This happened in 2003, when I was visiting Mumbai. One of the top superstars of our entertainment industry - let's call him Bratty Superstar (BS) molested the stunning scion of Bollywood's first family - let's call her the Diva - in my hotel room.
Eyewitnesses included the Bratty Superstar's faithful bodyguard and my dear friend, the Epic Director (who understandably doesn't want to be named).
And of course, the molestation - there's no doubt it was that - was staged for me.
Let me recreate the incident of that horrific night. The venue was my hotel room in Mumbai, where all of us had gathered after dinner. I had landed in Mumbai that evening, and the Diva (who at that time was a dear friend) and the Epic Director (who remains a close friend) had come to receive me at the airport.
Somewhere during the evening, the Bratty Superstar decided to join us. My consent was not sought. He wanted it. He got it. He was drinking throughout the evening, non-stop. From the beginning, he sensed my guarded hostility and decided to try every attention-seeking tactic in his armoury. I ignored all of them. By the time we were in my hotel room that evening I just wanted to be alone and get some sleep.
But Bratty Superstar had other plans. He plonked himself on my bed at 2 am, in no mood to end the evening. The Diva sat comfortably beside him.
"Let's give him a real scoop," Bratty Superstar suddenly whooped, and pounced - yes, pounced - on the Diva, pinning her down on the bed.
Stunned beyond any action, I was frozen in my chair. I thought Diva would scream and slap him.
But no. She squealed and cooed and giggled, "Stop it. Stop it." Like one would ask a child to stop playing with a noisy toy.
I told them to leave my room immediately and wanted to return home the next morning. But the Diva phoned me and pacified me. "Don't be upset. He's like that only. He doesn't mean any harm. He's the sweetest."
I was confused. The powerful superstar violates the Diva's space, and he's sweet?
Now, when I think back on this clear case of molestation, two thoughts come to mind. First, do empowered stars feel it is morally proper for them to behave as they like with women? Secondly, was such a violation not molestation because the lady didn't disapprove?
The lines between approval and violation and between harmless fun and serious molestation have always been vague and blurred in our entertainment industry, and not only because big heroes decided the rules of the gender dynamics, but also because women often allow such behaviour for their own reasons. It could be to humour the superstars to further their careers or because they genuinely don't mind being pushed around as long as the one doing it is empowered.
I have seen heroines giggle and suck up to powerful heroes. Not all of them, mind you. You would never see an Aishwarya Rai or a Madhuri Dixit kowtowing to masculine bullying at their workplace or during leisure time. But for every Aishwarya there are 20 actresses and starlets who laugh at bad, sexist jokes cracked by superstars because… well… he runs the show. And we don't want him to get upset, do we?
(Subhash K Jha is a film critic and movie expert)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)