New Delhi: The #MeToo movement shook the status quo of the Mumbai film industry, actor and writer Tisca Chopra said Friday.
“People say it has fizzled out, but I don’t think it has. What has happened is that men who are perpetrators and in positions of power, have become very wary. Now they know that there’s a whistle that can be blown, so they’re very scared,” said Chopra.
“There is no way that these men are not petrified, and that’s changed everything.”
Chopra was in conversation with ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta and senior reporter Nandita Singh at the second edition of Democracy Wall’s second season.
ThePrint’s Democracy Wall is a free-speech campus initiative. The latest edition was held at Amity University in Mumbai. IIFL Wealth & Asset Management Co-founder & Executive Director Yatin Shah, Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, comedian Srijan Kaushik and rapper Slowcheeta were other participants at the event.
Why Bollywood needs to change
Tisca Chopra, who has acted in over 40 films, most notably in Taare Zameen Par (2007), spoke about the changing content of cinema, and why more women need to write and represent themselves behind the screen.
“Not enough women are writing. Till women don’t start writing we won’t see the female gaze — the mainstream cinematic idea of a woman is that she’s a flowerpot. We need a more rounded gaze when it comes to representing women in cinema,” she said.
“Our cinema is not world class yet, but we’re getting there.”
Asked about the emergence of digital streaming platforms, which are offering audiences alternative content, Chopra said, “I think what the web is doing is it’s taking real people, real dialogue, real stuff and putting it into the format of a story and making it far more relatable. Bollywood is being severely challenged by that, and it’s about time that happened.”
“Bollywood was complacent for a long time,” she added.
Chopra also said streaming platforms and the popularity of independent films will now compel mainstream Bollywood directors to pay attention to changing tastes and content.
“I believe we have it in us, we are a country of storytellers, and storytelling is part of our culture,” she said.
Asked why Bollywood as a community doesn’t take a stand or speak out against male directors and actors despite allegations of sexual harassment, Tisca Chopra said she doesn’t condone it or believes it is “okay at any level”.
“But being in this industry is a very insecure job. You don’t know where you next paycheck is coming from,” said Chopra.
“When you’ve made a name for yourself it becomes hard to stand up — nobody wants to take their whole careers and put it at stake just to join a movement. Everybody wants to have a job at the end of the day,” she said.
On directors’ responsibility to depict sexual harassment and rape sensitively, Chopra said the camera always “captures the intent of the director”.
“If the director has the intent of titillating, it will capture that, even if the director is trying to pose as being ‘responsible’ with the content matter. How you show rape can be done in many different ways, and it shouldn’t come off as a lustful scene since most rapes are to prove dominance,” she said.
“When you make a film, you’re leaving yourself naked for the audience which can see exactly what you are trying to do.”