People Talking About Talking About Things: Sonam Versus Kangana

We have now entered the stage of the news cycle when the actual thing gets hidden under people talking about the thing, and then people talking about talking about the thing.  So, fine, I will contribute to the talking about talking about with the only exchange I find particularly remarkable.  Other people said eloquent things, wrong things, right things, and so on.  It’s just that this exchange is so odd, I can’t help but repeat it so you can tell me “no, you’re right, it is odd!”  And so it can also serve as a reminder of the kind of public discourse that somehow goes without comment in the Hindi film industry.

Kangana’s quote from 2015 when the story originally broke (Link with video: https://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/bollywood/kangana-ranaut-on-molestation-claims-against-queen-director-vikas-bahl-very-courageous-of-a-woman-to-speak-4608712/):

She was asked about it at an event for a a clothing brand, she didn’t seek out a reporter or write something in advance, and this is what she said.  And I am going to highlight the portions I find notable:

It’s a very serious issue. I can only say that it is very courageous of a woman to come out and speak about sexual harassment. It’s not regarding this particular event, because I am not the party involved, but generally speaking, women who face this should be encouraged to talk about it by their families and their colleagues without feeling ashamed about it,

More women should come out and talk about whatever they feel because that’s how there will be awareness about these issues and of course, there will always be another side of the story as well and then there will be the authorities, who can decide what is the right thing to do. But people should speak up about whatever they feel, whether they are right or wrong, they must speak up and discuss.

To me, it reads like a very cautious statement, turning it into a general comment that it is good to talk about sexual harassment, and then immediately backing up and referring to another side of the story, that it is the responsibility of the authorities, and finally ending with an indication that the person speaking up may actually be wrong.

 

Kangana interview two days ago (link to interview here: https://www.indiatoday.in/movies/bollywood/story/kangana-ranaut-on-vikas-bahl-he-d-bury-his-face-in-my-neck-and-hold-me-tight-1357594-2018-10-06):

This was an “exclusive” interview with India Today, meaning she arranged it in advance in some way.  It isn’t simply a statement released to add to the public record, and it also isn’t an ambush at an unrelated event.  Again, I have highlighted the parts I find interesting.

Totally believe her. Even though Vikas was married back in 2014 when we were filming Queen, he bragged about having casual sex with a new partner every other day. I don’t judge people and their marriages but you can tell when addiction becomes sickness. He partied every night and shamed me for sleeping early and not being cool enough.

I often told him off. He was scared of me but still every time we met, socially greeted and hugged each other, he’d bury his face in my neck and hold me really tight and breathe in the smell of my hair. It took me great amount of strength and effort to pull myself out of his embrace. He’d say, ‘I love how you smell K’.

I could tell something is wrong with him. I believe this girl. But what is sad, is that now that Phantom has been dissolved, many are attacking him, even though the girl asked for help long ago. At that time, the story was conveniently killed, but I supported her at that time as well. You can see my media interaction during one of my brand endorsement interactions. I thought the movement [MeToo] would catch up but I was wrong.

At that time Vikas had come to me with a script about a gold medalist from Haryana. When I supported the girl, he stopped talking to me. I didn’t mind losing out on a good script and I never called him either. I was determined to say what I felt was right. The matter was pushed under the carpet and I didn’t hear any updates on the same.

It’s amusing that after the news of Phantom dissolution many are finding the courage to attack him. Shame on such a society. Go look at yourselves in the mirror, bunch of cowards, attacking powerless men won’t begin a movement. Either we do it or we don’t. Let’s not be opportunists. If we are a shit society, let’s accept it, at least have that much honesty within yourself. Selective outrage will only serve as entertainment, this will just be tabloid gossip and nothing else.

I am a little lost here.  She saw him as a cheating married man who also shamed her for going to bed early but was afraid of her.  She was talking with him about a script even after all of that, and then he was the one who stopped talking to her.

We have her original statement, it is right there, and I am not seeing much of a support.  It’s not not-supportive, that is true, and I can see why Vikas might not want to work with her after that statement.  But I am not seeing the burning righteous anger in the original statement that she indicates here.  Or a strong reluctance to work with Vikas afterwards in how she describes the sequence of events.  He was the one who dropped her, even after his misbehavior with her on set and her belief (she claims) in the girl’s story, he was the one who backed away from the project, not her.

 

But this interview is what people say, you rewrite history in your own mind to make yourself the hero, to justify your choices.  I have done the same many times, I am sure many of you have caught me on it here, I will change positions or slightly alter an anecdote unconsciously just to make me feel better about myself.  Perfectly human.  A little foolish to do it if there is easily accessible video that disproves your statements, but still human.  And I guess not that foolish since no one but me seems to have bothered to track down the original video.

 

Sonam’s comment on Kangana’s current statement (link here: https://www.hindustantimes.com/bollywood/sonam-kapoor-says-hard-to-take-kangana-ranaut-seriously-kangana-vows-to-demolish-filmi-people/story-IZnwEHGm3D6vXdfKslGXWJ.html):

This was at a day long event to highlight women’s issues co-sponsored Facebook, Vogue, the UN, and PriceWaterhouseCooper.  Tanushree Dutta was also present.  Sonam was asked by Barkha Dutt (the moderator) if she thought the film industry would support the accuser in the Vikas Bahl case.

I think Kangana wrote something. Kangana is obviously Kangana Ranaut. She says a lot of stuff and sometimes is hard to take her seriously. I love the fact that she has spunk and she says what she believes. I really respect for that. I don’t know him, I don’t know the situation. If what is written what is written is true, then it’s disgusting and awful. If it’s true, then they should be punished for it.

This whole thing happened at Phantom. I find it disgusting. If you read that article, it is disgusting. And I know these people, I know all of them. I don’t know how I will deal with these people. All I know is I believe this woman. I find this behavior despicable and cowardly. When my father read these articles (Tanushree and Phantom stories), he said whatever is happening to these men, they deserve it. I come from a background like that. I said I know dad; then why is nobody saying anything or doing anything. ‘He said: beta, the world is such but we need to change it.’ So, I mean, even if it is one person saying something, it makes a difference.

Sonam is never the most articulate person in her public statements.  And you can see the self-correction at the start, she pulls herself together and changes her statement on Kangana to make it less insulting without contradicting it.  I’m assuming the start is the honest part, because honesty usually sneaks out either at the beginning or the end of these statements.  But it was actually an appropriate answer, the question was if she thinks people in the industry will speak out about Vikas, she used Kangana as an example of someone who has, and then talked about herself and what she might or might not do.

And she contradicts herself as well, starting with “if if” but then changing it to “I believe this woman”.  But she is careful to remain non-specific, to say she knows these people without specifying who she knows or how well, and she throws in a personal story at the end, the only one who can contradict it being her own father.  So, over all, not terrible for someone to pull out in response to an unexpected question, she must have prepared the ending in advance, she just had to get there from the start of it.

And, of course, this was a completely appropriate forum for her to be asked the question and answer it, since it was an event about women in India.

 

Kangana’s Response to Sonam (link here: https://www.pinkvilla.com/entertainment/exclusives/kangana-ranaut-sonam-k-ahuja-s-it-s-hard-take-kangana-seriously-who-gives-her-right-judge-me-428154):

This was “exclusive” to Pinkvilla.  Pinkvilla being the place that you can call up and they will print anything.  This wasn’t a carefully thought out public post, and this wasn’t a carefully prepared scheduled interview.  And Pinkvilla seemed to have edited her down a bit based on the ellipses, who know how long it was originally.

What does she mean by saying, “its hard to believe Kangana” When I am sharing my me too story, who gives her a right to judge me? So, Sonam Kapoor has the license of trusting some women and some she won’t…What makes her so unsure of my claims, I am known to be an articulate person, I have represented my country in many international summits, I am called as a thought and youth influencer to these summits, I am not known because of my dad I have earned my place and credibility after struggling for a decade.

“She isn’t known to be a great actress, neither she has the reputation of being a good speaker…… What gives these filmy people right to take digs at me!!!! I will demolish each one of them.

This is just inappropriate.  If one of the 8 year olds spoke like this in my Sunday School class, I would send them out of the room.  It is also odd to mention representing her country at international summits, considering Sonam in fact gave this statement at an international summit.  And then dismissing her as a “filmy” person, which is an odd insult since surely Kangana is also a “filmy” person?

 

Sonam’s response posted on instagram (link here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BoqqMuwHkc0/?utm_source=ig_embed)

Some reports refer to Kangana as making, “statements”, but she didn’t really, she didn’t sit down and write things out, she spoke in interviews and quotes were picked and chosen by the author.  Sonam gave one answer to a question, which isn’t quite the same, it was short and it was printed in its entirety almost everywhere.  And she did the same here, one simple statement that she could control directly.

I appreciate that Sonam refuses to apologize for her existence.  She says “I’m proud of where I come from and so should every other woman or man”.  And I appreciate that she ends with a general call for standing together and speaking up.

Maybe she did mean the original dig at Kangana, maybe she is complicit in the cover up of all these things, but she is trying to end this exchange in the only way it can, with both sides just letting it drop and moving on to other things.  And she is doing it cleanly and clearly on a public forum that does not allow for quotes to be edited or removed from context.

 

 

So, that’s it!  That’s the only exchange out of alllllllll of them that have become public which I find interesting.  Not admirable necessarily or intelligent or poetic or any of that, but interesting.

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26 thoughts on “People Talking About Talking About Things: Sonam Versus Kangana

  1. Because Kangana has never said a consistent thing in her entire public life it’s hard to take her seriously. Also she loves playing the victim so much, I can’t roll my eyes enough. What Sonam said is what most of us want to say. So yeah go Sonam don’t get bitten by the diplomacy bug. Call a spade a spade. Well well.. so you need great acting talent to start speaking now?? Also, talking of sonam’s filmy connections with her own political connections is a bit rich coming from Kangana.

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    • What’s especially odd is in this context, Kangana saying Sonam has no right to speak when what they are talking about is women’s right to speak. Sonam avoids that, she indicates that Kangana is inconsistant and talks a lot but does not say she has no right to talk. It’s just such an odd and interesting exchange to me, in the context of discussing women’s stories and women’s truth.

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  2. I feel Sonam made misstep here by making it about Kangana. If we were to believe stores like the one from below, she must have known about Vikas Bahl.

    https://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/bollywood/imran-khan-on-me-too-movement-bollywood-vikas-bahl-5394015/

    Why would you expect Kangana to walk away from a movie because the director is a creep? Anushka Sharma, Ranbir Kapoor and even Hritik didn’t even though they must have known. Anurag Kashyap didn’t till he realized #MeToo bollywood version is going to hurt him. Why a different standard for her?

    Deafening silence from A-list stars can only mean one thing. They are afraid of the onslaught of stories. Take Rana for example. He is definitely royalty in Telugu film industry but he probably will never talk in support of #MeToo because his brother Abhiram Daggubati is called out by someone as a creep. Rana or his father must have at some point protected this guy!!

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    • I think Sonam realized she needed to be careful in what she said, her statement is very kind of airy and hard to pin down. She “knows these people” but she doesn’t know what she will do. No specifics about who she is talking about, or specific promises about what actions she will take. Very hard to disprove in anyway.

      With the Imraan link, I wonder how much of that that “everyone” knew was divided by gender and access? There is that creepy “all boys together” kind of knowledge, where a man may reveal terrible things to another man because he assumes they are all like that. And there’s also the possibility of certain actors/actresses being protected and kept far far away from the messy reality of things like this. I’m not talking about Sonam necessarily, or Hrithik (although I could believe that of both of them, they both have very protective fathers), but anyone in their similar position could have been carefully isolated so that any kind of misbehavior was kept from them. The actress who is kept separate with her parents on set all day every day, the actor who is driven too and from the location and stays alone in a 5 star hotel, it would be possible to not know these things. Unlikely, but possible. If Alia Bhatt comes out and says “i had no idea”, I might believe her just because she has been so protected, for instance.

      Oh, and I am only frustrated with Kangana because she specifically is claiming that she knew all along and took a brave stand when no one else did, and we can look at her actions and words and know that is untrue.

      Interesting point about the reason for the silence. I think you are right, and the trick of it is, even if they want to speak out, they know that they will then be blamed for behavior of people they are responsible for. I would want them to speak out anyway, and if a friend or relative is caught up, say “yes, I knew he did this and it broke my heart but that doesn’t mean I condone his actions”. Like what Imraan is admitting, he knew all along and hated it and said nothing because there was nothing he could do. That’s okay, I’ll believe them if they say there was nothing they could do and no way to speak up, I’d rather that than continue the silence.

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  3. I think this is one of the few times where I find Sonam’s responses(on Instagram) appropriate.As for Kangana, what kind of a ‘think’ leader is she , if lashing out is her standard way of responding. Even if Sonam’s first remark was intended maliciously, a ‘think’ leader would have the ‘thought’ to issue a balanced reply,if she chose to respond at all-‘I will demolish them all’ are the kind of statements my 4 year old says to his cartoon figures. I find Kangana’s statements going increasingly weird & stupid. The subversion of her original statement on Vikas Bahl , to suit the current situation where there’s a clear wave of anger & disgust against him. She’s exactly like the people she mentioned in her own statement. I think that part was added to preempt any question on being opportunistic on her part to speak against him now.
    On what it means to be a true supporter of a victim of abuse, Ash stands miles ahead, maybe because she was a victim herself.
    https://www.bollywoodlife.com/news-gossip/exclusive-stree-actress-flora-saini-on-joining-the-metoo-movement-when-the-entire-world-was-against-me-aishwarya-rai-bachchan-supported-me/

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    • Thank you! What an interesting link. First, and most of all, I have been wondering if domestic violence would ever be part of this discussion. Maybe not, since the story is trying to swing this as more “harassment”, the focus being on the actress/producer relationship and not that it was intimate partner violence. But she is right, Aish did the right thing, simply leaving the project without making a big fuss about being a heroine, but also not hiding the reason.

      Kangana’s second statement reminds me of Hrithik’s story about getting messages from her that were just strings of abuses. Very disturbing.

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      • Does the MeToo movement include domestic abuse too ? Thinking back on the Weinstein case, it was more about a man in position abusing his power to harass & dominate a woman rt? Of course when the man in power also happens to be your ex, it kinda takes the stress to unimaginable levels? Again this is why for all of her practised persona, Ash commands admiration. She had told her story back then also-to be ignored completely & dropped from films. I can’t imagine SRK getting away(even from you)with dropping Deepika from his film if Ranveer made a scene at the shoot , in today’s environment.

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        • It doesn’t include domestic abuse in America and I wish it did. Sean Penn for instance has given some nice supportive statements about #MeToo and there are small voices pointing out that he tied up and tortured his wife for hours, who is he to talk about proper behavior towards women? Maybe it was something he has outgrown and never done again, but if so he should still acknowledge and own that part of his past especially when talking about being a feminist.

          So, India! This is your chance to do better! Don’t just imitate America, give us a better example! You can do it! I believe in you!

          What’s tricky about domestic abuse, obviously, is that the victim doesn’t always see herself as a “victim” or ask for or want help. Which is why I like Aish’s response of not working with the abuser when she heard he was abusive, she didn’t reach out to the victim or try to help her because she didn’t know if she would accept help. But she still made a statement that abusive behavior is unacceptable in a society. That’s what I would like to see, more people in the Indian film industry saying “I won’t work with so-and-so because he beats his wife and that is not acceptable behavior in a society”. And then if so-and-so comes out and says “you are right, that was a terrible thing I did and I was in the wrong and I am trying to do better”, that’s certainly possible too. But I don’t like it being swept under the rug, or else people pretending it isn’t wrong at all.

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  4. I am appalled the media isn’t questioning both Kangana and Hrithik. Like you noted, when Kangana was asked this question a while ago she gave the most generic, safe answer. Now that everyone is talking and outraging about it, she has a fiery response. Even Hrithik knew about this assault case well before he started shooting. It had come out in mumbaimirror and Anurag distanced himself from Vikas Bahl around then. Why does he have this sudden realization in his statement? Shouldn’t he have been a little more responsible before he started the movie or did he think the storm would just pass. As for Kangana, her modus operandi has always been “Offence is the best form of defence”.

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    • I’m not necessarily that angry with either of them, I just wish they wouldn’t be hypocrites. You can say “I didn’t believe it, Vikas told me it was just rumors spread by Anurag, and now I do and I am sorry”. There’s no need to either claim “I had absolutely positively no idea whatever” or “I knew all along and was angry before anyone else”. It’s okay to say “I didn’t fully understand or have complete details, it was confusing, I wasn’t sure, I should have found out more and been more careful and now I will be”. Which is exactly what Anurag is saying, and I appreciate that, he isn’t trying to duck responsibility, he is acknowledging that he was wrong before he was right.

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    • Well, to be fair, the question was “how do you think people from the film industry will react to the Vikas Bahl story?” So she was talking about people from the film industry. Just not very articulately.

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    • What I really appreciate about Imraan’s statement is that he seems to have a handle on talking about things without being in denial or taking too much or too little responsibility. I would rather someone come out and say “this is what was happening around me, it made me uncomfortable” than say “I was blind BLIND until this very moment!!!!” which is clearly false, or else trying to rewrite history to make themselves a hero. I think both Kangana and Sonam failed here, Kangana for going too far instead of just saying “he made me uncomfortable but I wasn’t sure what to do about it”. And Sonam for not quite going far enough, pretending she had no idea at all. Imraan hit the perfect middle line (to me) of both discussing what he saw but not making himself into a hero.

      It also, hopefully, will encourage more people to come forward with a similar “I wasn’t perfect, but I was a witness” kind of attitude. It came up in another comment that the leading stars may not feel they have a right to say anything because they are so connected and intertwined. That’s not good, I don’t want people to stay silent because they feel complicit. Just say what you saw, apologize for your part in it, and let everyone else take care of their own guilt. It kind of already came up, Twinkle got slammed for supporting Tanushree when Akshay is in a movie with Nana now. But should she have stayed silent?

      On Wed, Oct 10, 2018 at 11:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

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