Rani Mukerji
Rani Mukherji faces social media backlash for #MeToo comments Image Credit: IANS

Dubai: Indian actor Rani Mukherji came under fire on social media for her comments on the #MeToo movement.

In a television interview this Saturday, Mukherji suggested that the onus of preventing sexual assault was on women, who need to fight back more aggresively.

The interview on Indian news channel CNN-News18, featured a number of prominent Bollywood actors including Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Anushka Sharma, Taapsee Pannu and Tabu. Many of the stars vocally disagreed with Mukherji’s views.

She suggested that “women have to have the courage to protect themselves” and “need to take responsibility for themselves” implying that the bulk of the responsibility was to be on women, rather than the perpetrators of sexual assault. While she suggested introducing martial arts in schools as a constructive measure, stars in the interview disagreed since this was not what they viewed as the primary solution to the problem of assault,

What she might have meant was that women do not have control on other people's actions. What they can do is equip themselves with the ability to defend themselves. She might have been misunderstood.

Social media users criticised Mukherji’s mindset and privileged background.

Twitter user @rudrani_rudz posted: “The shift of responsibility from the perpetrator to the survivor continues. #RaniMukherji‘s opinions during the roundtable are reflective of how deeply ingrained patriarchy is. There is the admission to never-ending harassment - so options for women? Defend or deal with it!”

@miarizmcfa tweeted: “Thank you Deepika, Alia and Anushka for sticking up for women without a voice and privilege that #RaniMukerji has. What Rani said was appalling and lacked empathy.”

Another social media user pointed out the double standards, @megzie__ tweeted: “Oh, ok. So you cannot tell people how to bring up their sons to be respectful of women, but [it is] perfectly practical to make sure all women are enrolled for karate classes en-masse, pronto. #ranimukherjee and Preity are a blot on the actresses of their time.” The tweet referenced comments made by Bollywood actress Preity Zinta who said she wished she had been harassed to have an opinion on the #MeToo movement.

While @sayantansunnyg tweeted: “To think that #RaniMukerji in her debut film ‘Raja Ki Aayegi Baarat’ — in which her character Mala gets raped by a wealthy brat because she hurt his fragile ego — was blaming Mala throughout for not knowing Krav Maga. Time ruins everything man.”

Some social media users were disappointed in the actions of their once-admired stars.
Tweep @TANUSREEGHOSH wrote: “I have always loved #RaniMukerji as an actor. But at the actor’s roundtable with @RajeevMasand it was sad to see her eating up others’ talking time, finishing every sentence by other actors. It is so annoying when you are in a group discussion, you need to learn to listen as well.”

Social media user @SophiaAQ posted: “Someone please stop her. I have always admired #RaniMukherjee as an actor, but her thought process on #MeToo is repulsive. Also, @RajeevMasand is the moderator....why is Rani in control? Kudos to @aliaa08 @deepikapadukone @AnushkaSharma for confidently putting their points across.”

India had in the past year seen a spate of promiment actors accused during the #MeToo movement including Sajid Khan and Nana Pateka. Meanwhile, actors such as Adita Rao Hydari, Chitrangada Singh and Sandhya Mridul came forward to share their experiences as women in the Indian film industry.