Don’t target Bollywood for ‘casting couch’ as it’s consensual, provides livelihood: Choreographer Saroj Khan

Don't target Bollywood for 'casting couch' as it's consensual, provides livelihood: Choreographer Saroj Khan
The veteran choreographer later apologised for her statement

Veteran choreographer Saroj Khan stoked controversy on Tuesday after she seemingly defended ‘casting couch’ in Bollywood by stating that it was based on consent and at the very least provided livelihood to so many people.

Khan, who is known for some of the most iconic dance performances in the industry, was addressing a press conference earlier today when she was asked to comment on the sexual harassment allegations made by Telugu film actress Sri Reddy.

“Yeh chala aa raha hai Baba azam ke zamaane se. Har ladki ke upar koi na koi haath saaf karne ki koshish karta hai. Govt ke log bhi karte hain. Tum film industry ke peeche kyun pade ho? Woh kam se kam roti toh deti hai. Rape karke chhod toh nahi deti. (This has been going on for ages. Everybody wants to take advantage of a girl, even the government employees. Why are you after the film industry? At least they provide a livelihood. They don’t leave someone after raping them),” ANI quoted the choreographer saying.

“Yeh ladki ke upar hai ki tum kya karna chahti ho. Tum uske haath mein nahi aana chahti ho toh nahi aaogi. Tumhare paas art hai toh tum kyun bechoge apne aap ko? Film industry ko kuch mat kehna, woh humaara mai-baap hai. (It is up to the girl as to what she wants to do. If you don’t want to give in, you don’t have to. If you have the skills and art, why would you sell yourself? Don’t say anything about the film industry, it is our godfather)”

The statement drew sharp criticism from netizens and Bollywood personalities, with many opining that defending the casting couch under any circumstance was morally and ethically incorrect.

Singer and former VJ Sophie Choudry was among the celebrities who slammed the comments.

“So much respect for Saroj ji 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 cos of “industry folk” who think like that!!,” she wrote on Twitter.

Amid the backlash, the three-time National Award winner issued an apology on live TV. The apology, however, did little to please actress Sri Reddy, who also condemned her statement.

“I lost respect for you Saroj ma’am. Being an elder you should give a good path to young actresses. It is giving a wrong indication that you have to be a slave to producers,” Reddy said.

Reddy’s allegations about the rampant sexual harassment in the Telugu film industry came days after many Bollywood celebrities shared similar experiences on media platforms. The revelations were inspired by Hollywood’s #MeToo movement.

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