Mumbai: Veteran choreographer Saroj Khan's brazen comment that the casting couch "provides livelihood at least" in showbiz received a divided response. For some, it's the bitter truth and some found her comment derogatory. She later retracted and apologised
Congress leader Renuka Chowdhary supported Khan's view and said the Parliament too is not immune to the casting couch.
At an event in Sangli, Khan said: "Can I tell you one thing? This has been happening since the beginning of time. It hasn't started now. Someone or the other tries to take advantage of every other girl. The government's people do it too. Then why are you after the film industry?
"It provides livelihood at least. Does not rape and leave you. It depends on the girl, what she wants to do. If you don't want to fall in the wrong hands, you won't. If you have art, why would you sell yourself? Don't take the film industry's name."
A video of the comment was doing the rounds on social media on Tuesday.
Her comment left Twitterati in shock as many took it as a clean chit to the prevalence of the casting couch in the Indian film industry, which has largely remained mum in naming and shaming offenders despite speaking up in favour of the global #MeToo movement.
Khan, however, apologised for making the remark.
"Whatever the question, you don't know... You just know my answer. So it is sounding wrong. But anyhow, I am sorry. I apologise," Khan told IANS. When probed as to what was the question, Khan disconnected the call.
The comment comes in the wake of a debate which got intensified after southern actress Sri Reddy caused a stir by sitting semi-naked on a road in Hyderabad to protest against the casting couch menace in the film world.
Chowdhury supported Khan, saying: "Yes, it is the bitter truth. The whole film industry may get up in arms against me. It's just not in the film industry also, this happens everywhere in work spaces with women. It happens everywhere. So, don't imagine that the Parliament is immune or some other work space is immune. It's not.
"This happens with women everywhere. If you look at the western world today, established top actresses have taken this long to come out and say 'Me too'. It's time India stood up and say 'Me too'."
From the film fraternity, Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor said he has never faced the casting couch, but it is "worse" if it exists. And Richa Chadha felt the media was blowing Khan's statement out of proportion as what she meant was why was Bollywood being singled out when it happens everywhere.
Filmmaker Ashoke Pandit slammed Khan.
"I didn't expect such derogatory and uncalled for statements from a veteran like Saroj Khan and totally condemn it. Our entertaiment industry, like all other industries respects women. Exploitation of women is a crime and should be fought in all spheres of life," Pandit tweeted.
Actress Shruti Seth wrote: "The right intent but very, very wrong words. Again, women are made incumbent to stop injustice against themselves and men have been absolved of their participation. Stop the practice of sexual exploitation. In whichever industry it exists, it's wrong.
Sophie Choudry commented: "So much respect for Sarojji as a choreographer but this is how she uses her position to protect girls? If I didn't come from a financially sound background, I would have returned to London within a month of being in Mumbai because of industry folk who think like that."