Thanks to you, the #MeToo movement is raging in India. Do you feel a sense of responsibility?
I feel this has gone far beyond me now. It is something that I never thought I’d trigger off. But I have! It gives me a sense of purpose. I never knew fate had this planned for me.
Do you feel the #MeToo movement in Bollywood doesn’t have the A-list voices that its counterpart in the US does?
You mean, why the really big popular actresses have not spoken up? You will have to ask them. We all know that many of them have their own stories to tell. Just why they are keeping quiet, only they can tell. Though some like Sonam Kapoor have spoken. Having said that, I feel segregating the #MeToo voices into A-list and B-list is doing the movement a disservice. Every woman who has been harmed damaged and destroyed is equally important.
Agreed. But when Uma Thurman or Angelina Jolie speaks about it, they bring attention and heft to the #MeToo campaign?
I agree with you. I’d love to have the big stars speak out. But I suspect they won’t. There is still so much of a stigma attached to the topic of sexual violation. Even today women and not the perpetrators (the men) are questioned, ostracized, harangued and their reputation smashed and shredded. Can you believe this? The victim is shamed! When a girl is violated, ghar ki izzat is seen to be threatened. Arrey, how is a crime as grave as rape or molestation a threat to ghar ki izzat?!
Do you think this mind-set stops successful voices from speaking of their experiences in India? Bipasha Basu, for example, maintains nothing happened with Sajid Khan when the whole industry knows he misbehaved with her?
This oath of secrecy is what stops the Movement from growing in our country. You think it’s easy for women to come forward and open up about their experiences (of being sexually violated). Many of these voices you are hearing today belong to women who came to the film industry with dreams but were driven away into anonymity by the predators… their morale, self-confidence and career destroyed. You think it was easy for me to speak about my experience (with Nana Patekar)? It took me ten years to heal through spiritual guidance.
Were you prepared for this movement that you’ve started?
Not at all! If I knew about it I’d have never came to India for this so-called holiday. I am glad one doesn’t know God’s plans. Because if one does, one would probably be frightened of doing what one is supposed to. If I knew this would happen I’d found a way to avoid it.
Now that you are the face of the #MeToo movement in India are you happy with the way it is going?
At last and at least a debate on sexual misconduct is now raging across the country. It’s a healthy and positive sign. What really irks me is these empowered women in positions of responsibility coming on television to condemn the brave women who have come forward with their #MeToo stories, as publicity seekers. This is so frustrating and self-defeating. Do these entitled women realize how much guts it takes to narrate your story of violation?
But merely speaking about it on the social media without legal follow-ups is pretty much self-defeating?
It is not! In fact naming and shaming these culprits on social media is the only option. Then once these criminals are exposed taking legal action becomes easier. Taking the legal route is not easy. It shames you, drains you emotionally and financially. It is a very daunting exercise. Many times the culprits get the best legal aide and fight long costly legal battles while the victims cannot afford it.
Do you see any change in the way victims are positioned since the violation happened to you ten years ago?
I would say, there is a change but not enough. Ten years ago when I approached the police my efforts were blocked. I faced the same hurdles again now. But this time I was better equipped to handle it. The #MeToo movement has given me confidence and strength.
Why do we call it the ‘#MeToo’ movement? Why do we have to ape the west?
Because sexual violation is not about the West or East. It’s a global shame that binds all survivors as sisters.