Tanushree Dutta seeks FRESH PROBE on Nana Patekar issue
Recently, the Mumbai Police submitted a closure report for #MeToo cases like Tanushree Dutta’s, who accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment during the shoot of a song in 2008. Due to lack of evidence and witness statement not supporting Dutta’s story the case was closed and reported as ‘filed with malicious intentions’. But this week, Tanushree has written an e-mail to the Commissioner of Police, asking for a fresh probe in the case against Patekar. As such cases drag on, industry insiders discuss if Bollywood can wipe the #MeToo scar off its damaged face.
When the #MeToo movement hit the world, no one knew its ripple effect would reach so many shores. Bollywood, which has forever been an insulated kingdom of filmy families, known for its tight-lipped fraternity, was shockingly exposed.
Though most people have never raised their voices about the relatively shadier going-ons of the world’s largest movie industry, the #MeToo movement saw a handful of women come forward and speak up of issues old and new.
One would think that in the aftermath, Bollywood and the men accused, would be reeling under, unable to face the world. But if the slew of clean chits given are to be considered, the tide seems to be flowing the other way.
Take into account how actress Tanushree Dutta’s FIR with Oshiwara Police Station against Nana Patekar, accusing him of sexually harassing her during the shooting of a song on the sets of ‘Horn Ok Please’ in 2008, concluded. The Mumbai police gave Patekar a clean chit in the case, filing a report that said Tanushree’s complaint could have been lodged to seek revenge and that it seemed ‘malicious and fake’. The actress has claimed that the police have colluded with the veteran actor.
In another such instance, Vikas Bahl, the director of Queen who was accused of sexual harassment by an employee of Phantom Films, has been cleared of all charges. An internal inquiry by Reliance Entertainment cleared him and reinstated him as the director of the Hrithik Roshan film Super 30 before its release.
Well known for his sanskaari roles in top budget films, actor Alok Nath was accused of rape, sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, by atleast three women, one of them being writer-director-producer Vinta Nanda. Nanda had accused Nath in a Facebook post that went viral, after which Nath had filed a defamation suit against her. Nanda filed an FIR against Nath, alleging rape. In January 2019, the Mumbai sessions court granted anticipatory bail to the actor, observing that Nanda did not lodge the report immediately after the alleged incident for her own benefit. The court also observed that possibility cannot be ruled out that Nath has been falsely accused in the crime.
Karan Oberoi receives tremendous support
TV actor Karan Oberoi, who was accused of rape and extortion by a woman, was granted bail by the Bombay High Court, about a month after his arrest. Oberoi has since been seen at a demonstration highlighting #MenToo; a campaign to create awareness about cases where men are falsely accused of rape and other such charges by women. In what is a shocking turn of events, the person who made the accusation, was arrested for ‘falsely’ implicating Oberoi.
But a global movement like #MeToo will hardly die down anytime soon, says actress-filmmaker Soni Razdan, wife of filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt. Razdan feels, “A significant movement like this cannot simply go away. There has been a seismic shift and in future, people who are violated in such a manner, won’t be quiet anymore. That also implies, others will learn to conduct themselves better.” Razdan had also shared a past encounter of sexual harassment with a news outlet at the peak of the #MeToo movement, where she had narrated how during a film shoot, somebody had tried to rape her.
Gender neutral should be the future
Poojita Chowdhury, a talented filmmaker (and daughter of Renuka Chowdhury, the former Union minister of State for Ministry of Women and Child Development), says “It is unfair and unfortunate when people who have committed crimes are protected and get away. But I believe that a new order is emerging out of this for the greater good, and it is not all hopeless. Patriarchy is very deeply entrenched for centuries, so it’s not going to be easy to change the status quo.”
Chowdhury’s film, Gender Bender, is about changing gender roles and rules around work and features real women in traditionally male jobs, and daughters who work with their fathers. “This is where its relevant to the movement, because ultimately it is about evolving into a society, where work, talent and opportunity are gender neutral spaces — the right of every person, be it man or woman, to work with respect, dignity and same opportunity,” she says.
Sifting the real from the fake
Bollywood’s only PR guru Dale Bhagwagar gets philosophical, saying, “When God created humans — the highest among the living species — he created man and woman. Man went on to create society and a class divide between the rich and poor. With time, another divide took birth in the form of racism — the genetics and colour divide between black and white. Now thanks to the #MeToo movement, humans have been introduced to the ultimate divide — between man and woman themselves. And in India, the world’s largest film industry, Bollywood, is most impacted.”
“The movement has left a scar, not only on Bollywood, but on the fabric of society,” adds the PR consultant. But Bhagwagar points out that Bollywood’s version of #MeToo has been very different from Hollywood’s. “Here, 97 percent of the ladies, who came forward with issues had nothing concrete to say,” he feels. “They were more or less being biased or vindictive towards men. Inspite of that, our scandal-hungry media lapped up all of that and more, turning the voices into a huge campaign, probably for the sake of extra eyeballs, hit rate and TRPs.”
He feels that with the exception of Vinta Nanda, whose rape charges warrant serious attention, the others said things like ‘he tried to touch me’, ‘he tried to feel me up’, ‘he tried to kiss me’, ‘he put his hand around my waist’, ‘he put his hand on my shoulder’ and similar things. “The guys did not molest, they didn’t force — they probably tried their luck by casual flirting. But the #MeToo gals named and shamed guys in the media, and put a blot on their brand and image forever for that,” says Bhagwagar. Ironically, some of the names featured in the Wikipedia #MeToo page have been his ex-clients. These include Vinta Nanda, Mandana Karimi, Elnaaz Norouzi and Shama Sikander.
Pooja Bedi, a strong voice behind her friend Karan Oberoi’s recent misfortunes, couldn’t share her thoughts with us due to a hectic schedule of spearheading a movement called ‘Men Too’. According to The Quint, Bedi said, “Taking into consideration the history of our country and the patriarchal society that we live in, there are times when a rape victim goes to the police station and her complaint does not even get registered. That is wrong. So, we need laws against rape and such violence. But at the same time, if women are misusing the law that is meant to protect them, we need to think about how to protect the rights of the man as well.”
Razdan thinks it is power that creates this sort of an imbalance. People inclined to, will always misuse it and in a film industry as huge as Bollywood, there is no one player involved, she believes. “We cannot paint everyone with the same brush. I feel everyone should speak up, gender notwithstanding. Making someone guilty until proven innocent is not fair and one must support the real victims,” she says matter-of-factly.
The real movement trudges along
Chowdhury believes the movement helps to create space for human potential and is not just a ‘battle of the sexes’. On hindsight, to say that anyone who has been named has lost out on opportunities, may well be speaking too soon. Most of the men have returned to work, some like Alok Nath having even added a hit like De De Pyaar De to the cap.
Bhagwagar who was hired for crisis management by one of the men whose name had popped up in #MeToo, did a short-term guerrilla PR (stealth) exercise for him. “I believed in the guy’s innocence, so I admit, I took steps to drown the girl’s articles in the media with some spin and SEO. But not everyone was as lucky as my PR client. A lot of men now have to live with the damages to their online image for life,” he says.
That said, the way ahead for the real victims of MeToo is somewhat blurry. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, has a few obvious drawbacks and so, old cases of harassment can’t be taken into consideration. Internal committees might do their job well but that’s not transparent enough. While a robust set of gender neutral laws can ensure people get their voices heard and justice is met, the playing field, especially in Bollywood, may not be even.
“There are committees in every office, but we don’t see them as very effective. But we still have to keep at building such outreach programmes and institutions that will get a firm grip of how to deal with authentic cases over time,” says Razdan.
So what do the women who have finally found the strength to speak up, do until justice is met? A good example is Tanushree, the one who began the movement in Bollywood. After her case was shut, Tanushree told the Indian Express, “I pray that I never have to deal with this kind of toxicity ever again in life. I am tired of fighting alone against oppressors, bullies and a corrupt system. But please don’t take this example to mean that you will not be heard when you speak up. Continue to expose these creeps through social media and other platforms so that in future people would think twice before troubling an innocent young girl. I still believe I will get justice and victory will be mine. How, only time will tell.”
Chowdhury summarizes the movement’s true effect succinctly. “It’s like a volcano that has erupted. So in the aftermath of such an eruption, there will be consequences. But it is very early to say that it has scarred men to work with women, or that the latter will lose out on work opportunities. Hopefully, the larger outcome of this movement will set a new standard of ethics, accountability and personal conduct across professions, for both men and women. The critical thing now is to use this time not to settle back into the old system.”
Netflix made a thunderous debut in India with the web series Sacred Games starring Saif Ali Khan as police officer Sartaj Singh and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as underworld don Ganesh Gaitonde. As Sacred Games Season 2 makes its debut, Bollywood’s only PR guru Dale Bhagwagar lists his 16 most favourite dialogues from Season 1.
1) “Kabhi kabhi lagta hai, apun hi bhagwan hai.”
2) “Mumbai shahar hai yeh. Kuch bhi ho sakta hai idhar.”
3) “Bhagwan aadmi se kahani me baat karta hai. Hum sab ka life ek kahani hai.”
4) “Main chhota sa tha, 10-11 saal ka, tabhi fix ho gaya tha, yeh aaj ka din, ye connection, aap — Dilbagh Singh, aur main.”
5) “Lagta hai 6 janam pehle ki baat hai, jab main maa ko dekha.”
6) “Aadmi andar se jitna kaala hota hai, duniya ke samne utna hi safed banne ki koshish karta hai.”
7) “Tum mardon ko aisa kyun lagta hai, ki har aurat ko tumhein hi bachana hai.”
Bollywood PR guru Dale Bhagwagar is the Rajinikanth of Bollywood PR. Over the years, the publicist has made his own rules, own styles and own world. Apart from being widely quoted across all Indian media, he is the only publicist from the country who has been quoted in international media such as BBC World, BBC Radio, Sky News, Channel 4, The Times, Guardian, The Independent and many more.
Among some 200-odd clients he has worked with, Dale has also been instrumental in shaping images of Hrithik Roshan, Shilpa Shetty, Priyanka Chopra and movies like Don and Rock On!! Plus, some 20 scandalous names who have been on Bigg Boss. We grill him on some sensitive topics here and he answers with great honesty.
You have always been in favour of the digital media. Do you think the print media will be over soon?
Dale: It may come as a surprise to you, but let me tell you that while Print Media is a dying medium almost all over the world, India is one of the only countries where it has been thriving and sometimes even growing. This is mainly because India has such a wide variety of languages and language newspapers. So while the urban readers are slowly shifting to checking their daily dose of news on desktops, laptops and mobile phones; there is still a humongous chunk of readers in the rural segment who boost the readership and circulation of newspapers, newspaper supplements and magazines. Having said that, Print is indeed a dying medium. Because the youth is slowly stopping to patronize it. So the coming generations are not going to subscribe to newspapers at their homes… unless they do it online. But language newspapers will survive much longer than English papers. So vernacular Press has nothing to worry for now. Plus, certain English newspapers like The Times Of India, DNA, Hindustan Times and Mid-Day; which sell advertisements in package-deals along with their sister publications and brands (including television channels, radio stations and film award shows) across the media spectrum, will also survive. As for me focusing on online media, it has been the case from almost a decade now. I like to change with the times, as I have seen many PRs perish because they could not change. I am the longest surviving publicist in the film industry in India. And I intend to keep things that way (winks). So I have to always keep ahead of time and change and evolve. I have to always beat the current lot of PRs at their game if I want to keep being a leader of things. That’s how it’s always been, and that’s how I intend to keep it. (smiles)
From managing PR of debutantes to superstars, what has been the most cherished moment?
Dale: I have often stated that my PR clients are like my children. And just as a mother loves all her children equally, I love to work for my PR clients with equally devoted energies and passion. All have been interesting and challenging; otherwise they wouldn’t have been my clients in the first place. However, there are certain projects and personal PR assignments that have interested me more. Handling the work for names such as Hrithik Roshan and Priyanka Chopra has been a pleasure. Whereas handling the media publicity and hype for more controversial brands such as Shilpa Shetty, Vivek Oberoi, Rakhi Sawant, Swami Nithyananda and Global Advertisers (the patrons of Radhe Maa) has been more challenging at times. One of my current clients is makeup and prosthetics designer Preetisheel Singh. Handling her work is also very interesting as it is quite different from my regular assignments which involve actors and movies. Doing PR for movies like Don and Rock On!! too have been good fun.
Bollywood PR guru Dale Bhagwagar addressing a press conference in Mumbai
What are the things that you would like to see among the new generation of PRs?
Dale: Integrity is the number one thing that seems to be missing in the current lot of PRs. That is one very important reason for loss of trust. Second is street-smartness, which every PR needs to possess — that quality of being sharp and scheming to the extent of being manipulative with the media. Ha ha. Ya, it is important for a PR to be a manipulator. Because that is the job. One has to know how to strategize, play, plot, plug and plant news in the media. The better the manipulator, the better the PR. Another thing that Gen Next needs to keep in mind is media ethics. Manipulative PRs need to also have a lot of PR ethics. They need to know and understand where to draw the line. They need to be pro’s at doing a balancing act between ethics (a demand of the times) and exaggeration (a demand of the spice and sensationalism-hungry media). Otherwise they can end up influencing society in a bad way. See, PRs have the advantage of being able to reach the public at large through the voice of celebrity clients. So if they misguide their clients or misuse their clout, it can spell mayhem from the cultural point of view. Thus PRs need to be deep-rooted in media ethics even while they plot and plan to promote their clients using national and international media platforms at their disposal.
How important is social media for celebrities and PRs?
Dale: This is a very good question. Especially because many celebrities tend to focus too much on Social Media. So much so, that they often sideline mainstream media. Social Media is a pillar of the media; a means of support. However, it is NOT the main media. The real media is Online Media (websites), Television Media, Print Media, Radio Media. These have more credibility; as before a news is carried on these places, it is written by a trained and experienced writer/reporter; goes through checks of a sub-editor, news editor, deputy editor or the executive editor, before it is finally published. So that news will definitely carry much more credibility compared to self-published and self-generated news on Social Media. Plus, when one is featured on websites, the news gets archived and is searchable for all time. This archive-value of the news, along with some good Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO), can help a celebrity much more in the long run, as it provides more consistency and value than a post or picture which will be lost on Social Media within a day, unless it goes viral. And as we know, just one out of thousands and thousands of posts have the potential to go viral. So the chances of getting noticed on social media is miniscule, compared to building a strong image through website articles and write-ups. News on websites last longer and can have a consistency to it, which can’t be found on Social Media. To sum it up, Social Media is fantastic, but it has to be used as an add-on to actual mainstream media.
Do you use social media to reach and impress traditional media?
Dale: Yes, I do. But I feel Social Media becomes unsocial at times and is gradually losing credibility. When it began, it gave a voice to millions. But many started to misuse it and abuse it. Twitterati is well-known for being rude and abusive to people… resulting in a lot of celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan complaining about the negativity on it. Actor-singer Sonu Nigam got so disgusted with it that he ultimately quit the platform. These things say a lot about changing trends. Moreover, the recent Cambridge Analytica data-breach scandal has everyone worried about Facebook privacy and stability. Whereas Social Media could have brilliantly focused on citizen journalism, and even educating along with informing. But it went on to create the demon of ‘fake news’ in many instances. Even the concept of ‘Paid News’ and ‘Paid Media’ which has been the domain of Print Media until now, is creeping into online media, including Social Media. One is asked for monies to improve the visibility and boost posts. If one can pay and be famous, then the people with monies will be the ones to be. What about the deserving? What about the ones with creativity? These money-making tactics have marred Social Media’s credibility as a platform for information dissemination. However, it still remains a very strong segment. And I feel that with time, it has an enormous potential to refine, redefine and mature.
What fascinates you most about PR work?
Dale: Like journalism, public relations is one of the few professions where there is constant activity. News happens 24×7 and one has to always be on toes. Moreover, muck also happens 24×7 and people need crisis management via PRs all the time. This is a very interesting part of the profession, as there is never a lull. One is always in the thick of things. I feel like a ringmaster of the grand media circus. No day is ever boring.
What makes you happy in your professional life?
Dale: The choice to live life the way I want to live it.
Who has been your favourite client and why?
Dale: Now! Now! Are you trying to put me into trouble by having me to take just one name here? Ha ha! But seriously, if I were to answer that question honestly, it might sound narcissistic. But the fact is that I, myself have been my most favourite client. Yes, I treat myself as a client — a brand — a PR brand who can be relied upon, trusted; one who delivers and who is consistent with growth. In my eyes, there is no further satisfaction to know that your work helps others grow and be famous. That you are able to propel people into the limelight and strengthen their image and brand by influencing the media. That you have the means to make their careers better. That’s what gives me the ultimate high.
Got a video interview done for my PR client Preetisheel Singh on Chetna Vasishth’s ChetChat. Makeup, hair and prosthetic designer Preetisheel reveals a lot that goes behind the scenes in transforming actors into characters.
Wake up my fellow Bollywood PRs. And do it like Dale does. 😉
1 Press Release / 24 hours / 40 links for my PR client Preetisheel Singh. Covering leading outlets The Times of India (and no, Dale never does Paid News. NEVER), Mid-Day, Times Now, Zoom, Santa Banta, Koi Moi, Yahoo, Bollywood Dhamaka, Bollywood Hungama and The Quint. And this without the help of UNI, PTI, IANS or Reuters.
Bigg Boss Season 2 contestant Rahul Mahajan, who re-entered the show as a Challenger as part of Bigg Boss Halla Bol, plans to help Gautam Gulati boost his zest factor on the show.
“Rahul and Gautam have been friends from before, and Rahul plans to help him feel more cheerful,” reveals his publicist Dale Bhagwagar. “Rahul told me, he felt Gautam was a bit low after Diandra left and he wants to pep him up.” With Puneet Issar out of the House this week, Gautam may welcome his old friend Rahul wholeheartedly.
Dale has also given Rahul loads of tips and ideas for Bigg Boss, including some for his equation with Gautam. “Rahul is a man on a mission to amuse, play and entertain. He is straight-forward and does not mince words. That is a quality which will stand him apart,” he points out.
The PR knows. After all, he is considered to be a specialist with many controversial Bigg Boss participants, having handled the media for names such as Rakhi Sawant, Kashmera Shah, Sherlyn Chopra, Pooja Misrra, Diana Hayden, Shamita Shetty, Vindu Dara Singh, Zulfi Syed, Salil Ankola, Anita Advani, Amar Upadhyay, Ashmit Patel, Season 8’s Aarya Babbar, Sonali Raut and even the re-entry Sambhavna Seth.
Apart from this, he has handled the publicity for BB8’s Upen Patel during the initial years of his career in Bollywood. He is also acquainted with inmates RJ Pritam Singh, and has interacted with Karishma Tanna, Ali Quli Mirza, Sambhavna Seth and Sana Khan before they entered the show.
For now, Rahul Mahajan has jumped the wall of the Bigg Boss House (something he was punished for during his first stint on the show). Only that, last time he had jumped it to escape; this time he has leaped to enter the House. What a way to enter. Lol. We are already amused.
Sonali Raut seems to be hitting all the right notes with her fans on the world wide web. Even as the diva wows in Bigg Boss, her fans seem to be on a different trip of scanning every bit of her past on the net.
After a topless pic showing her back in a photo shoot with Ranveer Singh caused quite a ruckus and debates on Twitter a fortnight ago, this week, a few of her bikini pics from the same shoot are making the rounds of social media.
“Fans are fans and if they are digging up stuff, it only shows that they are intrigued and interested in Sonali. That’s not a bad thing, neither are bikini pics. They are a gorgeous lot from a shoot she had done for Maxim India magazine,” says Sonali’s publicist Dale Bhagwagar.
Meanwhile, the Bollywood actress has come to be known as the only contestant in Bigg Boss Season 8 who is carrying on completely on her own steam. Neither has she forged a romantic liaison on the show, nor is she part of any camp.
Moreover, the gal has been part of maximum nominations for eviction earlier, and is now ‘permanently nominated’ by Bigg Boss; as part of a punishment for slapping a contestant. But Sonali has survived. As the publicist tweeted, “She is a fighter on cruise mode. She glides, where others flap.”
“Bigg Boss needs to stick to his stand for womenfolk when he takes one,” feels Bollywood publicist Dale Bhagwagar, who is handling the public relations for Season 8 contestant Sonali Raut and ex-contestant Aarya Babbar.
A few weeks ago, Bigg Boss took away Ali Quli Mirza’s privilege of becoming a Captain of the House again, as a punishment for inappropriately touching Sonali Raut without her consent. But seemingly going back on his stand, he offered Ali an option to have the ban removed, during a task this week.
“The Boss is looked upon as the righteous, mightiest, fairest, wisest, discerning, non-deceiving watcher and protector of the contestants. Will it be alright for him to RETRACT from his stand, especially when he has taken it for the RESPECT of a lady?,” questions Dale.
“Once the Boss banned Ali from becoming a Captain again in this Season, what is the logic and sense of offering him that privilege now?” the PR further asks. “Earlier too, Bigg Boss gave a re-entry to Puneet Issar just a day after being nishkasit (evicted) for being violent towards Aarya,” he points out.
“After the way Ali has behaved with Sonali as well as other contestants later, wont it be disrespectful to them all if the ban is removed?”
It can be noted that apart from disrespecting Sonali, Ali has made fun of Karishma Tanna by keeping on ‘barking’ (imitating an irritating dog) in the presence of none other than megastar Salman Khan.
He has earlier badly yelled at Diandra Soares and also questioned the “auqaat” (status / true colours) of a lady, in his argument with Dimpy Ganguly Mahajan. Apparently, teaching him a fitting lesson for his consistent indecent behaviour, Sonali is shown to have SLAPPED Ali on the reality show today.
Actress Preity Zinta who is known for her dare-bare attitude has singled out another Bollywood actress Sonali Raut for praise amongst this year’s Bigg Boss contestants.
“Sitting in NYC and catching up on my Bigg Boss 8 episodes. Can you believe it? Love Sonali Raut for being a cool cat in that mad house,” tweeted the fiery Zinta.
“Some cats purr, some claw, some rave, some paw. But when one cat meows to another, its true love for sure,” responded Sonali’s publicist Dale Bhagwagar, who had once handled PR for Zinta’s superhit movie Kya Kehna!
Meanwhile, media maverick and film producer Pritish Nandy is also gaga over Sonali Raut. “There is something special about Sonali Raut,” he tweeted. Following up, Nandy explained, “I will tell you what’s special about Sonali Raut, since so many of you asked. It’s attitude. I like her insolent attitude.”