Indian actress Tanushree Dutta, who triggered the #MeToo movement in Bollywood by re-visiting her harassment claims against actor Nana Patekar, hailed the guilty verdict of fallen Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, who several women have accused of sexual assault and rape, labelling it a “landmark win”.
“A landmark win against a powerful and wealthy mogul could truly happen in the US in such a short trial period… It has helped to restore faith and hope among #MeToo survivors and women’s safety activists around the world,” said Dutta in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid.
The US resident also hailed America’s efficient judiciary system and lauded them for their short trial period.
A few hours after the news of Weinstein’s court case emerged on February 24, Dutta — who had shamed her alleged harasser, Indian National Award winning actor Nana Patekar, as recently as September 2018 — said that reality is different for her.
“I wish that this kind of effective and speedy justice against perpetrators of crimes against women happens in my native motherland India too. Here in India, it was very hard for me to even get my sexual harassment at workplace case against the very insignificant four accused rolling in court.
"I faced several roadblocks, pushbacks and pressures to drop the case,” said Dutta.
In September 2018, the US-based former Miss India and actress Dutta renewed her charges against Patekar and four others, including choreographer Ganesh Acharya, where she said they harassed her and intimidated her at her workplace and built an unsafe work environment on the sets of 'Horn Ok Pleasss' in 2008.
On both occasions, Patekar dismissed and denied her harassment claims, despite her filing an FIR (First Information Report) against the actor at a police station in Oshiwara. The actress said her case is now in court, with all the witnesses and primary and secondary evidence taken into account.
“It took so much of activism, dynamism, cursing and swearing just to keep them out of working in Bollywood and keep the topic alive and the conversation going. I am hoping for retribution this year too as I missed out on several years of work dealing with the aftermath of my very own #MeToo incident,” said Dutta.
The actress, who openly spoke about dealing with mental trauma in 2008, said Weinstein’s verdict is a beacon of hope for people like her. The manner in which she was rebuffed 12 years ago when she took on Patekar and his supporters is still fresh in her mind.
“It’s a good sign for all those who still fight the good fight in the shadows and crevices of the mountain of healing and restoration. Once you have seen the darkness, the darkness stays with you a long time, but the trick is to channel that darkness to fight evil and help the light shine through,” said Dutta.
Her revelation and re-visiting of that painful episode was perceived as a watershed moment for #MeToo survivors in Bollywood, who have been largely sidelined and smothered by the clannish, male-dominated Hindi cinema landscape. But there were others who were inspired by her and came forward with their own stories.
In 2018, she had also named and shamed talents who continue to work in Bollywood until today — choreographer Ganesh Acharya, Vivek Agnihotri, producer Sami Siddiqui — citing intimidation.
“Most allegations against Weinstein were very old and years after the incidents, but yet the criminal justice system in the US has once again proved its efficiency and supremacy by upholding the core values that America was built upon,” said Dutta.
Ever since the #MeToo movement took Hollywood by storm, shedding light on sexual harassment in the industry, it has percolated to Bollywood with several women coming forward to accuse powerful men in Hindi cinema of misconduct.
Dutta was a key figure in propelling other women to share their experiences. Powerful figures in Bollywood including Alok Nath, ‘Queen’ director Vikas Bahl, Sajid Khan and ‘Sanju’ director and co-producer Raju Hirani have all been accused of sexual misconduct while they were in positions of power and privilege. Patekar himself was dropped from several film projects in light of the accusations made against him.