This week after great deliberation Aamir Khan decided to play the late music baron Gulshan Kumar in a bio-pic directed by Subhash Kapoor who was one of the first to be accused in the MeToo movement that hit Bollywood last year.
Aamir, it is to be noted, had earlier quit the project, produced by Gulshan’s son Bhushan Kumar, as he felt it was unethical for him to work with anyone accused of sexual misconduct. But now in a dramatic volte-face he says he has revised his decision after talking to women who have worked with Subhash Kapoor.
Aamir is quoted in the Hindustan Times as saying, “I don’t have any strategy. I’m just doing what my heart says is right, and what my conscience tells me is right. At that time, I felt that was the right step to take, so I took that. Today I feel differently. I’m going with my heart. Perhaps some people will be critical of my decision. But I’ve to live with my own conscience. So, I’ve done what my heart and conscience feels is right…. What we found is that, without exception, all of them spoke very highly of him. Not only did they not feel any discomfort with him, but rather they went out of their way to praise him. They said that he looked after everyone on his set with great care. Caring, sensitive and supportive were the words used to describe him. Mind you, both Kiran and I are fully aware that these particular women may have had a very good experience working with Mr Kapoor, but that does not mean that he could not have misbehaved with some other woman. However, I cannot deny that this interaction with women who had worked with him, did give us comfort. And so, taking everything into account, I wrote back to IFTDA (Indian Film and Television Directors' Association) saying I have reconsidered my decision, and that I would come back on to the film,"
Tanushree Dutta who spearheaded the #MeToo movement in Bollywood has greeted Aamir’s decision to return to the Gulshan Kumar biopic entitled Moghul with mixed feelings. Says Tanushree, “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 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 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 court for the injustices they bore?? Compassion is only compassion if its universal. If it's so selective as is being displayed by the bigwigs of Bollywood then it's not compassion its convenience and ignorance!!”
Tanushree feels Aamir may be falling into the trap of supporting the wrong cause. “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 know.”
Tanushree asks why Aamir didn’t show the same compassion for her. “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 Please' harassment episode. I had to make do just doing celebrity appearances and stage shows at events and brand endorsements etc 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??