Pooja Bhatt at India Today Conclave East 2018 opened up on Tanushree Dutta-Nana Patekar controversy and #MeToo Movement. At a time when #MeToo Movement has brought out the horrific stories of sexual harassment women to the forefront, Indian film industry is not left unaffected. From every corner of the country, women are finally coming out and speaking up.
Filmmaker and actress Pooja Bhatt and Bengali actress Sreelekha Mitra at India Today Conclave East 2018 opened up on the movement, sexual harassment in Bollywood and Tollywood and how it's important to speak up.
On what has changed
Pooja Bhatt: I'd like to believe that things are changing but nothing changes until things change in your homes and bedrooms. It's important to air your frustrations. I think violence and abuse come in various forms. When a woman is in pain, that is held against you. When you speak uncomfortable truths in a world of lies, people tend to turn a deaf ear. I believe that truth does not require PR. Expecting people to take your hand when you are engulfed in your rage is naive, because no one will fight your battle for you. The change is that we talk about it more. But the life we preach and life we live are different realities. I think only when our homes are safe; the world will be safe because as we know 90 per cent abuse happens in homes.
Sreelekha Mitra: Film industry is primarily a male dominated society. But have things really changed? I have my doubts. I have been a person who has been vocal about the choices that I have made. I have often been faced with questions 'Why don't we see you on screen?'. Today, I want to ask the same question. I have been a victim and I am fighting my battle. There have been few people who are upfront about their atrocities.
On women speaking up now
Pooja Bhatt: Everyone has their reasons for speaking up and not speaking up. For some people it is therapeutic, for some it is to air their frustration. But are you willing to speak the truth that shakes everything at workplace and homes.
On dealing with an alcoholic boyfriend
Pooja Bhatt: I found myself in a relationship with an alcoholic, who hit me. And I did speak up. But the industry people told me why you are washing your dirty linen in public. Because I am as vulnerable as anyone. Being Mahesh Bhatt's daughter doesn't make it hurt any less. Also, it's unfair to paint every man with the same brush. Women can be more worse than men on occasions. We need to do some soul searching.
On not getting meaty roles
Pooja Bhatt: I was a sex symbol by default. I was 23 when I decided to be a filmmaker because I was appalled by the work that was being offered to me. Directors had a problem about me asking for a script. They said, Mahesh Bhatt ki beti hai islie dimaag kharab hai. But I ended up making a film like Tamanna. It was a flop but it got me a national award. After that I made films like Dushman, Zakhm and then Jism, which made more business than other films.
On introducing Sunny Leone to Bollywood
Pooja Bhatt: I introduced Sunny Leone to the nation. America did not accept her in mainstream cinema. I've seen mothers running up to her with babies, and Sunny told me that this would never happen in the US. They would have not accepted any adult star in films, but India accepted her.
On Actors Not Calling Out
Pooja Bhatt: If you think gratitude exists in Bollywood, you are wrong. Bollywood shows allegiance at weddings and funerals, but not when you are going through fire. You are setting yourself for devastation if you are looking for support.
On Tanushree Dutta-Nana Patekar Controversy
Pooja Bhatt: There have been a set of people who have said that Nana is a thorough gentleman, others have said that he is a bully. But what I detest is that people are silencing Tanushree. She should be allowed to speak up. If you are sure about your truth, you need to go to the court. For every bully out there, someone needs to stand up for them.
Sreelekha Mitra: I disagree with Tanushree on one point where she is questioning other Bollywood actors to work with Nana Patekar. It is her battle, and you don't need an industry to be on your side to fight your battle. I support Tanushree even for speaking up 10 years after the incident. Because it doesn't change anything.