Where does the burden of proof lie, with who? That is the question when it comes to the celebrities and the media and, of course, the person who wakes up after years and ages to accuse a celebrity or a coworker of misdemeanor, like molestation or even rape?
With social media come various passing trends. A while back, we had this car drivers stepping out of moving cars and doing a jig called Kiki dance. Earlier, there was this Gangnam style dance which originated from Seoul and which the whole of the social media latched on to and it went on to become a craze. There were other dance feds like Macarena and Time Warp.
Then came various dance and other kind of challenges which, mainly, the youth all around the world picked up. Some video challenges well-intended - the he exemplary being the Ice Bucket challenge which was meant for a charity and celebrities like Mark Zuckerburg, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates taking it up.
The other such challenges going viral were Cinnamon challenge, Mannequin challenge, Running Man challenge and so on.
While these challenges were fun and mostly harmless there, there were quite a few which were dangerous, potentially fatal and, sadly, blindly, followed by the youth. There have been serious injuries or even a death or two caused by some viral challenges like Fire Challenge, Skin Eraser, Car Surfing, Boiled Water Bucket and so on. It does not take much convincing to say that the ones who think up such challenges are sick in mind and the ones who accept them are stupid with self-destructive tendencies.
Strangely, none of these viral challenges are constructive or create healthy competition. Most of them have a sadistic trait about them - so what if it is Ice Bucket Challenge where some big names participated.
It has reported to have caused fatal harm to a couple of those who decided to meet the challenge. But, the most bizarre and damning viral is the #MeToo movement. For, while the other challenges, most of them, are silly and cause the harm or hurt to the one who is stupid enough to indulge, MeToo ruins reputations and careers of mostly self-made individuals who managed to make it to the top. Not that that is a criteria for not making it to a MeToo List but they seem to be the only kind being named.
A non-entity has yet to make it to this 'coveted' list. Say, in the process of film making, there are any number of people with close and physical access to a female film actor. These include her make-up man, costume designer, fellow dancers, her attendant and others like a choreographer, be it that of action or dances (lately, a lot of female stars have been doing action scenes like male actors).
#MeToo claims or accusations are being reported episodically, one at a time over a gap of a month or two. And, the media laps it up - having had an enough time-gap after the previous one having lost steam.
The probability of such a thing having happened or the reputation or the character traits or otherwise of the one accused don't matter at such time. Indian journalism is all about being the first to report as long as the one accused assures eyeballs. One accusing does not matter.
The latest case is that involving Raju Hirani, a maker who has some of the biggest hits the Hindi film industry has given since turn of this millennium. "Munnabhai MBBS" (2003), "Lage Raho Munnabhai" (2006), "3 Idiots" (2009), "PK" (2014) and "Sanju" (2018) being his repertoire so far. He has suddenly been accused by a woman who assisted him with the making of "Sanju". She has accused him of sexual assaults over a period of six months during the film's post-production.
In other such case, a TV producer, Vinta Nanda, had accused character actor Alok Nath of raping her 'more than once' some 19 years ago. I am no legal eagle but the law is supposed to be based on logic and 'more than once' or 'over a period' would not quite qualify as forcing oneself logically speaking. The court's observations, while granting bail to Nath, have not been quite complementary to the complainant. With Raju HIrani also, the story is about 'over a period'.
One talks about aspiring actors and that they are asked to 'compromise' in the furtherance of their careers. That being heresy, aren't those who keep quiet for a year, five years or 19 after being raped or molested probably doing the same?
#MeToo became a sort of 'Why Not Me Too!' since Tanushri Dutta started the #MeToo India rolling, accusing Nana Patekar of certain misdoings. These two or three cases apart, it seemed like #MeToo was just another Social Media Challenge going viral! Author Chetan Bhagat and many such were dragged into the quagmire, albeit not with much substance.
Chetan Bhagat, as far as I know, was accused of molestation for posting a repartee on social media.
Having started in September last year, the #MeToo trend had a few accusations tumbling out but just when it seemed to be ending, accusations now pop-up at intervals. However, strangely, most filmy #MeToo doesn't go to court. They don't even reach the local police station, soon as they are alleged to have happened or thereafter; they only reach and end with the media. Bhushan Kumar (T Series owner)'s accuser did it through a Twitter post and preferred to remain anonymous! Now, what do you make of that? (Now, apparently, it has been withdrawn.)
I remember a couple of #MeToo claims from the past. That time, there was no social media and no wire. #MeToo was solely a privilege of the couple of glossy gossip magazines that had just come into being.
Rajesh Khanna was the reigning star but on the decline. One of his films starred a new starlet. All of a sudden, the girl accused Khanna of feeding her a dose of Spanish Fly (said to be sex inducing potion, meant to improve a woman's sex drive) and seducing her. The glossy gossip magazines played it up but, they had little reach if at all. However, the filmmakers did not take kindly to the girl's approach road to fame and stardom via Khanna in whatever way. She was never heard of again as far as the film industry was concerned.
Amitabh Bachchan was not spared either when Parveen Babi, his costar of a few films, accused him of all sorts of misdemeanors on her return from her hibernation -- though no more relevant in the existing scenario of the film industry anymore.
In both cases, one side carried more credibility and left the accused intact and accusers out in the cold. That is because, in those days, there were no social media platforms or TV channels with film-based slots to fill and nor were there print media editions devoted to the entertainment industry.
#MeToo can't work if legally you wake up after years or because somebody else's #MeToo nudged you. But, yes, it may result in financial benefits. In a profession where Virtue is defined as a Lack of Opportunity, isn't it surprising that none of the popular actors' names made it to the #MeToo list? It seems some parallel economy is taking care of that aspect. A lot many financial considerations are said to be in the process to let bygones be bygones.
What is strange is that, there are said to be numerous cases of guy-to-guy victims of #MeToo but not a single victim has yet spilled the beans.
If the intention of the victim is to really see the culprit punished, #MeToo will have to be immediate, not after years.
@ The Box Office
As the old makes way for the new, Ranveer Singh is definitely the new superstar. In the year that all the three reigning superstars, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, have let down their followers, Ranveer has given two blockbusters "Padmaavat" to start 2018 with and "Simmba" to wrap up the year.
Salman Khan with "Race 3", Shah Rukh Khan with "Zero" and Aamir Khan with "Thugs Of Hindostan" (with no less than Amitabh Bachchan to prop up the film), let their audience down.
In fact, the collections of Ranveer Singh's two films in 2018 have done more business (appox Rs 530 crore) than the combined collections of the three films of Khans (Rs 450 crore).
That was last year, the New Year, 2019 gives us its first hit in "Uri: The Surgical Strike", with an emerging new star, Vicky Kaushal.
* Nationalism being flavour of the season, coupled with some interesting real life stories to tell, the stories that India and Indians can be proud, are being made and appreciated.
* "Uri: The Surgical Strike" had a decent opening on day one with figures of over Rs eight crore. The collections climbed over the next couple of days to account for a healthy weekend of a little short of Rs 35 crore. However, the film continued to hold well through rest of the week to show a tally of about Rs 70 crore, which is impressive.
* "The Accidental Prime Minister", based on the similarly-titled book written by Sanjay Baru, the Media Advisor to ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on his tenure, is as insipid as the PM's political life. No liberties are taken in the making of the film which sticks to the book account; no dramatisation.
"The Accidental Prime Minister", in such an event, had only curiosity value as its USP, mainly for those who did not read the book. The film has managed to collect about Rs 17 crore, which is decent considering the theme as well as its budget, (though the India distributor, having paid a high acquisition price, stands to lose on his investment).
(Vinod Mirani is a veteran film writer and box office analyst)