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Much compassion for #MeToo accused, none for victims: Tanushree Dutta slams Aamir Khan's U-turn


The actress who sparked the #MeToo movement in the Hindi film industry last year wrote an open letter questioning Aamir Khan's about-turn on his earlier decision not to work with director Subhash Kapoor.

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Actress Tanushree Dutta has slammed Aamir Khan's decision to go back on his word and work with director Subhash Kapoor on the upcoming Gulshan Kumar biopic Mogul.

The director was accused by TV actress Geetika Tyagi of sexual harassment back in 2012. The actress had filed a first information report (FIR) in 2014, following which Kapoor was arrested and released on bail. At the height of the #MeToo storm in the Hindi film industry last year, Aamir Khan had backed out of the Kapoor-led biopic. But a couple of days ago, Aamir Khan went back on his decision, asking how long someone was to be kept away from his livelihood while the matter drags on.

In an open letter, Dutta wrote, "I read through the whole paragraph that Aamir Khan wrote justifying himself for his actions and I certainly understand this perceived personal dilemma. But having said that, I just want to ask one question. How come nobody in Bollywood has sleepless nights when a girl who is an upcoming professional becomes the victim of harassment or abuse of some kind and is inadvertently out of the industry and not able to work out of humiliation, trauma and ostracization? How come nobody thinks of the livelihood of those women who have had to let go of promising, flourishing careers due to harassment at the workplace?"

Dutta had lit the spark for the #MeToo movement in the Hindi film industry after she accused actor Nana Patekar, along with others, of harassing her on the sets of the film, Horn Ok Pleasss (2008). The revelation led several other women, both in the film industry and elsewhere, to come forward with their own horrific experiences.

The Indian Express newspaper quoted Dutta as saying, "Well, one is still a victim whether it's proven in court or committees or not and only such a person will know the pain of having to see their perpetrators flourish and work while they wait in the wings waiting for a court verdict that puts a stamp of approval on their complaint and their sufferings as a default. Isn’t that the whole point of speaking out? To empower those that have no voice? And to try to heal the wounds of those that have no validation yet from the court for the injustices they bore? Compassion is only compassion if it's universal. If it’s so selective as is being displayed by the bigwigs of Bollywood [mainstream Hindi cinema], then it’s not compassion, it's convenience and ignorance!" 

Aamir Khan had put out a tweet back in October 2018 suggesting that he would refrain from working with anyone accused of sexual harassment till the respective cases are sorted out. 

However, the superstar went back on his word on Tuesday, clarifying that he will be a part of Mogul since one is innocent until proven guilty. "Laws of natural justice consider a person innocent until he or she is proven guilty. But until such time that the courts reach a conclusion, is it that he or she should not be allowed to work? Is he to just sit at home? Not to earn for himself?" Khan said in the interview. 

In response to the interview, actress Geetika Tyagi told the tabloid Mid-Day, "I had commended Kiran Rao and Aamir Khan because it gave hope to more women to speak up about their own stories. But I had never asked for it from them. Now that Subhash has been hired back, it's not like someone [from their end] reached out to me. It would have been a fair game had they considered both sides of the story."

Dutta made the same point in her statement: "The victims, on the other hand, are the first to bear the brunt, so if someone has taken that extra hit by speaking out, shouldn’t they also need to be shown some compassion? If you have managed to convince yourself to hire this guy, then why not hire the girl who suffered the consequences of his actions? Are you doing that? Her story as I read in the papers clearly shows that for years she has struggled even with her basic livelihood. No compassion there? Why only the creepy men of Bollywood getting all the compassion? Show us some love too, darlings. Let these girls also see some of that saintly do-goodery that Bollywood has so hammered on about to the press and media.”

Mogul is a biopic of the late T-Series founder Gulshan Kumar. The film is produced by T-Series and Aamir Khan, who will essay the title role, will also be on board as a co-producer. 

Following is Tanushree Dutta's statement in full, as published on the Indian Express website:

I read through the whole paragraph that Aamir Khan wrote justifying himself for his actions and I certainly understand this perceived personal dilemma. But having said that I just want to ask one question. How come nobody in Bollywood has sleepless nights when a girl who is an upcoming professional becomes the victim of harassment or abuse of some kind and is inadvertently out of the industry and not able to work out of humiliation, trauma and ostracization? How come nobody thinks of the livelihood of those women who have had to let go of promising, flourishing careers due to harassment at the workplace? There seems to be so much compassion for the #MeToo accused floating around but none for the alleged victims it seems. Well, one is still a victim whether its proven in court or committees or not and only such a person will know the pain of having to see their perpetrators flourish and work while they wait in the wings waiting for a court verdict that puts a stamp of approval on their complaint and their sufferings as a default. Isn’t that the whole point of speaking out? To empower those that have no voice? And to try to heal the wounds of those that have no validation yet from the court for the injustices they bore? Compassion is only compassion if it's universal. If it’s so selective as is being displayed by the bigwigs of Bollywood, then it’s not compassion, it's convenience and ignorance!

Beware of where you let your heart flow lest your soul be afflicted too with the sins of those that your mind has justified.

I know this is a very tricky situation and one that many well-meaning people in the industry face today and Aamir Khan could be one of those or perhaps it’s a well-crafted excuse. Only he and his God knows. Having sailed in the same boat myself, I know that nobody bothered to even ask me how I was doing when being an actor, my primary livelihood was snatched away from me after the Horn OK Pleassss harassment episode. I had to make do by doing celebrity appearances and stage shows at events and brand endorsements etc, whereas I was a talented screen actor taking in millions with each movie. Nobody wrote letters requesting bigwigs to work with me and help me resurrect my career and help me heal from the trauma, insult and humiliation that I endured. Nobody lent me a shoulder to cry on when for years me and my family suffered the consequences of harassment at workplace emotionally and psychologically. Being a woman, it’s a task finding your place in the world and then when it’s taken away from you, it’s an uphill ride getting your feet firm again. No compassion for me, Aamir?

In order that such incidents not be repeated again, a boycott becomes important just so that there is fear and accountability among people who take their freedom for granted and abuse their power. Let them get a taste of the same medicine and develop their own compassion. And unfortunately when a world needs to be changed there will be collateral damage; of personal opinions and judgements for the greater good of humanity. You have to surrender your will to God's will. So people have to decide if they want to appease their misguided compassion or root for a much-needed cause because if every alleged harasser gets reinstated then the goal of a harassment and abuse-free workplace and society becomes a distant dream as we all know such cases go on for years in court with little or no relief to the victims. The victims, on the other hand, are the first to bear the brunt, so if someone has taken that extra hit by speaking out, shouldn’t they also need to be shown some compassion? If you have managed to convince yourself to hire this guy, then why not hire the girl who suffered the consequences of his actions? Are you doing that? Her story as I read in the papers clearly shows that for years she has struggled even with her basic livelihood. No compassion there? Why only the creepy men of Bollywood getting all the compassion? Show us some love too, darlings. Let these girls also see some of that saintly do-goodery that Bollywood has so hammered on about to the press and media.

Related topics

Sexual harassment