Choreographer Saroj Khan sparked a controversy on Tuesday when she defended the “casting couch” in the film industry. The term is a euphemism for the practice whereby an aspiring actress (largely) is awarded a role in a film or play in return for granting sexual favours to its director or producer.
Khan claimed it was unfair to target the industry for the sexual exploitation of women as it happened elsewhere too, PTI reported. At least the film industry provides a livelihood to aspiring women actors, she said.
“This has been going on for ages, it’s not new,” Khan said at a press conference in Maharashtra’s Sangli. “Someone or the other always tries to take advantage of girls. Government officials also do this, why are you only targeting the film industry? This industry provides livelihood at least – does not rape and abandon you.”
After being criticised for the comment, she apologised for the statement in an interview with CNN-News18.
Khan had made the remarks when a reporter asked her to comment on actress Sri Reddy’s recent protest against the casting couch culture in the Telugu film industry. On April 7, Reddy stripped in protest in public outside the premises of the Telugu Film Chambers of Commerce. She had claimed that top producers and directors in the industry asked women for sexual favours to give them work.
Khan said women would not give in demands for sexual favours if they were confident about their talents. “It is up to the girl, what she wants to do,” Khan said. “If you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands, you won’t. If you have the art, why would you sell yourself? Do not blame the film industry, it means everything to us.”
In response, Sri Reddy said she had lost respect for the veteran choreographer after her remarks. “Being an elder, you should give a good path to young actresses,” she told ANI. “It is giving a wrong indication that you have to be a slave to producers.”