2018, like 2017, was a significant year for women’s rights after #MeToo lifted the curtain off many serial harassers. Many women from the Hindi film industry fearlessly spoke about men who misused their positions of power. After Tanushree Dutta set off the spark by recalling a horrific incident with Nana Patekar, veterans from Alok Nath to Subhash Ghai were called out for their alleged inappropriate behaviour. The likes of Sajid Khan and Vikas Bahl were removed from their projects. And thus, it was only natural that the question would come up at Rajeev Masand’s annual roundtable of the actresses. Sadly, the conversation was derailed by Rani Mukerji.
Deepika, Anushka, And Alia really were making great points while Rani here makes martial arts noises. You can’t make this shit up. pic.twitter.com/sceqsEj71N
— Doe (@doepikapadukone) December 29, 2018
Rani Mukerji was participating in the roundtable because of the success of her “social issues” film, Hichki, where she plays a character diagnosed with Tourette’s. Her marginalised character who empathises with the underprivileged students is far removed from the real-life actor who kept cutting others off during the roundtable. It wasn’t surprising when Rajeev Masand asked about the impact of #MeToo on Hindi films, Rani Mukerji interjected by saying that women had to learn martial arts to combat inappropriate behaviour.
Ok. So you can’t tell hundreds of mothers that they shouldn’t bring up misogynistic sons but you want to tell millions of girls out there to compulsorily learn martial arts and defend themselves? This is nothing but victim shaming and blaming.
Shame on you, Rani Mukerji! https://t.co/cfvn74fzPM
— Sumeet Kaur (@Sumeetkaur102) December 30, 2018
That wasn’t even the low-point as most of Rani’s colleagues frowned and let her finish her line of thought. It was only after Rani Mukerji continuously emphasised on teaching Krav Maga (Israel’s martial arts, something Mukerji learned for her film Mardaani) and reiterated her thoughts on how women were responsible towards dealing with inappropriate behaviour, did Deepika Padukone become the voice of reason and say that different individuals were built differently. Both Anushka Sharma and Deepika Padukone kept trying to suggest to Rani Mukerji how it was wrong to indulge in victim-shaming, as the Aiyaa actor kept making karate noises and refused to listen.
Rani Mukherjee is that one person in MBA group discussion round, who thinks that you get more marks if you speak more. https://t.co/4xnWv7L8pS
— Bollywood Gandu (@BollywoodGandu) December 30, 2018
Does Rani Mukerji understand the nuance of what they were discussing? Were they discussing self-defence techniques for women against creepy behaviour, or were they discussing how such creepy behaviour shouldn’t exist in the first place? Does Rani Mukerji understand the privilege she comes from, and how her stature wouldn’t allow men to behave creepily with her? Which is not to say a struggling actor from a small town would be subjected to bad behaviour on a daily basis, for work? Can Rani Mukerji look beyond her privilege?
I used to be a Deepika in conversations like this, now I am more of a Tabu https://t.co/H2nevoa1Us
— Amba (she/her) (@MumbaiCentral) December 30, 2018
And as if the conversation couldn’t stoop any lower, Rani Mukerji pulled off the impossible by blaming mothers for the creepy behaviour of their sons. This statement hints at the patriarchal conditioning even in the case of someone like Rani Mukerji, where ultimately ONLY women get blamed for crimes against women. Whether it is the victim who ‘enticed’ the crime, or it is the mother of the perpetrator. What do the bechara men do? Nothing.
2018 was a year where equal rights in Hindi films and at workplaces across India seemed like a legitimate possibility. But listening to Rani Mukerji made it the most depressing end to the year. How many more people like her (with all their means) still actually don’t ‘get it’?