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Tanushree Dutta reveals why she brought up allegations of sexual harassment

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MUMBAI: Tanushree Dutta who helped trigger the #MeToo movement in India challenging sexual harassment and abuse sees it as part of her religious education after a distasteful experience 10 years ago effectively ended her career.

“I feel God used me to start something which had to happen,” Tanushree Dutta told Reuters. “All these women had this buried deep in their hearts out of shame.”

Dutta, who said she was inspired by Christianity, Buddhism, yoga and the #MeToo movement in the United States, said last month that prominent actor Nana Patekar had sexually harassed her on the set of a movie in 2008.

Patekar has denied wrongdoing.

Dutta said Patekar, 67, had demanded she do intimate dance steps with him in one song in the romantic comedy Horn OK Pleassss. When she refused members of a far right-wing Hindu group attacked her car while she was in it, including jumping on the roof and trying to smash the windscreen.

Dutta, who walked out of the movie, went public with the allegations the same day, but was threatened with legal action by the Hindu group and felt so shamed by those questioning her story and by the way the Indian media treated her that she left Bollywood altogether and went to live in the United States.

Other than a few bit parts, she hasn’t worked in a movie since.

Nana Patekar

“All of that disgusted me – it took my faith and confidence from the industry,” she said in an interview. “I didn’t want to work here. I still kept in touch and did some work which needed short-term commitments.”

Rajendra Shirodkar, Patekar’s lawyer, has sent Dutta a legal notice asking her to apologise to Patekar or face further legal action. He hasn’t specified what that action would be.

The far-right group, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), this month filed a complaint with the police against Dutta for comments she made about their chief. The police, in turn, filed a defamation case against Dutta, currently under investigation, based on the MNS complaint.

Dutta, on holiday in Mumbai, said she hadn’t intended to bring up the issue in public again until she was asked by a reporter whether the #MeeToo movement would ever come to India.

“My answer was that if what happened to me 10 years ago hasn’t been addressed and hasn’t been brought to justice, then how can any movement happen here?” Dutta said. She then repeated her allegations from 2008.

The subsequent story on the Zoom TV channel set off a barrage of other stories in the Indian media about her allegations.

This time, though, she didn’t back off.

“I knew I had to keep the dialogue going … and other women would speak out. I was in it deep – there was no way out. I was not going to cow down – not the second time for sure,” she said.

Within days of her story hitting the headlines, a wave of allegations – largely against figures in the media and entertainment industries – has swept across social media in India.

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Music, Dance and Mehwish are Chhalawa only saving grace

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Rating: 2.5/5

Chhalawa is a story of a very traditional family. Chaudhary Rafaqat (Mehmood Aslam) has two daughters and a son. The elder one is Zoya (Mehwish Hayat) who went to city for higher studies and now wants to marry the love of her life Sameer (Azfar Rehman) whom she met during her studies. His second daughter Haya (Zara Noor Abbas) is a fired up girl, who usually lives in her own fantasy world of films, desperate to fall in love and loves to dance in her room on Lollywood songs. His son Haroon (Ashir Wajahat) is another character, blunt slightly manner less but loves his sisters.

From here, the age-old story begins that Chaudhary wants his daughter Zoya to marry his nephew, as it is a tradition to marry girls in the family, Zoya resists and conflict begins.

The first half of the movie is still bearable where at least some kind of story is developing, after interval; it nosedives and leaves the audience wondering what is happening. For example, first song makes sense but second was there because someone wants it to be. No effort was made to put some sense in it.

The story is simple, it is told several hundred times before, both in Bollywood and in Pakistani Cinema, and then extra level of creativity is required to make it interesting. Unfortunately, that is the biggest issue with Chhalawa. Scenes lasting for several minutes, borderline jokes and most of all, Zoya’s letters to her mother were a big question mark.

With a star like Mehwish Hayat, if the movie is still not able to pull the audience in, then to an extent it is a crime.

Wajahat Rauf’s Chhalawa is particularly disappointing for many, because people considered it a third time charm. Surprisingly, all the actors in the film performed very well despite having a weak script and practically limited room to perform.

The biggest surprise is by far the Zara Noor Abbas who played Haya, Mehwish’s younger sister. Zara turns out to be someone who handles her comic timings well, she is sharp and witty, and yet cute enough to keep the audience engaged. She danced quite well in couples of scenes. Ashir Wajahat also performed better than expected, although his character did not have much to do except for a scene or two.

Although, Azfar Rehman looks good on screen, however I am unable to understand his character, at one time he wants to commit suicide, then he plans to win Zoya’s father heart, then he just runs away when she asked him and without making a scene leaves her when she asked him to do so.

Mehmood Aslam in his role is picture perfect until the climax where he insisted on carrying out his daughter’s Nikah after he was shot.

Mehwish Hayat as usual shines bright even in this very limited role. She did well when she was playing a lover, arguing with her father, running away from home and coming back and again succumbing to her father pressure, but her biggest wins are two songs i.e. ‘Chhalawa’ and ‘Chiriya’ where she danced her heart out. Wahab Shah’s Choreography was engaging and full of fun, that is the only positive that you can come out with in the entire saga of over 2 hours.

Only thing that can save this film is music; Shiraz Uppal did very well giving not one but two already hit songs to Pakistani Cinema.

This is the weakest ever Mehwish Hayatfilm by any standard, with films like Na Maloom Afraad, Actor in Law, Punjab Nahi Jaungi the superstar stumbles at the last ball of the over.

You can opt to watch Chhalawa if you like song and dance numbers and that too from Mehwish Hayat and if you are ready to leave your brain outside the cinema hall.

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ART Alert!

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Escape Through Art II curated by Mahaa Malik. Featuring the brilliant artists from all over Pakistan!

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I Wanted To Come With A New Story This Time

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Wajahat Rauf is a well-known Pakistani director, actor, screenwriter, producer, singer and host. He has the credit of many firsts of Pakistan on his shoulders from becoming the head of first youth-based entertainment channel AAG TV to the director of first Pakistani web series Enaaya starring Mehwish Hayat, which was shown on Eros International last year. Wajahat has established his own production company Showcase Films under which he has produced two successful comedy feature films Karachi Se Lahore (2015) and Lahore Se Aagey (2016) and over 25 television dramas. He has also started his youtube channel ‘Showcase Tv’ on which he is hosting a very popular satirical/comedy show ‘Vice Over Man’ in which he invites top notch showbiz celebrities of Pakistan and ask them some witty and funny questions. Being a staunch music lover, Wjahat has also produced many music videos; the recent one is Talaash also featuring his son Aashir Wajahat.  

His upcoming film, Chhalawa, releasing on Eid al-Fitr, is a “lighthearted love story” that is directed, produced and written by him. We talked to this multi-talented man from the idea casting and storyline of his upcoming flick.

We were expecting Karachi Se Lahore 2 this year but instead you have come up with Chhalawa?  How this idea came into your mind?

I had this idea in my mind for last three to four years. I discussed it too with to a few people. Then I shelved it for some period as I became busy in Karachi Se Lahore 3. I wrote the script of KSL3 and did some rehearsals but in the end I thought that it was going to be exactly as same as my first two movies. So, instead of presenting same type of story that is about road trip and comedy for even the third time consecutively, I thought it was better that I make a family rom-com film. Chhalawa is a family based story focusing more on sibling and father-daughter relations including romance and comedy.

You choose the super stars of industry as the heroines (female lead) but avoid casting a super star as heroes (male lead) of your films. Any big reason?

I think if you want to play in main stream cinema, one lead (from hero and heroine) of the film should be stronger, bigger and larger than other. It can be a female lead or male lead. Cinema needs a pull for the audience as ticket prices are high up to 800. So the factor of big names like Mehwish Hayat and Saba Qamar attract cine goers. So you need to have a one big star in a movie to pull the audience. I might change this formula in my next film where I cast a big name as hero (make lead) and a new comer as heroine (female lead).  But what I think is one big star is necessary or enough to pull audience towards cinema or for a successful film.

It doesn’t mean that film industry will not welcome new comers. My whole career is based around and introducing new talent.

You have shown a Punjabi culture in the film. Where have you mostly shot the film?

Surprisingly, most of our filming is in Karachi and Sindh. Locations include a haveli in Badin, and many more places of interior Sindh. We had our shooting in Punjab as well but for a few days only.

How many songs and dances in are in the film?

There are four songs in the film, in which two are dance based while other two are montage based. Whab Shah has choreographed the dances. He has done an excellent job. One dance number has been included in the trailer and second one is Chirya.  

Lasltly, tell us about your character in the film. We have not seen any glimpse in the trailer? Is it a surprise? My role? (Laughs) I am actually not fond of acting but there is a surprise about me in the film.

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