Last year, when Salman Khan participated in a much watched, much talked about conclave, he was asked if he has come across any cases of casting couch or sexual harassment in Bollywood. The Tiger Zinda Hai star had said that he had not and if he were to know about it, he would take the person to the cleaner for the condition that ‘you have to sleep with me to get a job done is the most disgusting ever.’ Now, Shah Rukh Khan too has refused to accept that sexual harassment exists in Bollywood. Also Read - Dream11 IPL: Shah Rukh Khan Wishes Luck to Mumbai Indians-Chennai Super Kings Ahead of IPL Opener, Post Going Viral
On the heels of getting conferred with the Crystal Award honour at Davos, Shah Rukh Khan spoke to BBC’s Zeinab Badawi during her show Hard Talk. She put is rather bluntly, highlighting how the industry (Bollywood) that Khan works in is sexist where men get paid more than the women. She also brought up the #MeToo campaign in Hollywood and spoke about how Kangana Ranaut has publicly spoken about sexual assault and harassment. SRK was quizzed if he has ever witnessed a case where a woman faced sexual exploitation and harassment at the work place and if he had done anything about it. Also Read - Sushant Singh Rajput Case: Muzaffarpur Court Orders Salman Khan, Karan Johar And 7 Others to Appear
Without commenting of what goes on or doesn’t in the industry, Khan spoke about how things work on his sets. He said, “You know personally, at a level when I’m making films or working in films, we’re very clear about the attitude to women. Even the smallest aspects, of the names coming first in title, which is not going to do anything, but the kind of respectability.” Badawi pointed out that that seems like an empty gesture to which Shah Rukh admitted that, “You don’t have to push me too far to agree with this, but it’s a way of trying to say even this small thing needs to be done just to bring about the equality. Just see what we’ve reduced ourselves to.” Also Read - Kangana Ranaut Demands Apology From Sanjay Raut For His 'Haramkhor Ladki' Statement, Says ‘I am The Highest Paid Actor’
Coming back to sexual harassment, Badawi asked King Khan, who claims to be best friends with most of his women colleagues, if any of his fellow actors have confided in him about experiencing such a situation. To this Shah Rukh gave the most shocking answer. He said, “I’m very close to the women I work with. Nobody has said this. I’ve never personally been told on my sets.” So since it doesn’t happen on his sets, does that mean it doesn’t exist and that he has no inkling about its existence despite being in the industry for 25 years? Or the few women from films who have opened about this have done so just to gain some publicity?
I have to admit, this is the most disappointing interview of Shah Rukh Khan I have ever come across and this, along with what Salman has said earlier about casting couch in the industry reminds me of Kalki Koechlin’s theory of why sexual harassment in Bollywood will never get highlighted. She is of the opinion that “till there is no name to headline such an incident, little can be done about it.” With SRK’s latest statements about the pressing and important issue, there is little hope left.
(You can watch the clip of Shah Rukh Khan’s interview here and catch the full episode on BBC World News, on 31 January at 9 pm)