Veteran choreographer Saroj Khan, known for being the person behind most of Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi’s dance numbers in the 90s, has come out in defence of casting couch, a euphemism for the supposed practice whereby actresses are given parts in films in return of sexual favours.
The 69-year-old was quoted saying: “This is going on from ‘Baba Adam’s times’, it is not new. Someone or the other always tries to take an advantage of a girl. The government officials do it too, then why are we only behind the film industry? It provides livelihood at least,” she said.
She further added that there is no rape involved since it’s there is consent involved.
“Does not rape and leave you. It is up to the girl, what she wants to do. If you don’t want to fall into wrong hands, you won’t. If you are talented, why would you sell yourself? Don’t blame the film industry’s name, it is everything to us,” she told ANI today.
While she has acknowledged the existence of this practise, there are several other members of the industry who continue to categorically deny it. Most recently, actress Rakul Preet Singh reportedly said that so far no one had intimidated her with sexual propositions in the Telugu film industry and she feels very safe and never had to worry about it, she said. Her statements were slammed by two actresses, Sri Reddy and Madhavi Latha.
In the past, other actresses have addressed the prevalence of this practise. Kannada actress Sruthi Hariharan, at the India Today Conclave in Hyderabad early this year, opened up about her own experience and the need to call out those who misbehave with you.
“Coming to the point, I know many women like me who have been victims of the casting couch. I also know women who have stood up against it and said No. I believe that’s what is important. To take a stand and say No… Even if it means you are going to lose that opportunity – it is okay as long as you don’t lose your integrity,” she said.
Vidya Balan, too, a few months ago, spoke of how one must stave off from sleazy predators.
“I come from a privileged background, so I always gave the vibe that I don’t need this, I’m only doing this as a passion, I’m very serious about this… But I won’t react with people in a way that was personal. Almost err on the side of caution. Maybe it’s also a middle-class thing. If you smelt a rat, you’d rather keep away. That was my way of protecting myself,” she said.
Kriti Sanon, too, acknowledged this practise but, felt singling out Bollywood alone wouldn’t work.
“I think that such things (casting couch) do exist, but not only in Bollywood. But in other places too. But fortunately, I have not faced the casting couch,” she said.
Meanwhile, several Twitter users reacted to Saroj Khan’s comments on the practise, including Sri Reddy, the actress who has been rallying against casting couch in Telugu cinema.
I lost respect for you Saroj ma’am. Being an elder you should give a good path to young actresses. It is giving a wrong indication that you have to be a slave to producers: Sri Reddy (actress who alleged that women are sexual exploited by producers) on Saroj Khan’s remark. pic.twitter.com/I9TWmLahrX
— ANI (@ANI) April 24, 2018
That’s the problem with the industry : the normalisation of rape and sexual abuse, I know of many newcomers who are so willing to undergo it because they assume it’s the norm and THAT is the problem.#SarojKhan
— Priya Sometimes (@PriyaSometimes) April 24, 2018
#SarojKhan‘s statement is a caustic comment. Bollywood transactions (casting couch), she seems to say, are better than false promises and violence that politics is notorious for.
— Madhavan Narayanan (@madversity) April 24, 2018
Saroj Khan has, according to The Times of India, since then apologised for her statements.
Feature Image: Wikipedia