Veteran actress Aruna Irani admits she couldn’t make it big in showbiz because she didn't compromise
In an exclusive interview, veteran actresses and former child artists Asha Parekh and Aruna Irani explain why they are not surprised by Daisy Irani's revelation.
While many of us woke up to the shocking revelation by Daisy Irani that she was raped by her guardian when she was six, veteran actress Asha Parekh does not seem to be too surprised with the disclosure.
“Daisy’s life was tough, it was a very bad situation. When I read her story, I felt it was true and these sort of things do happen. Hence I feel that parents should be careful when they encourage and at times even push their children into showbiz,” says Parekh, who had also started her career as a child artist sometime in the '50s.
“But my mother would be with me all the time. Also, our social values those days were different so I never faced any such unpleasant situation. I keep hearing about casting couch but I never encountered that and didn't see that happening around me as well. But Daisy’s circumstances were different. Some lead a comfortable life whereas some don’t,” said the actress and former Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chairperson, who is strictly against children entering showbiz, be it reality shows, soaps or films.
“Parents today should take some hint from the Daisy Irani interview. The other day, a female child artist was saying that she goes for her shoot at 2 pm and packs up at 2 am. She doesn’t get proper sleep and has missed school for almost a year. These are the things I am objecting to. During my time, kids used to have shifts from 9.30 am to 6 pm, they could go home, play and study. I personally feel CINTAA (Cine and TV Artistes’ Association) should look into the matter,” asserted Parekh.
Referring to the 11-year-old girl who singer Papon forcibly kissed on the sets of Voice India Kids, recently, she further added, “Daisy’s family circumstances may have been different but exploitation of children still happens just that some of these unfortunate incidents don’t come out in the open. On one hand, if a child is working for the family, we call it child labour. Then what do you call this? It is the same thing — child labour.”
Meanwhile, another veteran actress, Aruna Irani, who, too began her career as a child artist in hit films like Gunga Jumna (1961) and Anpadh (1962) feigned ignorance at Daisy’s story. She said, “Oh, was she exploited when she was a kid? But wouldn’t her mother accompany her? I was also a child artist and Daisy is younger to me. But yes, all kinds of exploitation would happen and nobody spoke about it,” said Aruna.
Further, Aruna admitted that she could not make it big in the industry because she did not compromise. “I would fool these men by pretending that I don't understand what they were hinting at in order to save myself from their lecherous ways. But for how long I could dodge them and get away with it? When they flirted and made advances at me, I would just laugh off but later on lose out on their next film project. They wouldn’t repeat me and this was a known fact in the industry. Dabboo (Randhir Kapoor) would tease me about this. So, once in a while I would get big, meaty roles but since I wouldn’t compromise, I would lose out on the next big role from the same producer. I would accept whatever work came my way. My main focus was to earn good money. I had a huge responsibility of taking care of my entire family (Aruna is the eldest of her eight siblings). I didn’t have any ambition or goal of becoming the number one heroine of the country. That was my choice. I was asked for my consent, I was shown the carrot, and it was up to me whether I wanted to grab big projects but there was no force, no rape,” added the actress who has spent over 50 years in Bollywood.
Aruna feels that such extreme cases of exploitation are rare in the industry. “Yes, casting couch is very much prevalent in the industry but things happen with the consent of aspiring actresses and at such times, nobody complains. It is all hush-hush, behind closed doors. The unfortunate incident happened in Daisy's life when she was a child and she couldn’t do anything about it but nobody has ever been forced, or been raped as nothing can happen in the industry without your consent. If you don’t agree with them, you may not get the role, what more than this can happen?” says Aruna.
Commenting on why actresses here do not speak out unlike in Hollywood which saw many public revelations of sexual exploitation and sexual misconduct through the Me Too movement, Aruna said, “Why are we only emphasising upon the film industry, even when such untoward incidents happen in families, people keep mum because of family honour. There are so many taboos in our society — What will people say? Who will marry her? Hence people hide the truth. In the West, they have courage and men are not as conservative as in India. Here, when celebrities don’t even talk about the disease they are suffering from, how do you expect them to talk about being sexually exploited? Look at Angelina Jolie, she was so brave to talk about getting both her breasts removed fearing the risk of cancer.”
But when asked whether actresses are not coming out in the open due to the fear of losing assignments, Aruna said, “It’s not so much about getting work but many of them don’t want to disclose and tell the world how they have come up in their career. But according to me, this is a very personal matter. They aren’t doing anything wrong if they are hiding the truth. It’s their choice. And I doubt if this kind of campaign or movement can happen in Bollywood. We have a solid family system in India. In the future, they don’t want their children to question them.”
Adds Parekh, “Actresses in Hollywood have spoken up because the society out there is open but here, we are still trying to hide things. But if our actresses are being exploited then such issues should definitely be taken up though I don’t think that they are being raped.” Daisy Irani has certainly started the much needed conversation and she may be right when she says, "I won't be surprised if no one comes out and speaks up. Or even if they do, it will be all hush-hush".
All images from YouTube.
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