Questions about #MeToo

Oct 14, 2018, 07:15 IST | Rahul Da Cunha

Ladies, please to excuse, I am just exploring, asking some questions. Cool? May I? Just need some clarity

Questions about #MeToo
Illustration/Uday Mohite

And so, this is a column about #MeToo. Obviously I'm on the side of the ladies, that's a given. But as we go forward, and more skeletons tumble out of the cupboard, and more women step forward to name their tormentors, there is some stuff I'd like to understand. Ladies, please to excuse, I am just exploring, asking some questions. Cool? May I? Just need some clarity.

There was a time, when a casting couch existed in a distant trailer in Filmcity in Goregaon, for example: a hapless junior artiste/dancer at the mercy of a director. This existed in a pre-mobile, pre-WhatsApp time. Sexual exploitation seemed like something that didn't happen in the general world. Call it denial, but that's just the way it was.

And now, in this #MeTooReachesIndia time of catharsis, every morning I awake, wondering who will be the new accused. Over the last week, some of them have been people I know quite well — an ex-boss, a theatre colleague and an advertising friend-cum-political-spin-doctor. I'm wondering, who will it be tomorrow?

Careers are being destroyed. Frankly Sajid Khan's should be. He's been molesting, harassing women for years. Certainly that's been the feedback of many women, some of who confessed quietly in the past, and now in the #MeToo era are ranting openly. And there's MJ Akbar, king of the akhbaar. It was a matter of time, before this Harvey Weinstein of Indian journalism, was exposed. But, his career seems to be untouched: even when he shoved his 55-year-old tongue down an 18-year-old, CNN journalist's throat, he's not being made to step down from his lofty political pedestal. In stark contrast, screenwriter, lyricist and comedian Varun Grover could lose his entire career because of an unsubstantiated, anonymous claim.

And, yet, both are being bracketed together as predators. That cannot be right, surely? Further, the BJP will 'examine the charges against Akbar.' And Netflix has cancelled the second season of Sacred Games for which Grover was a writer.

So, I ask, while the lives of 'soft' targets are being ruined and while they express regret and confess to 'wanting to change' and 'facing scary personal truths,' what about the big daddies, the Untouchables, the long-term monsters who have been exploiting for years?

What fate will truly befall Subhash Ghai, if more and more women bravely step forward and recount the horrors they faced? Will, for instance, Whistling Woods shut shop? Will the veteran director pay that heavy a price by never being allowed to make a film again? Will the big men be exposed?

And so, to my second question — do we need a #MeToo glossary of terms? Can we clearly define, when no means no, what the 'no' is? No cannot be "maybe," or "No actually means yes," or, "Okay I'll come to your home at 2 am for a film narration."

I say this because we live in crazy, violent times. Messages get misunderstood. Clarity is everything, ladies, everything.

Rahul daCunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62@gmail.com

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