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MeToo: Two-faced stars

According to the grapevine a top Hindi film actor, who took a public stand in support of #MeToo, has quietly paid an astronomical sum to a young actress to “keep her mouth shut"

Published 24.11.18, 06:00 PM

Since April 2017, I have watched and kept close to my heart a poignant situation in Hemanta Kumar’s family. When Hemantada’s granddaughter, Payal, daughter of Jayant (Babu) and actress Moushumi Chatterjee, fell into a diabetic coma and was hospitalised, it was heartrending for all of us. Her parents and sister, Megha, kept vigil and watched with concern as she came out of it but had to undergo brain surgery for a haemorrhage. She never regained consciousness after that and has been in a coma ever since.

Although Moushumi herself was known as quite a brat in her heyday, sometimes because she could take on any hero, however big, if he said anything off-colour to her, she and Babu brought up two of the most well-behaved little girls in the film industry. When Payal got married to Dicky Sinha, and there was a celebration at the Sun-n-Sand, none of us present there could’ve guessed how tragic this partnership was going to be. Or what a heavy price Payal, Moushumi and Babu would be paying for it.


It was only after her family saw her long and still continuing comatose condition that they began to realise what had led her to this state. The chirpy, warm girl who happily picked up a drink or tucked into a cookie was actually wilting away inside. She didn’t share with her parents that the man they trusted as their son-in-law was not who they thought he was. The truth was breaking her within but she covered it up by living her life with gay abandon. With Disney, where she did very well for years, suddenly whittling down their staff, the blows were too many for this heavily diabetic young girl to handle. Slipping into a diabetic coma was on the cards.

Over these months, I’ve visited Payal many a time — at the hospital, at her home — and chatted with her parents to keep their morale up but could see their gradual disillusionment with their son-in-law. When Payal lay in a coma, Babu told me sadly, “This is the age when we should be on that side (indicating her bed) and they should be watching us with concern. No parent should go through what we are.”

But their sorrows only got compounded. With showdowns and disputes over money and business with Dicky, it just got uglier, messier and sorrier. Moushumi and family do go to see Payal every day but the tension is heavy; there are cameras, there are time restrictions.

What was a personal and private sorrow has now unfortunately reached the courts. Their daughter in a coma and a legal battle on top of it — fingers crossed that this story ends well.

On a totally different note, there’s a strong rumour going around that a top Hindi film actor, who took a public stand in support of #MeToo and declared that he would not work with those who had been called out, has quietly paid an astronomical sum (Rs 20-30 crore is the whisper) to a young actress to “keep her mouth shut”. It is further rumoured that it was not because of blatant misbehaviour by the actor but because his stridently feminist wife wanted the matter settled to keep their reputation untainted. An exchange of charges between the actor and the young actress would’ve been ugly and unbecoming.

The actor had built himself a respectable name over the years. So, even if he liked to count his money, it was safer to pay up and quieten the actress than have her play with his hard-earned reputation.

However, the actress’s Twitter account continued to reflect her thoughts as she supported the idea that some of the men who were standing up for #MeToo were double-faced. She also retweeted a producer’s opinion on wives who knew what their husbands were up to but were still hypocritical enough to spout gyaan on feminism and the movement.

As in Hollywood, so in Mumbai: #MeToo will have its share of women who’ll make a neat buck by merely threatening to “out” a man.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author

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