Friday, December 19, 2014 | Latest E-book
You are here:

Beware Inkaar: How NOT to do a film about sexual harassment

Editor's note: If you have not seen Inkaar, this story contains spoilers.

You’re young, good looking, relatively intelligent and spunky. You catch the eye of the CEO of a company. He hires you and becomes your boss. You fall in love with him. He seems inordinately fond of you. You end up having sex and an affair. You keep getting promotion after promotion. People question your equation with him. It matters not. Because he and you are doing the beast with two backs and you seem to be the only apple of his beautiful brown eyes. Till he blows you off to have coffee with an ex-colleague and follows it up by inviting an Amazonian woman to his apartment.  Then you suddenly morph into the lovechild of Glenn Close and Ozzy Osbourne and try to skin a rabbit and bite your lover’s head off and break a crystal glass or two. And when he questions the relationship you have — instead of questioning him back, you offer to sleep with him and then follow it up with a sexual harassment suit.

If ever there was a worse advertisement for women who’ve broken through the nowadays-very-malleable glass ceiling, it is  Sudhir Mishra’s Inkaar.

Chitrangda Singh plays the woman who feels spurned and wronged. She claims her boss and mentor and ex-lover played by Arjun Rampal is sexually harassing her. What are her claims of sexual harassment? That he recognised the perfume she was wearing, said that it reminded him of old times or some such, and that after handing over his clients to her refused to complete the annual campaign for his erstwhile client so she could present it as her own.

Chitrangda Singh plays the woman who feels spurned and wronged. She claims her boss and mentor and ex-lover played by Arjun Rampal is sexually harassing her. Image from In.com

I’ve worked in an agency as well. I was also made to hand over my star clients to a greenhorn who had just joined. And my boss also expected me to write the annual campaigns for him and present them to him on a silver platter. I refused to do so not because I harboured unresolved sexual feelings for him, but because he was just being lazy unprofessional ass. Much like Chitrangda’s character. Thankfully, my colleague didn’t sue me for sexual harassment.

Just to drive home her extremely suspect work ethics, she also steals her ex-lover’s creative idea and presents it as her own in a client meeting, while criticising his ideas in front of the client. And routinely flirts with the American partner of her firm. If this is how we women get ahead in the workplace, not even God or Germaine Greer can save us.

Leaving aside the crucifixion of women in leadership positions, what’s worse is the fact that if this film wanted to highlight the presence of sexual harassment in the workplace, it does the exact opposite. Sadly, the Priyanka Chopra-Akshay Kumar starrer, Aitraaz did more for this cause than Inkaar does.

This film simply reinforces the adage that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and that women who slap sexual harassment suits on men who they’ve had relationships with before, are doing so simply to get revenge for being spurned or slighted by their former lovers.  Also, why can’t women work with men without falling in love with them? I know at least 50 extremely attractive women with extremely good looking male bosses, who’ve miraculously managed to concentrate on their work and not jump into bed with these men. It’s really possible. Not an urban legend. And the ones who were doing the tango with their bosses, seemed to be able to not let a whiff of coitus enter the boardroom.

Even the much-abused Karan Johar, who supposedly doesn’t have an iota of reality in his films, depicted a woman in a professional environment in a more a balanced manner than the king of reality, Sudhir Mishra. Preity Zinta in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna is cast as the editor of a fashion magazine. She works non-stop, doesn’t get plastered, looks stunning, doesn’t flirt with her bosses (not that there’s anything wrong with that, as long as you’re not using that as evidence of sexual harassment against yourself), is surrounded by beautiful people, and has the same Arjun Rampal as her boss. She’s not shown as wanting to have an affair or banging everyone including Rampal in sight. Her only negatives are that she’s a bit of a ball-breaker at work and is not a 24X7 hands-on mom for her son.

So why did Mishra do this to his favourite actress? He might as well have tied birds to her and made her shoot the famous Tippi Hedren scene from The Birds if he was upset with her. Or held her head under water till she gasped for air like Polanski did to Mia Farrow. But at least he could have written a good role for her.

It is a sad day for Bollywood when Karan Johar and Abbas-Mustan portray female characters better than a Sudhir Mishra does.

So what did I learn from Inkaar? That if I love my boss and vice versa, I must instantly sleep with him and never question any promotions I get along the way. But if he has the temerity to invite another woman to their home, I must first behave like Norman Bates in drag and then slap a sexual harassment suit on him instantly, because nothing says “I love you” as well as dragging your amore’s name through the muck. And in the meantime, I should also indulge in as many unprofessional and unethical work practices as possible.  And then finally once we both realise that love springs eternal, give or take a sexual harassment suit, we can just up and leave our agency without warning. Leaving the company which we’re both supposedly obsessed with, in the lurch. How’s that for professionalism?

Thank you Sudhir Mishra, you have finally shown me the way.

Disclaimer: Inkaar is produced by Viacom 18 which is part of the Network 18 Group that also owns Firstpost