One of my favourite directors, Woody Allen became a victim of the current upsurge of witch-hunting where women, and men, come forward to claim they were groped/fondled/raped 20-30 years ago. Sometimes, the time lapse is so huge that the offender is dead and born again as a creepy reptile.
Well, good to know the world is waking up to a new dawn. But what if poor Woody Allen is never allowed to make another film? Even Timothy Chalamet, who is in Woody Allen's latest, has sworn never to work with him. What would the filmmaker do? He is so prolific and, Jesus Christ, he makes such bright, humane, compassionate films; would he be forced to retire because he allegedly molested his adopted daughter?
Now, this is a serious crime, and if Woody has committed it he should go to jail for it. But why is his new film "Wonder Wheel", which I saw and liked, being judged in the light of the horrible allegations of his incestuous conduct? Are we now a self-righteous civilisation that expects our artistes to be flawless, shining human beings? If so, why have we tolerated Sanjay Dutt for all these years? Is terrorism or violation of the law on arms less of a crime than molestation?
It is rather embarrassing to read prominent American critics panning "Wonder Wheel" by ferreting out references from Woody Allen's life to show what a low-down human being he is, and why we must all hate his cinema en masse, if civilisation is to survive. One review by a critic I admire even makes a sly dig about Woody's character being attracted to his daughter in the film.
All this sanctimonious symbolical crossing of the legs has become a bit like a panic attack. I feel we are all at a tea party where dollops of virtuosity are being served up. We may soon overdose on self-righteousness. Everyone wants to jump in for an impromptu mob lynching. And as Woody Allen's biographer says: "The artiste in his work has the right to roam wherever he wants."
I agree. Sanjay Dutt is free to roam wherever he wants, even to jail, and back. His popularity remains undiminished by a crime and conviction, whereas Woody Allen's alleged crime has not even gone to court. Why is the media trying him? More importantly, why is his work, which has regaled us for five decades, being judged against his failings as a human being?
I know so many sexual predators in the film industry. They are there everywhere, offering a career to young boys and girls in exchange of sexual favours. But no one is forcing anyone to do anything he or she doesn't want to. There is no coercion on the casting couch. You are free to lie down on it or walk out.
As for assigning character certificates to artistes who create magical images on screen, if we start eliminating them on the basis of their moral misdemeanours we would soon be left with only children's films to watch.
(Subhash K Jha can be contacted at email@example.com)
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