Alok Nath in De De Pyaar De: Despite #MeToo, Bollywood continues to prioritise commerce over decency

Karishma Upadhyay

Apr 03, 2019 15:18:54 IST

There’s been justifiable outrage after seeing actor Alok Nath in the trailer for the film De De Pyaar De. Alok Nath stands accused of rape and is currently out on bail in an on-going court case. When the producer of the film, Luv Ranjan was asked to comment on the same at the trailer launch earlier this week, Ajay Devgn, the film’s leading man intervened saying, “This is not the right place to talk about it.” He followed that up by saying the film’s shoot was completed before the allegations surfaced.

Devgn simply followed Bollywood’s playbook for deflecting queries of this nature to the T:

  • This is not the right time or forum to talk about it.
  • The shoot / project was already complete before we knew.
  • There’s been no formal complaint.

The outrage online has been targeted mainly at Devgn with some of his fans expressing their disappointment. Barely six months ago, this was the same man who had come out in support of the #MeToo movement when he tweeted, “I’m disturbed by all the happenings with regards to ‪#MeToo. My company and I believe in providing women with utmost respect and safety. If anyone has wronged even a single woman, neither ADF nor I will stand for it.”

 Alok Nath in De De Pyaar De: Despite #MeToo, Bollywood continues to prioritise commerce over decency

Screengrab of the De De Pyaar De trailer.

It is unfair however, to single out Ajay Devgn, Luv Ranjan or this film, when a significant part of Bollywood seems to be belittling the cause as well.

Since the #MeToo reckoning reached Bollywood late last year, people have said a lot, released big statements, formed committees and attended panel discussions. And, then have gone back to doing what they do best: making money, principles be damned.

In November, Anushka Sharma said to Elle magazine, “The #MeToo movement has empowered women to tell their stories; it has empowered them to not feel shame anymore. Your workplace should be your second safe space, after your home. When there’s no respect from your colleagues, it’s just so sad.” Anushka then went ahead and announced a web series based on Tarun Tejpal’s book, The Story of My Assassins for Amazon Prime. Tarun Tejpal stands accused of rape, sexual harassment and wrongful restraint by a junior colleague, and is the antithesis of everything a “second safe space” should be about.  This is a court case that’s been ongoing for over five years and surely way before the development of this web show. Were there no other books worthy enough?

In October, Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti were among the eleven filmmakers that issued a joint statement taking “a stand to not work with proven offenders.” Three months later, the Gully Boy soundtrack dropped with a song by Raghu Dixit, someone who was called out for sexual misconduct and has admitted to the same and apologised. Was it so difficult to drop one track from the film?

The list of these seemingly small transgressions goes on, but the significance is not lost on fans who look up to these celebrities as role models. Those who take a stand are expected to walk the talk, and not be seen partying with predators on their Instagram feeds.

Walking the talk begins with intent. To understand what real intent means, one just has to look westwards. When the same reckoning hit Hollywood a year and a half ago, a large number of the accused regardless of their status and power, were cut out of the fabric of the industry. Harvey Weinstein hasn’t worked in the last year and a half, and when one of Hollywood’s biggest producers isn’t exempt, nobody is. The message that’s been sent across very clearly by Hollywood to its predators is that there isn’t a place for them. That is intent.

When former Disney-Pixar chief John Lasseter left after being accused of sexual misconduct, he was hired a year later by Skydance Animation. Emma Thompson dropped out of their next film, Luck, in the wake of his hire, and made her views known in a scathing letter, where she said, “If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him?” That is intent.

Ridley Scott went to the extent of completely re-shooting Kevin Spacey’s scenes in his drama, All the Money in the World. This is one of the leading roles we’re talking about in a $50 mn film. It’s pretty safe to assume this cost way, way more than what it would to re-shoot a few scenes involving the father of the leading man in a Bollywood film. That is intent.

In the post #MeToo Bollywood, the powerful are happy to make vague statements against the culture of harassment but don’t bother talking specific action against specific people. That wouldn’t be kosher. After all, diplomacy rules and money talks. Bollywood continues to look after their own, and commerce trumps decency and principles. Every single day.

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Updated Date: Apr 03, 2019 15:18:54 IST