Bollywood’s most talked about dark secret “casting couch” has seen a fresh shade of controversy provoked in the past week after Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta accused veteran actor Nana Patekar of harassing her on the sets of a 2008 film Horn ‘Ok’ Pleasss, a movie she later opted out of. Reviving the 10-year-old controversy, Dutta held Nana Patekar responsible for aggressive and unwelcome behaviour during the film shoot and inculpated him for using political goons to intimidate her. She further said that she has been subjected to continuous harassment despite so many eyewitnesses of the incident.
Soon after Dutta opened up about being harassed, many celebrities from the film fraternity spoke in support of her over her allegations while many smartly dodged — Swara Bhaskar, Richa Chadha, Raveena Tandon, Priyanka Chopra, Twinkle Khanna, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Farhan Akhtar, Siddharth, Vir Das, Anurag Kashyap, Varun Grover, and ‘Love Sonia’ star Freida Pinto are among others who have backed Tanushree, though veteran actor Shakti Kapoor preferred to be jocular to pass over the matter stating that the incident took place 10 years ago and he was a kid back then.
Ironically, controversy too spurred around Shakti Kapoor in 2005 when a video went viral where he was caught asking a woman for sexual favours in exchange for a role in a film. The veteran actor later claimed that he was ‘trapped by the journalist who posed as a struggling actress’.
Freida’s recent Instagram post urged more people to come out in support of Tanushree. She wrote, “India – Stand Up, Speak Up. Don’t look to just your superstars to speak up. Be your own role models and follow the voice of your conscience.”
Versatile Actor Makarand Deshpande expressed, “According to me, whatever is wrong should be stopped. Casting couch has been a dark secret of this industry for a long time. In order to put an end to such incidents in the industry, there is only a simple solution and that is by saying ‘no’ to it.”
Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi too voiced her support when asked about the allegations by Tanushree Dutta; she said, “Harassment of any kind will not be tolerated. We were the first government to start ‘SHe Box’ on social media and women who wrote to us saying they are harassed, we took action immediately.”
“I feel we should also start something called ‘Me Too India’ in which any woman who has been harassed at any point should write to us and we should investigate,” she added.
Among all who stood beside Tanushree, Priyanka Chopra’s and Twinkle Khanna’s tweets haven’t gone down well with her. The ‘Aashiq Banaya Aapne’ actress gave both a hard-hitting reply. Thanking Khanna for her support, Tanushree reminded her of her husband Akshay Kumar who’s at present busy shooting ‘Housefull 4’ with Nana Patekar. Dutta too thanked the Mumbai Police for its support after they promised her 24-hour police protection and posted armed personnel at her place.
Marathi Actress Samidha Guru asserted, “I belong from the Marathi film fraternity but I never had such experience in my career. Both Tanushree and Nana Patekar are good actors and my experience of working in Hindi films was fantastic. I believe nobody will have the guts to touch you if you resist. The film industry is the one place where you can say no as we all are here with our talent and creativity.”
The wrongful and illicit use of power has always been a bane in every industry. Even though the talks around feminism and women empowerment taking over the world and especially Bollywood, the Tinsel Town is no exception though its actresses have become more open and unabashed about such issues of late. However, there are several stories that are still behind the screen and yet to be disclosed.
The mental and physical torment of casting couch refers to a ‘mentality in which directors and filmmakers take undue advantage and favour from aspiring film actors or actresses. The newcomers are provided with the filmy option in exchange of sexual favours.’
Veteran choreographer Saroj Khan too hit the headlines early this year when she justified casting couch trading sexual favours saying that “the industry does not rape and abandon women but also provides livelihood”.
Choreographer Sandip Soparrkar said, “Anybody who has been a victim of harassment should be supported and such incidents should not be a part of our workspace. I don’t appreciate casting couch and harassment at work. I believe artists should not work with those who are accused of harassing their co-stars.”
He further added, “I am unaware of what happened during that shoot but I support justice. We should always speak up against these incidents. Tanushree should seek judicial intervention instead of bringing up this matter before media.”
After being accused by Tanushree Dutta for not paying heed to her complaint in 2008, the Cine and TV Artists’ Association (CINTAA) on Tuesday apologised for the same and extended support. In a fresh statement, CINTAA stated that the association finds it “highly regrettable and no apologies can suffice, hence, we must resolve today to never allow such lapses to occur again”. The statement further read that it “strongly condemns any act that outrages the modesty of any individual and any form of sexual harassment is unacceptable to us”. Meanwhile, Nana Patekar’s lawyer has reportedly sent a legal notice to Dutta, demanding a written apology from her for ruining the veteran actor’s image while Tanushree has denied receiving any such notice from him.
When AV contacted Actor Dalip Tahil and Kishor Kadam, they refused to comment anything on the accusations against Nana Patekar.