the fully loaded magazine
This is with reference to your cover story (#MeMum, June 11). Society is a constantly evolving organism that can only progress by overcoming its biases. If prejudices cannot be overcome, we cannot call it the progress of society. So, how do we think of ourselves when we see the ugly saga of Harvey Weinstein unfold in front of us? People thought that as society evolved in the 20th and 21st centuries, women were being treated more fairly. We were surely progressing. But those myths have been busted by the #MeToo movement.
Hollywood’s misogyny has been exposed to the world and, of course, Bollywood isn’t behind, but the spectre of silence still sits heavy on the grimy stories of exploitation in the Indian film industry. The whole #MeToo episode has also confirmed another thing: if one keeps on playing the victim and seeking justice, one may not get the desired results, at least in a foreseeable time-frame. Sometimes, matters have to be taken into one’s own hands and one needs to speak out.
After the courage several actresses showed in speaking about their abuse, Weinstein has been brought down. In India too, some names may eventually appear as a handful of women have started raising questions. But even if that happens, the problem is not likely to disappear. I’d like to quote a daily newspaper’s editorial on Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan here: “The sad part of a sexist world is that slander rarely sticks to a man. Women are the targets of social conservatism, while men who reject it can come back and richly profit from it”.
Also, sexism is not just a man’s domain, women too are afflicted. Veteran Bollywood choreographer Saroj Khan’s comments on casting couch in the industry were shocking and deplorable.
Rakesh Sharma, On E-Mail
I want to congratulate Outlook for taking up the issue of sexual exploitation of aspiring actresses in the Indian film industry—an issue hurriedly swept under the carpet every time it tries to make headlines. While Hollywood predators like Weinstein have been exposed in digital daylight, our film fraternity is so close knit and so dominated by a select few that it’s difficult for the victims to raise a collective voice against sexual exploitation. Those like Tollywood actress Sri Reddy who protest and take up cudgels against the industry are victimised and silenced. Moreover, the media is also guilty of not giving those at the receiving end a prominent voice. At the same time, the fact that some of these cases come to light after a long-long time also hints at a tacit understanding between both the parties, with skeletons tumbling out of the cupboards only when things do not work out the way they were anticipated.
Vijai Pant, On E-Mail
Casting couch is surreptitious illegal gratification, but its illegality lies in such a grey area that the truth is often obscured and modified to suit the powerful. Sexual gratification is sought as a bribe. Some protest, but many walk into the net under pressure or for perceived gains. Filmdom, an eroticised domain, provides congenial ambience, and the couch praxis is keener than in other industries, governmental or commercial. The primitive savage is also very much an embodiment of the modern.
J.N. Bhartiya, On E-Mail
Your cover story on the continuing prevalence of sexual predators in Bollywood and other Indian film industries in the light of the Hollywood’s Weinstein scandal exposes an open secret. It is as if exploitation of women is an inherent part of celluloid culture, whether in Bollywood or Hollywood, and it doesn’t seem it will change anytime soon here. The pulls of the film industry concern not only money, but also the call for glamour and an almost illogical public adulation culture. In such a scenario, new entrants are expected to put up with an almost regularised abuse. Since films have become a profession for many ambitious young men and women, the cut-throat competition means they often end up compromising on their values and identities—what happens behind the scenes is immaterial. The stakes are high, moreover, because of the public’s heightened involvement in the making and breaking of stars in this age of social media and internet. A good example is Sunny Leone’s recent visit to Kochi as part of an inaugural function. The city was clogged with the actress’s followers, comprising the youth and middle-aged people, who waited and jostled with tens of thousands just to catch a glimpse of her.
Ramachandran Nair, Muscat
This refers to Sathya Saran’s column Let #NotMe Break the Clouds (June 11). The #MeToo movement reveals just the tip of the iceberg on sexual exploitation prevalent in every career. Women in the glamour world are especially more vulnerable. The culture of silence gives predators the opportunity to exploit more people. The victims should dare to shame them and appeal to other cinema aspirants to not choose shortcuts. Saran’s idea of a #NotMe movement by women in the Indian film industry is brilliant. It is better to defy the casting couch and work hard to chase your dreams without being a victim to it, no matter how much effort or time it takes.
Minati Pradhan, Bangalore
This refers to Secret Handshakes with a Serpent (June 11), your story on the Cobrapost media expose. Sting operations are valid only if certain standards are met. Unfortunately, many sting operations are overhyped to present biased impressions of events, appealing to emotions and, at times, intentionally omitting facts. This happens when the profit or publicity motive drives editorial preference for sensational stories. Journalists have a duty to give both sides of a story. We are in dire need of positive journalism, that calls for raising the morale of the public by showing that everyone in the country is not dishonest. Come to think of it, the system works due to the honesty of the many, which countervails the dishonesty of a few.
Ravi S. Dudani, Noida
They are mum in real life, but the on-screen examples of sexual exploitation in films are aplenty.
Anil S., Pune
Welcome aboard, Ruben Banerjee. I read Outlook’s First edition that came out in 1995. The elegant get-up, along with a striking prose, aided by impeccable printing impressed me. I haven’t missed a single edition of Outlook since. Vinod Mehta, the Punjabi Boy from Lucknow, set a scorching pace for Outlook. He was the “card-carrying agnostic”, who is a rare bird amongst holier-than-thou editors. Your satire on politics is mordant. I distinctly remember the cover-photo from September 2, 2013. Titled The Undertakers, it sarcastically showed the nation’s leaders doubling up as undertakers carrying the coffin labelled ‘India Story’.
Col C.V. Venugopalan (Retd.), Palakkad
This refers to the column None Can Halt the March (June 11), by R. Balashankar, a member of BJP committees on training and publications. Kudos to him for unveiling the truth hidden behind rural distress, hate crimes and job losses. Until now, we were living in a make-belief world that out of 5,97,464 inhabited villages in India, 5,71,168 have been electrified as on April 30, leaving only 26,296 in the dark ages. Balashankar writes this government electrified 19,000 villages—not 7,501 villages until April 2016 as the government’s own REC Report 2014-15 claims. According to the government’s website on rural electrification, Grameen Vidyutikaran, claims only 1,301 villages have 100 per cent household connectivity. This means just 0.21 per cent of India’s villages are fully electrified. Balashankar also removes the cobweb from our eyes that after getting free LPG cylinders, 3.5 crore families never went for a refill and are back to burning bio fuels. Moreover, all’s well with agriculture and farmers’ income. Farmers are living life king size, while a few fools among them are throwing milk, vegetables and foodgrains on the streets and committing suicide.
If the BJP fields visionary and intuitive persons like Balashankar in the general elections, the never-before empowered poor and aam aadmi of this country will thrash the opposition, while Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana become forgettable blips in the party’s unrelenting winning streak.
Rakesh Agrawal, Dehradun
OUTLOOK TOPICS :
or just type initial letters