Armaan Kohli, the hot-headed son of veteran filmmaker Raj Kumar Kohli has done it again. His girlfriend Neeru Randhawa has filed a complaint against him for thrashing her. This is not the first time Mr Kohli has raised his hands on a woman. But this must be the first occasion when the victim has complained to the police. More women should call out such crimes. But then it isn’t easy to see such sordid allegations to their logical conclusion. Not when the world is watching and judging you.
Veteran actress Rati Agnihotri had come forward to accuse her husband of domestic violence. She had quickly withdrawn her case and gone back to the life in the darkness. Zeenat Aman suffered years of emotional and physical abuse in the hands of her husband, the late Mazhar Khan. Dimple Kapadia too was a victim of domestic violence. There are many other women in the film industry silently suffering humiliation rejection and physical violence. It’s time for them to come forward.
Bollywood history of domestic abuse won’t be complete without mentioning the story of the man Zeenat Aman loved to death in 1979-81, a leading actor of that era, who almost killed her in full public view. Handsome dashing debonair, Zeenat’s love was her life until the man’s no-nonsense wife stepped in and gave him a hard knock on his head. “Prove that you don’t love her, or else I’ll leave with the kids,” the hero’s wife challenged him. The venue chosen to “teach Zeenat a lesson” was a posh party at a 5-star hotel. In full public view, Zeenat man and his wife thrashed her until she nearly lost one eye. Bleeding profusely she lay on the luxurious carpet of the hotel as guests just stared. “I guess I’ve been unlucky love. No one should stay in an abusive relationship, “ Zeenat said later.
Easier said than done. Bollywood is stuffed-full with abusive men who have cheated exploited and abandoned clever smart beautiful financially independent women. For instance, Manisha Koirala who has been in several exploitative relationships with men far less successful than her. She now prefers to be single. Many women in Bollywood chose to ‘Walk Into Closed Doors’(if one may refer to Roddy Doyle’s memorable novel on domestic violence). Bollywood marriages and live-in relationships are dotted with examples of violence. Years ago Ranveer Shorey had used his first on Pooja Bhatt. Boldly, she had gone public with her wounds and she booted the guy out of her life. Others like Rati Agnihotri bear the brunt and humiliation of concealed pain for years before exploding. Rati’s friend feels another star-wife, herself an accomplished actress, who has borne with her violent husband’s fist-happy ways for decades should also go public. But then that is not easy to do especially when you have the children future to consider. TV actresses Shweta Tiwary bore with her then-husband Raja Choudhary’s abusive drunken ways for their daughter’s sake. She finally walked out with daughter and dignity. A yesteryears’ superstar’s wife thought she underwent an overnight fairy tale marriage with the most eligible man in the country .She was soon disabused when she was showered with the eligible superstar’s inebriated abuses. She soon found herself in the vortex of unmentionable brutality. She wisely bundled her two kids out of her husband’s domestic hell and built a new life for herself. A renowned TV actress married to a well-known TV actor walked out of an abusive 2-year marriage and married a successful film producer. They’ve now been married for many years and have beautiful kids.
A violent and abusive producer’s son who was lately visible on a popular reality show has been known to physically abuse every girlfriend he has been with. Yet he was seen in a relationship with the daughter of a very distinguished film family who was with him on the reality show. Not surprisingly the relationship went bust within months.
A superstar who loves to show the world his kind and compassionate side has had open spats with his girlfriend. One of them, a superstar in her own right, was punched so hard that she had two black eyes for the world to see and was pushed so hard she broke her arm . Yet this superstar is regarded as a ‘hot eligible’ bachelor.
An accomplished TV and film actress who left her abusive husband says, “It’s very important for celebrities to not endure abusive relationships. Whether it is Kim Kadarshan abroad or Ratiji here, they’ve an image to uphold. They need to tell their fans, ‘We have zero tolerance for physical abuse’. They need to set the right example. Otherwise we’ll continue to have gruesome crimes against women.”
Raveena Tandon who played an abused wife in Kalpana Lajmi’s Daman says women in Bollywood are as susceptible to domestic violence as women anywhere else. “Why are you singling out wives and girlfriends in the film industry? Women are beaten and abused in every strata and every profession. It’s shocking that women take the verbal physical and emotional pounding even when they’re financially independent. Women should say no the first time a man raises his fist.”
Rati who later withdrew charges of domestic violence against her husband had said to me, “I’ve taken 30 years to opt out of my marriage. I’ve been patient and I’ve borne a lot. Tanuj (her son) is the only reason I stuck on (in the marriage). He is 28 now and man enough to face the truth in his mother’s life. He knew the truth ten years ago. He knows the truth now. He knows what his mother has endured. Finally he told me. ‘Mom, don’t live your life for me. Live for yourself. Do what you think is right for yourself.’
Reluctant to speak on what went wrong with the marriage Rati finally said, “I got married three weeks after my dad passed away. I went from my father’s protective attention straight into my husband’s home. I knew I had to adjust almost overnight to my new life, that being from a glamorous profession I was being scrutinized and judged far more harshly than the normal girl. Two years later Tanuj was born. I felt I had a life-long responsibility towards my son.”
Why didn’t Rati discuss her marital problems with close family and friends? “I really had no one to talk to. I stuck on to the marriage for my son’s sake. This is the honest truth. If the world would like to judge me otherwise, so be it. It saddens me to see the way my life is being projected in the media. Some sections of the media have forgotten I have a 37- year connectivity with the media. Don’t they grant me some grace dignity and honesty? Does the media know how hard it is on me to make the decision that I did after keeping quiet for 30 years? I feel it is important for me to have my say in this one conversation with you. Just because I kept quiet all these years about what I was going through and finally decided to do something about it, doesn’t mean my motives are questionable.” ondering over her own predicament Rati asked, “Do I sound depressed to you? Do I sound desperate? One widely-read newspaper portrays me this way and I am painted poorly in numerous papers across the country. If you don’t have access to me it doesn’t mean my life is open to distortion.”
Regarding her decision to break away from the violent marriage Rati said, “After the violence I couldn’t stay in the same house any more. I had nowhere to go, so I drove down to my home in Lonavla overnight. My son was shooting in Pune . He came to meet me in Lonavla and advised me to do what is right for me. This (ending the marriage) was my son’s decision for me. I was taking his advice. He said, ‘No matter what you’ll always be my mother.’ Every time something of this sort happened within the four walls of my home he’s the only person I reached out to. In the past I called him for help and he immediately came to my rescue.”
Rati later buckled under family pressure and returned to her husband. But there are others who bore with abusive star-boyfriends, moved on and never looked back.