Renuka Shahane’s Facebook post on Tanushree Dutta sexual harassment row, further sheds light on hostility women face in Bollywood. Shahane has conceded in her post that Nana Patekar is known for his volatile temper, and that many men and women from the film industry have faced his wrath. But she also questioned why the Horn Ok Please director and choreographer did not change the dance step despite knowing that Dutta was not comfortable?

She says, “Tanushree made it clear that she was uncomfortable with a certain step in the dance and did not like Nana’s gesture/touch during that step. Even if Nana’s intentions might not have been to molest her, couldn’t he, the director and the choreographer come up with a step that made her feel comfortable? Is the workplace meant for terrorising people or about working in a healthy atmosphere?”

It is time that we take a cue from Shahane and question the sexual hostility women face in Bollywood.

Neglecting a female actor’s discomfort is also a form of harassment

Today, most actors have no reservations against doing kissing or intimate scenes, which were a big no-no a decade and a half ago, or so we think. It took Dutta ten years to open up about her experience. Ten years to find the courage to speak again, after her initial allegations were met with what can be only described at best as bullying. Which makes us question how many female actors perform such scenes out of intimidation? What happens if an actor refuses to do such a scene? Does she face a fate similar to that of Dutta or even worse?

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • In her Facebook post, Renuka Shahane has questioned why  the Horn Ok Please director and choreographer did not change the steps despite knowing that Dutta was not comfortable? 
  • Do we need to question how are these “bold scenes” shot? Is it possible that makers strong-arm female actors into shooting “bold” scenes?
  • Does the onus of morality lie on women in Bollywood, even in case of forced submission?

As viewers, it is our duty to question the content we consume.

Sexually intimate scenes in mainstream movies have its takers, for whom a little voyeurism only adds to the experience of film viewing. A flurry of films post the success of Jism and Murder in the early 2000s have imitated the formula of infusing films with “hot scenes”. For a sexually starved country like ours, such films are both scandalous and titillating. But it is 2018 and we are yet to question how are these “bold scenes” shot? Is it possible that makers strong-arm female actors into shooting them?

The consequences of saying no could range from an ordeal similar to that of Dutta, or a threat of being outed from a project, or even sheer neglect to the actor’s discomfort. However, the comfort and dignity of the involved female actor is seldom a priority. As Shahane rightly points out, “If she was truly the daughter of any of the men around, would they have really asked her to do something that made her feel very uncomfortable or would they want to change the step?”

It is indeed shameful that an entire pack of insensitive men ganged up on Dutta. They did everything from threatening to bullying her into submission. What kind of sweatshop does Bollywood run, where women are merely commodities meant to be used till they pass their shelf life? Such a toxic work environment may be a reason why it is simply not possible for women to speak out against sexual harassment in Bollywood.

So many people are questioning Dutta’s character for doing an intimate scene in Aashiq Banaya Aapne, but no one has yet questioned the makers of Horn Ok Please for pushing her to do an intimate scene against her wishes.

Why do Indian men get a clean character certificate, even when they bully a young woman? Does the onus of morality lie on women in Bollywood, even in case of forced submission?

Hopefully, Shahane’s letter will make Bollywood asses how it treats its women. Forcing a woman to perform an intimate scene through physical or psychological intimidation is also a form of harassment. It is a violation of her consent.

Picture Credit: Times Now

Also Read : Stop Slut-Shaming Tanushree Dutta For Daring To Speak Up

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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