Time To Call Out The Desi Weinsteins

Published: October 17, 2017 16:45 IST
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Bollywood is always in search of a great big Diwali dhamaka. I am hoping this year will provide a big bang!

Come on, all you Bollywood babes - you know who you are - speak up! Nail those vile men who have done a Harvey Weinstein on you. You can do it. No shame. The timing is perfect. All it needs is one top female star to open her gab - just one. If that happens, the dam will burst! And all those slimy Sugar Daddies of showbiz will have no place to hide. That is, if they have any sharam in the first place.

I have monitored the shenanigans in Bollywood for over 40 years. During my decade-long association with a popular movie magazine, the stories would arrive taaza taaza, straight from the horse's - or mare's - mouth. I have sat grim-faced and open-mouthed as a blousy star mother tried hard to peddle her nubile, underage daughter's very risqué, half-naked pictures to our team. Before asking her to leave, I did question her need to pimp a young, possibly innocent, girl in this lurid way. The mother was brazen about her motives. Said she stonily, "My daughter is sexy. Nothing wrong in sharing..." That same young girl today is a much-admired, matronly mother to a highly-successful star son.

There are several stories from way back then of self-styled showmen and their upfront propositions to starlets looking for breaks. "Meet me in the make-up room..." came later after the girl had a make-up room to call her own. She knew in order to get that status, she would first have to "please" the showman. There were  hundreds like her waiting for "script sessions" in dingy hotel suites. Or even in the powerful producer's plush office. I recall a young scion of a very influential movie moghul (in the mould of a Weinstein), telling me with a wicked smile, "My father has a couch in his office. He is an old man, and needs his post-lunch siesta. But the minute an actress walks in and spots it, her body language automatically changes. Some start undressing even before they've been asked to take a seat!"

If heroes in the bad old days, had their sidekicks to handpick back-up dancers for a quickie after pack-up - that goes on even today. If you notice, every top male star carefully chooses his 'boys' for secondary roles. These other fellows play villains or comedians - but that's for the books. Their real job is to scout for 'meat' every day of the shoot - particularly at outdoor locations. Away from snooping, insecure wives and girl friends, the heroes have an elaborate arrangement with the entire unit. Things only get out of hand if the wife/girl-friend lands on the set for a sneak attack and catches the rake red-handed, as it were. These clinical strikes are generally orchestrated with military precision by a rival camp.

It is widely accepted and tacitly understood that randomly sleeping around for roles is what happens if you venture into Bollywood. It used to affect ambitious young women the most, but these days the ratio of men and women is pretty equal. Male models are beginning to crib, since they have to perform what they call 'double duty' - jump into bed with a host of other men and sexually service a few women as well - if not the heroine herself, then others in her entourage. The strain, they say, is killing them. They have no energy left to work!

As in Hollywood, so in Bollywood: the male predators call the shots. Sex for roles and awards is the way it goes. Are women playing the victim card now that the whistle has been blown on the bad boys? Yes and no. A woman always has the option to walk away from a proposition. Always. And if she is physically overpowered, she also has the choice to go to the police. If a woman chooses to keep mum, I would say, there is some complicity involved. Bollywood girls today are smart, tough, aggressive and pretty much on top of their lives and careers. They are known to play men. Some of our top female stars are often the initiators and aggressors. In which case, they have no business to mew and crib later. Yes, Bollywood is patriarchal, misogynistic, exploitative, materialistic, amoral  and more. But it is also creative, innovative, exciting, dynamic and turbo-charged. This is the deal. Screw or get screwed. Or, that's what those waiting hungrily on the outside think. For every 'untouched virgin' who makes it big, there are hundreds of women who have been groped, pummelled, raped, sodomised, beaten, passed on to a buddy, forced to go through abortions and worse. Some take their own lives, unable to deal with the brutality. Others 'adjust'. Or take to drugs, alcohol even prostitution. It is not a pretty world.

I remember a so-called posh hero walking up to a starry-eyed, good-looking female fan at a party and asking cockily, "I think I recognise you.... did you sleep with me recently?" She didn't kick him where it hurts the most. She simpered.

It's time to stop simpering, ladies. And start kicking. Call out the creeps.

Do it, someone.

(Shobhaa De is an established writer, columnist, opinion shaper and social commentator, who is considered an authority on popular culture.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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