put out of context. I stand by the firm belief that sexual harassment should not happen in the first place and shouldn’t be gender specific.”.
He also cried that he didn’t appreciate being misquoted on such a sensitive point of discussion. What to do, we cannot keep cops outside every interview to see that no quote is being exploited.
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