Won't call #MeToo successful unless women get empowered: Vivek Agnihotri
Trans World Features | @twfindia | 08 Dec 2018
Won't call #MeToo successful unless women get empowered: Vivek Agnihotri
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, who in recent times courted controversy over his urban naxal remarks and faced allegations of misbehaviour on the sets of his 2005 film Chocolate by actress Tanushree Dutta , was recently in Kolkata to attend the Arth festival. In an exclusive chat with IBNS-TWF correspondent Souvik Ghosh, the maker of Buddha in a Traffic Jam opens up about #MeToo campaign and also other societal issues

Several activists were detained in the Koregaon Bhima case with alleged Maoist links. They were also called  urban naxals. You made remarks on them, asked people to prepare their list and engaged in a Twitter war. Do you think it is a rising problem? Do you not consider them as social activists? 
Of course they are activists, so was Osama (Osama bin Laden, founder of the pan-Islamic militant organisation al-Qaeda). People working against the state cannot be called social activists. They are traitors or terrorists. These people are traitors because they are working with the objective of breaking the Indian state with an armed revolution. They have only one place and that is behind the bars. 
Do you think they are politically funded?
Of course. Even if one organises a birthday party or goes out with friends for a drink, he needs funding. How is it possible to organise so many protests and running a revolution (without funding)? But they are funded from international terror organisations and also they do lot of extortion of poor people. 
What do you think about the problems in West Bengal where you come often?
I think West Bengal is very conflicted right now. There is a conflict between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, Hindus and Muslims, Indians and Bangladeshis. There is too much of conflict because in the rest of the places (country), there are generally two kinds of political structures- nationalist BJP type parties and Congress and others. Here on one hand, the state has old Communists, there are Maoists and Marxists who Communists don't want very close ties up with, then BJP is making inroads here, there is a dying Congress and Mamata Banerjee with her unique Poriborton (change) politics. I haven't seen any poribortonin West Bengal at all. The kind of violence taking place in the state is very upsetting, so I am very disappointed with the politics of the city. I am coming here for so many years but I haven't seen anything changing in the city. It is a very depressing thing.
Recently a #MeToo campaign started in Bollywood where several actors shared their experiences on social media. But also question arises whether it is the right way to fight a serious problem or if internet justice solves a problem without approaching the judicial system. What's your thought on the entire matter?
See, no movement can be successful by writing on social media. The only way one movement can be successful is by changing lives. Unless someone's life is changed or improved, movements are not successful. If a woman gets empowered, then only I will call the movement successful, otherwise it makes no sense to me.
Do you feel #MeToo movement is gender neutral or only about women who were harassed?
I think more men are harassed than anything. Everybody is harassed. The problem is anybody who is more powerful harasses the subordinates. So it is the fight between the powerful and deprived people. So anybody who is in a situation of less power is going to be harassed and exploited. Nobody should be exploited.
The campaign started with Tanushree Dutta's allegations against Nana Patekar of sexual harassing her on the sets of film Hork Ok Pleassss. Later she accused you of asking to strip and dance to give cue to an actor on the sets of film Chocolate. How do you respond to that?

She never said that. No. Did she say 'strip'? No. She said she was wearing a bathrobe and was asked to take it off. Of course one has to be in the costume. But I have filed a criminal case against her. Let the proceedings take place.

(However in an interview with DNA, Tanushree had said: "...This guy wanted me to give cues to an actor. It was an actor's closeup. It was not even my shot. I was not even in the shot. It was the actor's closeup and he had to look at something and give expressions.The director told me jao ja ke kapde utaar k nacho [go, strip and dance].")
So you have taken a legal step.
In a democracy what do you do. I am not somebody who writes on Facebook and Twitter only. I used to take the constitutional route. 
Coming back to films. Recently Aamir Khan's big budget film Thugs of Hindostan didn't earn much at the box office. On the contrary, Ayushmann Khurrana's low budget films- Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho- did well. Do you think audience's taste is changing?
No, it doesn't work like that. A good product is a good product whether made with 100 rupees or one crore rupees. On the other hand, a bad product is a bad product. Thugs of Hindostan was a bad film so it didn't work. Badhaai Ho was a good film so it worked. Simple. 
(Images by Avishek Mitra/IBNS)