Sexual harassment at work: Tarun Tejpal case makes 'Inkaar' relevant

Written by Priyanka Sinha Jha | Mumbai | Updated: Nov 30 2013, 19:41pm hrs
Tarun TejpalOne remembers Inkaar for its rather accurate and sensitive telling of a rather complicated subject.
Real life stories, unfortunately, are not so forgiving. And real life battles not always between equals. If one were to make allowance for cinematic liberty, bearing in mind the ugly reality around us, Inkaar certainly held up a mirror to it, which is among the significant functions of good, thought provoking cinema.

Of all the outrage that followed Tehelka boss Tarun Tejpal scandal, especially on social networking sites, there was a comment which caught my attention in particular. It was about the likelihood of film-makers Madhur Bhandarkar and Ram Gopal Varma being in a race to make a film on the shameful episode as it were.

As it turns out, they have already been beaten at the turnstiles, a film on sexual harassment at workplace was released earlier this year. Inkaar by Sudhir Mishra did not create a huge stir at the box-office, but one remembers the film for its rather accurate and sensitive telling of a rather complicated subject. A story about two leading ad executives Rahul and Maya played by Arjun Rampal and Chitrangada Singh. Rahul, the CEO of the agency, is accused of sexual harassment by Maya, a former protge, who returns to his life and the agency only to supersede him in the power stakes. A committee is set up to examine the charges and the facts that emerge are telling but so complex and intertwined that it is difficult to separate the black and white.

Against the backdrop of the recent unfortunate incident of a young journalist being sexually attacked bringing to light misdemeanours of her mentor, Inkaar, seems more relevant now than ever before. What the film establishes is that workplace dalliances especially those between a superior and his/her subordinate are fraught with danger and the lines of what is acceptable behaviour often blurred. It also established that men, especially those in positions of power at workplace, have a sense of entitlement that prevents them from considering transgressions as objectionable. Rahul, played by Arjun Rampal, a good-looking, successful and popular man is unable to handle the changed dynamics when Maya, resurfaces in the agency and nips him to the plum post. That they shared a romantic association in the distant past only muddies the water further. Rahuls inability to accept an altered power equation and subsequent mishandling of the situation send both Maya and him hurtling from one conflict to another till its all a big, sorry mess of a situation.

After a series of conversations, questions and answers of the committee probing the matter, guilt is established, but this being a Hindi film, eventually, good sense prevails; but not before scarring both of them. Real life stories, unfortunately, are not so forgiving. And real life battles not always between equals. If one were to make allowance for cinematic liberty, bearing in mind the ugly reality around us, Inkaar certainly held up a mirror to it, which is among the significant functions of good, thought provoking cinema.

Bollywood movies do that in different ways. And the line of creativity that divides chronicling from glorification, is often a fine one. Film protagonists when they walk the wrong side, always run the danger of making bad look good, but if cinema constantly spurned happy resolutions, it would deprive its audience of hope. After all, often the pursuit of that mythical happily-ever-after scenario is what keeps us going. All would be lost if we lost hope in our movies. To cite an example of reality altering art, Rang De Basanti sparked a thousand flames that helped slain model Jessica Lals family get justice.

Hopefully, whenever that film about the brave girl who had the courage to speak out is made, it will have a happy blend of fact and fiction; the story of justice delivered, not denied. Now, that would make for the perfect happy ending.