Mandira Bedi: Casting couch is a two-way street; you can’t blame only one person
As sexual assault allegations mount against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and Bollywood also debates sexual exploitation in the entertainment industry, actor Mandira Bedi says that it takes two to create a compromising situation.Updated: Jan 31, 2018 16:08 IST
The wildfire that started in October 2017, with the New York Times report on decades of alleged sexual assault by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, is far from dying down. Industry names in Hollywood and Bollywood have expressed wide-ranging views on it. Actor Mandira Bedi, the latest to speak up, believes that if there’s a casting couch, there’s also someone willing to lie on it, and so both sides need to take responsibility.
While no one has been named in Bollywood, unlike the names tumbling out in Hollywood, actors in India have hinted at the definite presence of sexual exploitation. Mandira Bedi, who started her showbiz career with the TV show Shanti in 1994, has done TV anchoring and quite a few films, including the recent release Vodka Diaries, says, “In the 23 years that I have been here in this industry, I have not once been in a position where somebody has propositioned me or I found myself in a place where they’re offering me good work in return for some favours.”
Mandira adds that what happens has got a lot to do with how one projects oneself. “You can’t put the blame squarely on one person. Casting couch is not just about one person who says ‘come and compromise’. The other person is also willing to compromise. It’s always a two-way street. People are willing to do whatever it takes to get to where they want to,” she states.
Stating that she has always carried herself in a certain way, mindful of conduct and posture, Mandira says, “I can tell with certainty that in all these years, nobody has once said ‘Aapko compromise karna padega (you have to compromise)’ or ‘We need you to do this for this’. My work has spoken for itself, and I’ve been offered work purely on merit. And if ever I found myself in a certain position, which I found was dodgy or weird, I’d step away. So, I really can’t point a finger at one person.”
The actor also points out that while it’s great to see a lot of women in Bollywood speaking up on sexual exploitation, naming and shaming has to happen soon. “I’m the kind of a person,“ she says, “who’d reveal that ‘This person did this to me’, but it hasn’t happened to me. And those to whom it has happened — those who are not projecting themselves — must speak up.”
Mandira adds that if a person has succumbed to the pressure of sexual exploitation, that person is equally to be blamed. “If something like that has happened to you, it’s your moral obligation to talk about it, especially with so many people speaking about it now,” she says.
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