Days after sharing a casting couch incident, Rajeev Khandelwal opens up about the practice and the relevance of the MeToo movement in India.
Actor Rajeev Khandelwal has shared his views on the prevalence of casting couch in the glamour industry and believes those who fall prey to the practice always have the choice to say no. The Table No 21 actor had recently revealed that he was once propositioned by a star filmmaker in exchange of a two-film deal, ahead of his Bollywood debut.
Being asked for sexual favours in return for acting roles is something many people say is prevalent in the Indian film industry. Many people from Bollywood as well as other industries were named during India’s MeToo movement in 2018.
On being asked if such people should be named and shamed, Rajeev told Hindustan Times in an interview, “No, I don’t think so at all. It’s not just about that person, but the one who gives into casting couch is equally responsible. How can you say a woman is being exploited, because she doesn’t mind getting exploited. Then she talks about casting couch because she thinks the other man was more powerful. No, somewhere you lacked confidence, you lacked self belief. Otherwise you wouldn’t have allowed. Casting couch is not rape where you are forced upon. What I understand from casting couch is that you are subjected to a situation where you get some benefit out of it. One who is exploited is probably a weaker person, one who didn’t have enough confidence that they can do without it.”
Rajeev stressed that there were indeed many examples where people didn’t have to face any casting couch. He said he chose to make his Bollywood debut with a smaller budget film Aamir, in which he played the titular role, rather than accepting the two-film deal. “In my case, I experienced someone trying to exploit me but I didn’t give in. I said my self-confidence is huge and I won’t remain workless if you don’t give me work. I will probably get work on my own terms and conditions and I did,” he said.
He went on to add, “Should that person be shamed? No. He didn’t rape me, he didn’t do anything offensive. He just gave me an option and the choice was mine.”
However, Rajeev wants the offenders to be shamed if they cross the line. The actor wants “those who rape and those who exploit the situation because the person has no other choice” to be named and shamed. “There are bigger people who should actually be shamed – the one who do harm to others, people who divide people in the name of religion – they should be shamed,” he says.
Rajeev on the MeToo movement
Mention the MeToo movement and Rajeev asks how many people are keeping a tab on the development that happened during the movement and what’s happening in that regard today. He is of the opinion that “people are just getting on a wave and getting off it at their own convenience, forgetting where the wave went.”
“We are all so self-centered that we probably join a bandwagon because sometimes we feel it is important to be seen as part of this group, which is talking about justice socially. Like the Unnao rape case, everyone comes in together but most of them don’t even know what exactly happened there. But you have to be seen on social media that you have condemned it,” he says adding, “Sometimes you find a known name who has done a crime, a wave is formed and it develops and then we keep adding to it because we want to look good. You should know ‘What am I supporting? Am I supporting a wave or am I supporting an incident?’”
Reacting to the hanging of the Delhi gang rape convicts, Rajeev said, “There was a wave that justice was denied. We have a system in our country that let justice be delayed than justice be denied. I want to ask them how much groundwork they have done? You think the government and the judges don’t know this? How can you simply hang somebody without doing the investigation, then it will be a different world altogether.”
He, however, doesn’t deny the impact of the MeToo wave and believes it has brought in a positive change no matter how minuscule. “I think it still did a lot of good and it will continue to happen I guess. Fear must have set in hearts of a lot of people. The weaker section will probably feel a little more confident of standing up for themselves,” he says.
Rajeev will now be seen in play titled Court Martial, which has made its way to the television screens and the OTT platforms ahead of its arrival on stage. It will premier on Zee Theatre on April 26.