De De Pyar De trailer is a rude reminder that the impact of #MeToo in Bollywood has been minimal

Kusumita Das

Apr 05, 2019 14:37:53 IST

On 2 April, Ajay Devgn’s 50th birthday, the makers of his upcoming release, De De Pyar De, dropped its first trailer. The film that appears to be trying a little too hard to laugh at itself, shows Devgn as a 50-year-old dating a 26-year-old Rakul Preet. Co-produced by Luv Ranjan and Bhushan Kumar, it also stars Alok Nath as the father. That’s right, #MeToo be damned. Ranjan, Kumar and Nath have all been accused of sexual harassment in Bollywood’s short-lived, yet powerful #MeToo chapter, but, nothing seems to have stood in their way. What’s more, Nath even scored a cameo of a judge in a #MeToo themed film #MainBhi, five months after being accused of sexual assault by a television producer-writer.

Since October 2017, when the movement broke out in Hollywood, the entertainment and glamour world in the US has been feeling its tremors.

Serial predator Harvey Weinstein, who was accused by at least a dozen women of sexual misconduct and rape, awaits trial. He was fired from his own production company, suspended by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and also left by his wife Georgina Chapman.

De De Pyar De trailer is a rude reminder that the impact of #MeToo in Bollywood has been minimal

#MeToo. Illustration courtesy Namaah K for Firstpost

According to The New York Times article published in October, 2018, the #MeToo movement brought down 201 powerful men. These unsettling revelations included crowd favourites like Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, Louis CK, Roman Polanski, Ben Affleck, Dustin Hoffman — the list is as long as it is shocking. Nearly half the accused have been made to pay for their misdeeds, to some degree at least. Netflix fired Spacey from its original series House of Cards. All The Money In The World, a film the actor had completed shooting for, was reshot with Christopher Plummer. Credit card company, Visa, ended its relationship with Freeman, and his legal team stepped down from representing him in matters connected to CNN that broke the news of his sexual misconduct. Brian Singer was fired from Bohemian Rhapsody, the film he was supposed to direct. HBO, Netflix and FX cut off ties with comedian Louis CK, while TBS suspended production of his animation comedy The Cops. As for Dustin Hoffman, he had to at least face the heat of John Oliver’s questioning at a panel discussion to mark 20 years of Hoffman’s film Wag The Dog.

Closer home, can we even imagine, say a Karan Johar grilling someone like Alok Nath or a Nana Patekar on #MeToo on his eponymous talk show, even as he continues to champion girl power in the industry? Or are expecting too much?

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

Bollywood did see a flash in the pan last year, following Tanushree Dutta accusing Nana Patekar of sexual misconduct and harassment on sets of their 2009 film, Horn ‘Ok’ Please. A few actresses like Radhika Apte and Kalki Koechlin spoke up on the issue, but the silence from the big names was deafening. If that were not enough, our very own Mardaani, Rani Mukerji offered two words, “back off”, as an obvious solution to the problem, almost as if to suggest she can’t believe why women are not using it enough. No female celebrity — barring Dutta and later Sona Mohapatra who accused Kailash Kher — came on record to share their personal accounts of sexual harassment within the industry. The powers that be will probably tell you, "because there aren’t any. So, could we just give our conspiring minds some rest?? If only.

A few heavyweights did come under the scanner. Following allegations of sexual harassment by former Miss India Niharika Singh among many others, Nawazuddin Siddiqui had to withdraw his memoir that contained explicit (and allegedly exaggerated) accounts of his sexual encounters. His film career, however, continues to thrive. Anurag Kashyap dissolved Phantom Films that he co-founded with #MeToo accused Vikas Bahl, some film festivals knocked off titles connected to #MeToo offenders and Sajid Khan lost Housefull 4. Aside from these damages, the aftermath of accusations in Bollywood has been scant. So much for aping the West.

Even celebrity names have not been able to shake the hubris of industry men here. And the trailer of De De Pyar De comes as a rude reminder of just that.

In October last year, Bhushan Kumar, the film’s producer, was accused by an actress, anonymously, of sexually propositioning her during talks of a three-film deal. The actress in question was later dropped from the project. Around the same time, director Luv Ranjan had to field allegations by an actress who accused him of asking her to strip down to her underwear during the auditions of Pyaar Ka Punchnama. He also allegedly asked her if she masturbates and explained that he needs to know his actors well, so he can “help” them when the need arises.

Alok Nath in the trailer of De De Pyaar De.

As for Alok Nath, Mumbai sessions court granted him anticipatory bail in the rape & assault case. An “appalled and anguished” Bhushan Kumar denied the allegations against him, while Luv Ranjan vouched that he was not the man he is being made out to be, and that he is sorry if he has hurt someone. Now, this trinity of noble men is counting days to the release of their film together.

Hollywood used award functions as a tool to speak up against #MeToo and amass every kind of muscle for #TimesUp, while their Bollywood cousins are still cackling over nepotism jokes. Aamir Khan appears to be the only big name to have walked out of a film that’s allegedly connected to a sexual offender. While he maintained anonymity on the specifics, the whisper network is convinced that the film in question is Mogul, which is based on T-series founder Gulshan Kumar’s life and was to be helmed by Jolly LLB director Subhash Kapoor, accused of sexual harassment by actress Geetika Tyaagi.

When asked about co-star Alok Nath at a promotional event, Ajay Devgn refrained from commenting. Clearly, no one here is willing to ruffle feathers where their money is at. And for this, the industry’s pedigree and functioning, both are to blame. Careers in Bollywood thrive on the basis of clout, contacts, references and how one conducts themselves socially. Insiders will never speak against their brethren. For others, rubbing giants the wrong way spells a premature exit. The silence here, therefore, is either complicit or simply a tool of self-preservation.

These are good times for #girlpower on Bollywood screens, but behind the camera, our actresses have clearly decided not to take on the men who hold the purse strings.  Bollywood continues to live in feigned ignorance and silent awareness.

Our watershed moment may never come.

Updated Date: Apr 05, 2019 14:43:28 IST

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