Indian actress Tanushree Dutta, who earlier this week alleged she was sexually harassed by veteran actor Nana Patekar, has received both support as well as silence from Bollywood.
While several actors, including Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar, came out to back Dutta, the silence and evasion of some of Bollywood’s top men, including superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan, did not go unnoticed and was criticised.
Dutta, former Miss India, said in press interviews this week that Patekar, 67, had harassed her on the set of a film in 2008.
Dutta, 34, had made the same allegations in 2008 and Patekar had denied them at the time.
“Back then, these incidents would be discussed only behind closed doors and not openly, as is being done now. No one supported me,” Dutta told Zoom TV in an interview.
Calls to Patekar on Friday by Reuters news agency went unanswered.
But Rajendra Shirodkar, a lawyer for Patekar, threatened legal action against Dutta for making “false allegations”.
“We’ve sent her a notice for making false allegations. She should apologise to my client,” Shirodkar told Reuters. “If she doesn’t, then we shall chart a future course of action”.
Dutta alleges that Patekar wanted an “intimate step” with her in a dance number in the film, ‘Horn OK Please’.
When she refused, Dutta alleges that Patekar called workers of a local political party, who damaged her car and threatened her.
On Thursday, Dutta made yet another allegation against a Bollywood director, saying he had asked her during the making of a film in 2005, “to take her clothes off and dance”.
The MeToo movement has found resonance in Bollywood, where the vast majority of producers and film-makers are men, most of whom are from prominent families in the film industry.
The Mumbai-based film industry, one of the largest in the world, is considered notorious for its exploitation of women professionals.
In a viral post on Twitter, actor and filmmaker Farhan Akhtar said Dutta’s courage “should be admired”.
“Even when Tanushree Dutta had career concerns to keep quiet 10 years ago she did not and her story hasn’t changed now. Her courage should be admired, not her intention questioned,” he posted.
Chopra agreed, and said the world needs to “believe the survivors”.
Other actresses, including Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and Richa Chadha, also joined in and expressed their solidarity with Dutta.
Top actors remain silent
But there were others, Bollywood’s top line up of men, who either refused to speak up or looked the other way, inviting sharp criticism.
Bollywood veteran Bachchan, 75, when asked in a TV show what he thought about allegations made by Dutta, said, “Neither my name is Tanushree nor Nana Patekar. So, how can I answer your question?”
With him on the show was Aamir Khan, an actor otherwise known for speaking his mind on many issues in India. When the same question was posed to Khan, he said he would not comment “without knowing the veracity” of the incident.
Salman Khan, one of the most popular Bollywood actors who also runs a charity called ‘Being Human’, reportedly lost his cool at another event when a reporter asked him to comment on Dutta’s allegations.
Social media erupted with anger and disgust over some of Bollywood’s most popular men refusing to speak up.
In a column, activist Angellica Aribam said while Bachchan “continues to move and inspire millions of Indians with his body of work,” he should know that “with such power comes immense responsibility”.
She also posted on Twitter that she has decided to “boycott” the films of the three male actors.