The most substantial impact of the #MeToo movement, which took off in India following actress Tanushree Dutta’s sexual harassment allegations against actor Nana Patekar, is that people now will be wary of engaging in misconduct — whether or not the movement continues — says veteran actress Neena Gupta.
Asked if she feels the #MeToo wave will stay in India or whether it will die down, Neena told IANS here: “See, proving (an experience) is very difficult here. Right now, girls have got the strength to speak up, but those girls will say (take names) who have nothing to lose.
“Girls who have still something to lose, will not be able to say. But I think whether (the movement) stays or fizzles out, people will be wary of doing anything of this sort now.”
The #MeToo movement in India started after Tanushree in September recalled an unpleasant episode with veteran actor Nana Patekar from 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 and Alok Nath have emerged. Why did naming and shaming come so late in Bollywood?
“That’s how it is. That’s how it works here. I say in conferences ‘I think it’s a curse to be born a woman in India, especially a poor woman’. Being a poor woman is a curse… It gives me so much pain when I see them,” she said.
Neena has been in the industry for over three decades and has featured in films like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Utsav, Trikaal, Khalnayak, Mulk, Veere Di Wedding and The Last Colour.
Asked if age is now detrimental for an actress’ career in Bollywood, Neena agreed and said that after a certain age, they don’t receive good offers.
“There are not many roles. I always say that, ‘After a certain age, what is a woman’s role? Taking care of the family and home. After that there is no role’. When the society will change, I think we would have more roles on-screen.”
Last year, Neena was in the spotlight after she took to social media to ask for “good roles”. She has now been frequently seen in films.
Apart from Mulk and Veere Di Wedding this year, she has been seen in the latest release Badhaai Ho and will next be seen in commercial drama Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar.
“Earlier in these subjects, there were no big roles. We used to get small character roles. Now films are being made on solid and substantial roles,” said Neena, who essays a 50-year-old pregnant woman in Badhaai Ho.
The film is about a couple that has a grown up son already, but they get set to become parents again.
She said the film is not only about breaking taboos, but about ageless love.
“It is an important thing and I don’t think anyone has ever spoken about this. The more I worked in the film, the more I realised that it is very important and is more than just ‘hasi, mazaak (humour)’,” added Neena, who is the mother of popular designer Masaba Gupta, whom she had with legendary cricketer Vivian Richards.
She describes her own journey as a mother “very tough”.
“My journey was very tough. I had no money. Money is the most important thing, I have realised in this world. I didn’t have a husband and relatives. So it was really tough, but the joy Masaba gave me… The joy of motherhood… She was a very good child she did not trouble me much. The joy she gave me was enough to go through anything,” said Neena, who raised Masaba as a single mother.