Sunday 19 August, 2018
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BBC expose on Bollywood’s casting couch has nothing to say

By Subhash K Jha

Mumbai, April 30 (IANS) Apart from Radhika Apte holding forth in a British accent and Usha Jadhav speaking of her harrowing experience in a Marathi accent, the BBC’s much-discussed documentary “Bollywood’s Dark Secret” says nothing that we haven’t already heard or seen.

Anchor Rajini Vaidyanathan asks no hard-hitting questions. There is no answer to the crucial question: “why have Bollywood’s casting-couch victims not come out with their experiences?”

Radhika Apte talks about men in Bollywood being as powerful as “Gods” whom no one would dare point a finger at. She isn’t doing it either. She has no personal story of exploitation to share.

It’s all about others. Luckily for us, Usha Jadhav is not afraid to speak her mind. She speaks unabashedly about the man who abused her physically, touched her anywhere and everywhere, put his hand in her clothes.

But who was this man? I even asked Usha why she doesn’t want to name him.

“Because it wouldn’t be right,” she told me.

Right for whom?

Is this really what Bollywood has come to mean in the global arena’s “MeToo” campaign? Two actresses, one of whom is clearly talking about an out-of-body experience (all rhetorics and hypothesis suggesting she has never been through the casting couch), the other putting words to an experience that is too painful on recall and sounds more like a confession at a distress meeting in a sex clinic.

Beyond the truth about the symbiotic sexuality ingrained in Bollywood’s demand-and-supply mindset, there is the truth about the potential victim allowing herself to be exploited of her own free will.

How free is that will which compels a girl to get on the casting couch voluntarily? The BBC documentary is not able to extricate Bollywood’s ‘Dark Secret’ from the clutches of cliches. It needed more muscle and heft to be persuasive. All we get is a couple of opinions swathed in vague rhetorics. No naming no shaming.

After watching the BBC’s sketchy account of the casting couch in Bollywood, I am more than ever convinced that the “MeToo” movement is far removed from our perception. The predators won’t stop, because there is no concerted will to stop them.

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