‘I am proud of Tanushree didi’: Ishita Dutta Sheth breaks silence on her sister’s #MeToo battle against Nana Patekar – While Tanushree Dutta has been fighting a sexual harassment battle against Nana Patekar, spearheading the #MeToo Movement in India, her sister Ishita Dutta Sheth has strangely maintained a radio silence on the issue. Apart from one interview in which she reminisced the trauma they had gone through, the Drishyam actress hasn’t been forthcoming. After a lot of persuasion, Ishita agreed to speak to us. Excerpts:
While a lot of people have come out in support of Tanushree, you have chosen to stay away from it. Is it a deliberate call?
It’s not deliberate, but I have been with her all these years and seen whatever has happened in her life. It is a sensitive issue. When I saw the videos, again, and watched my father and sister, I relived the pain and trauma. I felt bad that they had to go through that. It angered me, too.
I was in college then, but I remember that day very clearly. It was traumatic for all of us in the family. We, of course, supported her, but it is something that scars you for life. She had spoken about it in 2008 also, and I am just happy that she finally got heard. The problem is that a lot of people ask ridiculous questions, which makes me angry and I don’t know how to react to it. That is one reason I stayed away. Moreover, I don’t need to show my support for her on social media. She is next to me, she is my sister, why should I put out a story on social media? I can tell her directly. Every day at home we are discussing things, what is happening, etc. My parents are there, my dad is doing all the legal paperwork and whatever else is required. Why do people expect us to show support on social media?
Tanushree has become the torchbearer for the #MeTooMovement in India. What do you feel about it?
It takes a lot for one person to stand up and speak and I am really proud of her. My sister kind of gave courage to a lot of other women who are speaking today. Hats off to her and all the women who are opening up (about sexual harassment) because it is not an easy fight. It is not just about talking, but what follows. People say a lot of bad as well as good things about you. For any person to talk about the traumatic incident and read nasty comments on social media is upsetting. I have been reading not just about my sister, but also others, where either they are disregarded or dubbed as untrue. I feel really sad, especially when I read comments implying that they are doing it for publicity. Some women who are on top of their game have come out in the open about sexual harassment, what publicity do they require? It is easy for people to sit behind their laptops and assassinate somebody’s character. Sadly, even women are doing it.
Despite what your sister went through, you entered the industry. Weren’t your parents apprehensive?
No, my parents allowed us to do what we wanted to and I appreciate them so much for it. I came into the industry much after my sister quit. Not once did she demotivate me. It is not just in this industry, it (sexual harassment) is happening in every field.
Wherever there are men and women working, this dynamic is there. One can’t sit at home because of that. Fortunately for me, maybe I was extra careful or blessed, but I worked with good people. I have not faced something like this.
What are you shooting for currently?
I am doing this film called Setters, which is about agencies conducting examinations and papers getting leaked. It is about the racket that takes place. I can’t talk much about my role in it now.
After Drishyam, there were a lot of expectations from your next release Firangi with Kapil Sharma. What went wrong?
I feel a lot of people were confused about the dates. At that time, if you remember there was some issue going on with the censorship of films and movies were not getting censored for some reason. Our film got pushed two-three times. After it was released, people were asking me when is it coming in the theatres! And, a lot was happening then with Kapil Sharma, too and the controversies did affect the movie. I feel bad because people didn’t give it a chance. Having said that, these things happen, it is not in our hands.
I will soon start shooting for Blank with Sunny sir (Deol). It launches Karan Kapadia and I am playing the female lead. We shot for it at the beginning of the year, but then it got delayed because of date issues. However, I got a call yesterday that we will be resuming the shoot in November and the film will release in January.
Recently, you did a mini-series Kaun with Vatsal Sheth…
Yes, the fact that it was a finite series appealed to me. And the fact that I was acting with Vatsal was exciting. We had met each other when we did a show long ago, but we never thought that after marriage we will get an opportunity to share screen space so soon. Also, the supernatural genre was something we hadn’t done before, so it all just fell into place.