#MeToo movement shows India's soul is decaying: Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt (IANS Interview)
New Delhi : On the one hand, Indians bow down to a goddess to pray and on another some people violate women. This dichotomy in India is creating a mess of things, says filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who feels Indians are far from what we claim to be.
"The #MeToo movement cannot be resolved through the court of public opinion. There are people standing up for something. I would say more power to women who scream from the rooftop about something wrong done to them -- whether it is after 10 years or 20 or 50... It doesn't make a difference," Bhatt told IANS in an interview when he was in the city to promote "Jalebi".
"You cannot deny the right to individuals to say what they say. But the question is whether the quotes are in sync with the legal system, which is based on a certain understanding. Are they in sync with this so-called enlightened new view that we have? If punitive action is not taken, the cynicism that nothing happens would be reinforced," he added.
The #MeToo movement in India started in September after Tanushree Dutta recounted an unpleasant episode with veteran actor Nana Patekar on the sets of "Horn 'OK' Pleassss" in 2008.
After that, a slew of controversies surrounding Vikas Bahl, Chetan Bhagat, Gursimran Khamba, Kailash Kher, Rajat Kapoor, Alok Nath and Sajid Khan have emerged.
"There is only one thing you can't use this #MeToo movement for (and that is) settling old relationship issues. You cannot categorise that.
"There is domestic violence which is there between married people or lovers. There can be sexual misconduct which can be tackled legally. But we are talking about sexual harassment which is another case. Women need to handle that very responsibly," Bhatt said.
The director feels it is time to ask a "deeper question".
"During Durga Puja, you bow down to the deity which was created by this great story of male gods putting their best to create her so that she can kill the demon to save the world and heaven from the wrath of that demon. It is time to understand that you support the woman and let her retain her dignity or she will perish.
"The question is, 'Do you really view women in the form of the goddess you worship in the temple'. Because in private life you violate them."
He said "there is a kind of dichotomy".
"The dichotomy is what has made a mess of things. We have an idea about ourselves and the reality is quite different from the idea. Look at what you are doing to women. There are issues which cannot be resolved themselves within a time frame of a week, a month or a year.
"These are larger issues. The soul of the country is decaying. We are far away from what we claim to be. And cases like this only put spotlight on that," added the director, who has helmed projects like "Arth", "Saaransh", "Naam", "Sadak", "Junoon" and "Papa Kahte Hain".
As a film producer, how does he ensure a safe workplace for women?
"Human beings are vulnerable to all this and more. But I can only say that you lead by example. You set the tone about what the morality of the house is going to be. I have enough women force. I have my own daughter (Pooja), who is a tough chick. I have my sister who is hands-on. I have my niece."
"If there is any outrage anywhere, I think there are enough pockets to bring out what is happening," added Bhatt , who will be back as a director with "Sadak 2".
(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)