Bollywood star tells audience at Sharjah book fair that movement’s credibility must not be compromised by “speaking out of turn”
Soha Ali Khan talking about her book The Perils of Being Moderately Famous at the Sharjah book fair on Sunday. She also fielded questions from the audience and spoke on MeToo in India.
Sharjah: The ‘MeToo’ movement against sexual harassment in India should not be misused to destroy people’s reputation, Bollywood star Soha Ali Khan told fans in Sharjah on Saturday.
The 40-year-old Hindi film actress made the comments while responding to a question from the audience during a talk at Sharjah International Book Fair about her book ‘The Perils of Being Moderately Famous’.
“When people speak out in numbers, there’ll be people who speak out of turn, they might misuse the movement. That is what I would appeal to women and men not to do.”
— Soha Ali Khan
At the end of the talk, a woman asked Khan about her thoughts on “India breaking silence on MeToo”. Khan replied that the movement’s credibility must not be compromised by people “speaking out of turn” or “misusing” it to “label” others.
MeToo in India follows MeToo in Hollywood where it gained momentum after a series of allegations against former movie producer Harvey Weinstein surfacing around a year ago.
The hashtag #MeToo has gone viral on social media since then.
In India, MeToo spread rapidly around a month ago following film actress Tanushree Dutta’s allegations against Nana Patekar, also a film actor, of sexual harassment. MeToo has seen many women calling out their alleged harassers from the film industry and the government sector.
On Saturday, Khan said: “I think it’s very important for them to tell their stories, it’s very important for investigations to happen and for the truth to prevail. And if the people in question are innocent, that they will have a chance to prove their innocence.”
She added that “when it comes to things like reputation” people should weigh the facts carefully “because once you are labelled, it’s very difficult to distance yourself from that reputation”.
Artists from Japan – Sharjah International Book Fair’s Guest of Honour – delight crowds with a classical music concert. Courtesy: SIBF
Khan said: “But on the whole I think it’s a movement that I welcome wholeheartedly and I really stand with women who have found the courage to tell their stories.”
Khan said MeToo in India has not taken as much momentum as MeToo in the West but it was moving in the right direction. “There are a lot of women who are still not speaking up, a lot of men who are not being called out.”
However, she also said “when people speak out in numbers, there will be people who will speak out of turn, then they might misuse the movement. And that is what I would appeal again to women and men not to do that, not to take away from the credibility of the movement because it is a very important movement and it’s high time it happened.”
Khan added that women for too long have been told “almost insidiously” that harassment “is your lot as a woman”. She said women are expected to “just shrug it off if you’re interested in getting ahead in your career. Otherwise you’ll be labelled as a woman who is ‘difficult to work with’; people will not want to work with you, etc, etc”.
Khan later signed copies of her book for fans at the book fair, which ends on Saturday at Expo Centre.