Neha Dhupia: Actors fear for their reputation, so they don’t talk about sexual abuse
Ever since news broke of how Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed — and allegedly assaulted — women for decades, the topic of sexual misconduct in showbiz has been making headlines on a daily basis. Bollywood stars, too, have spoken about it, but no one has named anyone. Actor Neha Dhupia, however, feels that’s not the right thing to do. “Staying quiet about sexual abuse is not brave, coming out and talking about it is. And I’m not going to protect the business by saying [sexual abuse] does not happen. I’m sure it happens. Let’s not kid ourselves. But it happens everywhere,” says Neha on the subject, which took centre stage at the Golden Globe Awards 2018, with most stars wearing all black to support the #metoo and #timesup campaigns against sexual harassment.
While it’s still debatable as to what stops Bollywood actors from coming forward and talking about sexual misconduct at length, Neha feels it’s “fear” that holds them back. “There’s constant fear among actors to save their reputation, [and that of] their parents and families, so they don’t talk about the sexual abuse they might have seen or faced in the industry. Also, they may feel that it’s going to become ugly.”
Referring to women who choose to stay quiet about such things, Neha says that they’re only making themselves weaker. “Because that man, if he has done that to you right now, he’s probably going to do that to somebody else, again,” she says. “So, by talking about it, you’re not just protecting yourself but everyone else around you, too.”
Asked if she ever faced any such thing in her 15 years in Bollywood, the actor, most recently seen in Tumhari Sulu (with Vidya Balan in the lead) heaves a sigh of relief and replies in the negative. “I’ve never felt exploited, and I feel blessed. But at the same time, maybe it’s because of the person I am. I’m really particular about how meetings are done, what the system is,” she tells us.
The 37-year-old actor adds that it’s mostly the fresh crop of actors that are at risk of getting sexually exploited. “There’s a lack of an ecosystem in the business when it comes to managers and how things are done,” she explains. “A lot of times, when these new actors get a call, they’re tempted to go and do meetings, and it’s not their fault, at all. They think they’re doing the right thing, but then, there are obnoxious people who take advantage of the fact that a boy or girl is just here in the business or here in a city like Mumbai to work.”
As a concluding thought, Neha says that nobody can “empower” anyone to talk about these things, and that one can only “enable” another person to speak up if bad things are happening to them.
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