The Kangana-Hrithik affair, imagined or otherwise, can only be likened to an interminably long nine-course dinner. The first couple of courses were fun, tickling the taste buds of an audience sniffing the air in anticipation. After all, how often do we get to see our proper, put-together, not a toe-out-of-line (at least publicly) 'stars' roll up their sleeves and fling fistfuls of mud at each other over the terminology used to describe their apparently clandestine affair? It is hard to believe, and remember, that the whole sordid mess became a matter of public record with someone calling someone else a "silly ex".
By the time you reach the sixth or the seventh course, you start to tire of even the most exotic ingredients. And by the eighth or the ninth course, the pants begin to pinch and chafe at the waist, making you secretly wish you'd stayed home in your holey pyjamas and eaten leftovers from lunch instead of signing up for the gourmet nightmare you can't politely exit from.
Even as one can't wait for the final course of this no-longer-palatable meal to roll in so we can all go home and go to sleep, for now, we must fork what's in front of us and swallow it. And right now, that happens to be Farhan Akhtar with an eloquently worded open letter about an open letter. How meta. Without naming either Hrithik Roshan, or Kangana Ranaut, he weighs in with his opinion of everything that's wrong in the way the public responded to the affair.
In the letter, Akhtar spends a lot of time talking about how, when it comes to victim-blaming and repression, traditionally, it is the woman who is the victim, which he finds unacceptable, as evidenced by the foundation of MARD (Men Against Rape & Discrimination) by him. He then goes on to helpfully explain the difference between "all" and "most", a concept too difficult to grasp for the average human brain, apparently.
Akhtar then says that in the interest of "objectivity and fairness" he absolutely "must speak up" in this particular instance.
And so he does — about how reputed journalists have, possibly without realising it, pushed Ranaut's side of the story, effectively painting Roshan as the guilty party. Akhtar finds it worrisome that Ranaut's version has been taken at face value. Ironically, all the inconsistencies he points out in her narrative are things that have been widely reported, questioned and commented upon by the very media he so unhesitatingly chastises.
At the heart of Akhtar's soliloquy is the prospect that in giving the benefit of the doubt to the woman in this case, the man may have, inadvertently, been discriminated against.
All of these are noble intentions, undoubtedly. As a person with immense power to shape public opinion, Akhtar should absolutely stand up for those that he believes to be victims of unfairness. But discrimination is a big word to throw around, especially without completely understanding its ramifications.
And reading Akhtar's letter, one can't help but feel that he, like so many others in Bollywood, just doesn't get it.
As national celebrities with immense reach and star-power in their own right, neither Ranaut nor Roshan is what one can call ill-equipped to defend themselves, or hire a battery of lawyers, publicists and spin doctors to do it for them. Not naming them, or simply calling them "a man" and "a woman", like Akhtar did, is not going to change the fact that both come from a place of incredible power and privilege. By virtue of that fact alone, the thought that the media — that frankly doesn't care for either one more than the other — would randomly decide to discriminate against one of the two is slightly perplexing.
Does Akhtar believe that journalists have some strange anti-men agenda that they are unable to fathom or rise above? As a rank insider of an industry so extensively covered that actors, without a hint of irony, send out press releases about their 'airport looks', knowing full well that it will get them some press, somewhere, it is laughable that Akhtar would seriously propose it is we who haven't allowed Roshan's voice to be heard.
The only reason Ranaut's narrative has dominated news cycle every time the topic has come up is that she has been around, exercising her right to speak about her life the way she deems fit, just as Roshan exercised his to remain silent. He chose not to defend himself for reasons best known to him. When you do that, you always run the risk of people believing your adversary because theirs is the only voice they get to hear. That's logic, not a secret media conspiracy.
Unfortunately, that's just how news and commentary work. Just as Ranaut has had to bear the brunt of being too outspoken about her alleged mistreatment at the hands of her various past lovers by being ridiculed by wholly unconcerned third parties, Roshan has had to pay the price of silence. Each bears the burden of their choices. Where is the discrimination in that?
Now that Roshan has finally decided to speak up and put forth his truth, every news platform in the country is clamouring to interview him and get his side of the story. All it took was one Facebook post from him. If Roshan's version of the events that unfolded is true, he is a victim of cyber stalking and harassment, but certainly not of discrimination
It is true that Ranaut has the uncanny ability to land on her feet no matter how ugly the controversies she gets embroiled in. It is also true that she has managed to cement her position as the poster-girl of feminism in an industry as sexist as Bollywood. That's not always because everyone uniformly agrees with her opinion, but simply because she dares to speak about topics no one else does. How many Bollywood stars, the ones that enjoy a lot more wealth and power than her, would be willing to risk their neck and make enemies of the very people they depend on to give them work? Her fearlessness in addressing unpleasant issues is what made her admirable to so many women who grapple with similar situations in their own lives, not this odious never-ending saga with Roshan.
In the case of who cyber stalked and hacked whose account, Ranaut might enjoy the benefit of doubt because she's a woman, but it certainly hasn't insulated her from being called a liar when the situation has warranted it.
To insinuate that feminists are so blinded by their zeal to ensure that a woman gets justice that they are willing to knowingly sacrifice an innocent man in the pursuit is a grievous insult to sane, fair-minded equal rights crusaders like Akhtar himself.
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