Well-known Marathi actress and National Award winner Usha Jadhav (seen in Nitesh Tiwari’s Bhootnath Returns and Ram Gopal Varma’s Veerappan) has created quite a stir with her confessions in a BBC documentary titled Bollywood’s Dark Secret, where she has spoken about being sexually exploited in exchange for work.
Says Usha, “It wasn’t planned as a big exposé or anything. It was an experience that I had gone through, which I had put behind me long ago. I was young, raw and inexperienced and was asked for sexual favours by this person who was in a position to get me work.”
She adds, “Years went by and I moved on. The BBC documentary asks why the casting couch exposé that hit America after Harvey Weinstein has not reached India’s entertainment industry. I was asked if I had any incidents of exploitation to share. I did, and I shared it in the documentary.”
Urging others to speak up, Usha says it is important for exploited girls to come forward with their experiences. “There can be a backlash, yes. You may lose the chance for work because some powerful people will see you as a snitch. But the repercussions work both ways. You may lose out on some work, but you may gain a much wider victory for the movement to stop sexual exploitation. Unless more voices come forward, it (the casting couch) won’t be stopped,” she says, adding that she is happy she spoke up.
“I never thought of the impact my disclosure would make. It was just something that needed to be told on a given platform. I wish more people from the Indian entertainment industry would come forward with their own narratives of exploitation. It will help the MeToo movement reach our entertainment industry. It’s a very important movement for all of us, everybody should just come out and say no. Nothing is easy, you need to be strong. I have done that and I am still working,” says Usha.
The National Award winner believes that there is strength in numbers. She says, “If we all come together, the men in the industry will realise how wrong they are. At least, they will feel shameful about their actions. When I started my career, I was in a situation where people touched me inappropriately. But I just put my foot down and proved that if you have talent, you will survive.”
— With inputs from Subhash K. Jha and Uma Ramasubramanian...