‘Men Who Are Predators Need to Be Named and Shamed’: Tanushree Dutta

‘Men Who Are Predators Need to Be Named and Shamed’: Tanushree Dutta

Tanushree Dutta, in the eye of a storm after her renewed charges of harassment against veteran Nana Patekar, tells Subhash K Jha why she spoke up 10 years after the incident.
‘Men Who Are Predators Need to Be Named and Shamed’: Tanushree Dutta
Tanushree Dutta

FIRSTLY, ARE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY SAFE?

I don’t know how safe we are. I was attacked  by MNS goons when  the  incident (with Nana Patekar) happened in 2008.  Now when I  spoke about  I am being attacked  by the same goons.

Not  much has changed  during the ten years. I am being bullied maligned hounded and  a smear campaign is  on against me. The  first thing  they do when a woman accuses  a powerful of misconduct is label her badchalan (of loose character).

WHAT MADE YOU SPEAK UP ABOUT THE INCIDENT?

It wasn’t my intention  to consciously draw attention to  the incident. I am here in  India for a  holiday. I was giving  interviews when I was  asked  about the sexual harassment  at  the workplace. This is when I spoke  about  the incident  in 2008. Mind you, I spoke about a lot of other things. But this  is  what the media latched on  to. And I am happy. Because a debate has been opened up on  the  whole issue  of sexual harassment.

YOU HAD SPOKEN EXTENSIVELY ABOUT IT WHEN IT HAD HAPPENED?

Yes, I had. So it’s not as  if I am speaking about it now. I had tried to get justice for myself when the incident happened  from every possible organisation . Even the police and the judiciary let me down. When  the perpetrator filed a counter-FIR I was advised to   just  keep quiet  about it. ‘Right now you are  making the  rounds of  police stations. If this is going to go to court, you will be doing the rounds of the  courts for ten years.’  They said that. In this country  you need  a lot of money and patience  to  fight a legal battle. The criminals have  the resources.

IS THIS THE REASON WHY YOU LEFT THE COUNTRY?

Of course. I was being bullied  into dropping my charges. I got no help from any quarters.

AND HAS THE SITUATION CHANGED NOW?

Not much. I am hoping for more voices to come forward  and  speak with me. It is  a known fact that the entertainment  industry  is strewn with  predators. For years  now, women have accepted the bullying and harassment as ‘normal.’ Now with the MeToo movement gathering so much support I  hope at least  some women  in the entertainment industry  would come  forward and speak out. But so far  I don’t see it happening.

WOULD YOU SAY YOU ARE DISAPPOINTED BY THE LACK OF SUPPORT FROM POWERFUL VOICES IN THE INDIAN FILM INDUSTRY?

Look, I can’t complain. At least  these voices are bringing attention to the disease. But I don’t see a MeToo movement happening  in  India. We are  a long way from that. Just me speaking about my experience cannot start a movement. How  long can I  go on speaking about it? The attitude of women in our entertainment industry to  such harassment is a far cry from the West.

WHAT EXACTLY HAD HAPPENED WITH MR PATEKAR?

It was a dance  sequence for  a film called Horn Ok Pleassss. He was  not part of it. But he insisted on being  on  the set. He bullied  me. He crossed all limits of decency. He was pulling my hand, pushing me, shouting at me….I had  never encountered such boorish behaviour from any of my  co-stars before this.

PERHAPS SUCH BEHAVIOUR ESPECIALLY FROM MR PATEKAR IS CONSIDERED NORMAL? DIMPLE KAPADIA HAD APPARENTLY CALLED HIM ‘OBNOXIOUS’?

Yes, but what happened after that? Just a random comment here or there or  powerful voices speaking in ambiguous tones and in  parables, isn’t going to help. Men who are predators need to be named and shamed. There are  other incidents  involving Nana Patekar. He had threatened a man with a gun once. But like me, the man was silenced.

AREN’T YOU AFRAID THAT MR. PATEKAR HAS POWERFUL FRIENDS?

He has  no powerful friends. It is just a perception created  by his friends. I have really powerful voices like Maneka Gandhi supporting me. Can you imagine the perpetrators  have sent  me legal notices. Do you see the irony of  it?

AREN’T YOU AFRAID YOU MAY END UP FIGHTING A LONG LEGAL BATTLE?

Bullying is  not going to scare  me. Criminals are often seen to take the initiative in sending  out legal notices. They have  the resources and  the  knowledge of how to  use  the law  to their own advantage. Unless the laws regarding sexual harassment change,  women in our country  will continue  to be intimidated and  bullied.

HOW FAR ARE YOU GOING TO GO IN THIS FIGHT AGAINST PREDATORY BULLYING?

I didn’t plan this . I never planned anything in my life. I firmly believe Man proposes God Disposes. From being  a  model to a  beauty queen to an actress…It all happened  to me without my intervention. Doors opened  for me  and I walked  through  them. It hasn’t always been a pleasant  walk through the door. I am here in India with an open ticket. I am waiting to see where this  goes. I am hoping more  voices will join me. Otherwise this will come to nothing.

WOULD YOU BE DISAPPOINTED IF MORE VOICES DON’T JOIN YOU?

I’ve been on a spiritual quest for ten years. I’ve experienced all religion, embraced them all to finally embrace  no  religion at all. I strive to  find a meaning to life. Who knows where I will go from here?

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