So which side of the Kangana Ranaut story are you on? What, did I hear your mumble, 'neither'? Oh, come on! Aren't 'leaked' pictures and accounts of 'close friends' splashed across tabloids compelling evidence of what transpired between two individuals? Not to mention our desi answer to the Red Woman, the family pandit of the Sumans, who also chipped in with his fascinating knowledge of 'pishachins' etc.
Well, you may be as familiar with the people in question as you are with craters on Saturn, but that shouldn't stop you from telling the world with great confidence who the hero in this story is, and who gets to be the villain.
Take for example, the interview DNA conducted with Adhyayan Suman a couple of days back. Not for once did the journalist conducting the interview clarify her motive behind seeking an unrelated third party's opinion on a squabble between two individuals. Neither did the publication or the author attempt to reach out to Kangana Ranaut to seek her response to very serious allegations of physical abuse levelled against her, despite that being a regular journalistic practice when dealing with subjects like these. Not just that, words like 'accused', 'alleged' - usual journalistic safeguards employed while publishing one-sided accounts such as these - were mostly done away with in the lede. Instead, you get leading questions like, 'Did she try to destroy your career?"
The interviewer was also convinced that the Sumans had gone through a 'hellish time' thanks to Adhyayan's association with Kangana. Here's the picture of Kangana the interview painted: vicious, destructive, violent, insecure, foul-mouthed, pompous, jealous, promiscuous, primitive, irrational. In effect, the paper gave one person a very impactful, powerful platform to malign a former girlfriend, colleague with abandon.
The absurdities of the interview notwithstanding, Adhyayan Suman did make a very grave allegation against Ranaut- that she was physically abusive. On several occasions, the interview revealed, Ranaut had hit and slapped Suman. Again, neither the person conducting the interview, nor us readers are privy to the exact nature of Suman's relationship with Ranaut. Yet, not only did social media split itself to deliver confident judgments on the personalities of Suman and Ranaut, several opeds were written, clearly taking sides on the issue. The reaction to a suggestion that a man may have been subjected to physical violence by a woman ranged from corny jokes to plain rejection, as if such a thing is not possible.
India Today, declared: "About a week after Adhyayan's 'soul-baring' interview, what it all looks like is one grand, carefully-crafted exercise in gaining sympathy. For people who have had the (mis)fortune of watching Adhyayan Suman 'act' on screen, are aware of his 'acting capabilities'."
The article concluded effectively declaring Suman a jealous nincompoop, out to leech off Ranaut's success. "And maybe Suman Junior will realise why he can never be anything more than Shekhar Suman's son. Or Kangana Ranaut's ex-boyfriend," it says in conclusion.
What the article completely fails to grasp or empathise with, is a man, like a woman, has complete autonomy on when and how he intends to come out with a story of abuse. The article makes no reference to the allegation of physical abuse even once, nearly implying that a man cannot be a victim of physical violence, and a woman cannot be a perpetrator. Worse still, how exactly is Adhyayan Suman's acting chops or the lack of them, a clear indicator that he has not been subjected to any kind of abuse? Also, just because he didn't make an impact as an actor, do we have to deny him his identity and endorse the idea that he be relegated to a being just someone's son, someone's ex, minus any individuality?
"But the other industry male, who is the anti-Hrithik, the utterly forgettable Adhyayan Suman, whose only flicker of Bollywood fame was that half-baked role in Razz 2, opposite, yes Kangana Ranaut - now somehow finds a voice by rattling out a bunch of superstitious toxic lies about the Bollywood queen," says an article on DailyO. The argument is the same - since Suman is pretty much a damp squib of an actor, he must be lying through his teeth about the allegations of physical violence. There's no logical way to relate the two, but they must be connected, insist oped writers of our times.
The complete disregard for objectivity while reporting and writing about the case points to a greater social malaise - our propensity to jump to conclusions without giving both sides a fair hearing. Like the reporter, who decided that every word spoken by Suman is gospel and hence refused to seek Ranaut's version of the story. In doing that, she basically made it clear that there is no dearth of enablers for people who attempt to pull a successful woman down by hurling the most stinging allegations, sans proof.
On the other hand, the reaction to the interview would convince any man, or his family, who has faced abuse to think twice before deciding to share his story. Because clearly, a man who is a victim of violence is not something we are ready to acknowledge.
What have we essentially managed to achieve by lending our biases to this Kangana-Adhyayan-Hrithik spat? Scaring other victims or potential victims off with our fearful display of prejudice. And extending slut-shamers the extra approval they were anyway doing great without.
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