Nana Patekar, Tanushree Dutta were several feet apart, weren’t dancing together: Eyewitnesses

Srinath Rao
Tanushree Dutta had come out against Nana Patekar with sexual harassment charges in October last year, thus fuelling the #MeToo movement in Bollywood. (File photo)

Two key eyewitnesses at the film set in Goregaon in March 2008, where actress Tanushree Dutta alleged that veteran actor Nana Patekar molested her, have claimed that the duo was standing several feet apart and wasn t dancing together. Their testimonies are key to the police last week filing a closure report dismissing allegations of sexual harassment and misbehaviour levelled by Dutta.

An actress, who was then an assistant choreographer working on the film Horn Ok Pleassss, told the police in her statement that on March 26, 2008 at Filmistan Studios, Patekar was being taught dance steps for an item song. However Patekar had told the choreographer Ganesh Acharya that he didn t know how to dance, leading to lengthy rehearsals before he could get a hang of the steps. Dutta, meanwhile, who had been paid Rs 5 lakh to feature in the item song and was to be paid Rs 10 lakh more in post-dated cheques, had been practicising for her part since the start of the month and at the studio for the past three days.

EXPLAINED

What is a B-Summary?

A B-Summary is one of three ways for investigating agencies to close their probe into a complaint. Such a report is filed when investigations reveal no evidence against the accused or when the case has been filed frivolously or maliciously. While such reports are treated as final by the police, that is subject to the discretion of the magistrate, who may choose not to accept it. Aggrieved complainants also have the recourse of moving court against a B-Summary and pleading for a re-investigation. However, once accepted by the magistrate, the police is free to file a prosecution against the complainant for filing a false complaint.

At 2.30 pm on the day of the shoot, Pataker, Dutta and 300-400 backup dancers had all taken their places to shoot the song following a lunch break. Nana Pateker was standing behind Tanushree Dutta. There was a gap of several feet between them. We were standing next to the cameraman at the foot of the stage when the music started to play. 10-15 seconds later, Tansuhree Dutta suddenly walked away in anger. No one could understand what had happened, the assistant choreographer said in her statement to the police.

Read | Police closure report accuses Tanushree Dutta of intentionally filing false case

A junior choreographer told the police that Patekar and Dutta weren t dancing together and that no one had told her that the dance steps had been changed. They were to enact the same dance movements but they weren t dancing close to each other, she told the police.

Advocate Nitin Satpute, who is representing Dutta, dismissed the testimony of the choreographers. The statements in the closure report are useless as the police has not spoken to witnesses we had asked them to, he said.

Both choreogpahers recalled that Dutta, who had retreated to her vanity van, had refused to resume work in spite of requests made by the then Executive Producer at Sunrise Pictures Pvt. Ltd and the producer Samee Siddiqui, also booked under Section 509 (insulting modesty of a woman) in the case.

The closure report also states that Siddiqui told a journalist in a secretly recorded interview that he was desperate for Dutta to return to the set as he stood to lose Rs 1.5 crore in renting space at the studio and erecting a costly set. Siddiqui added in the interview that Dutta refused to budge, adding that she wanted Patekar to maintain some distance from her when he danced. In his statement to the police however, he claimed that he wasn t aware that he was being recorded and that he did not intend to offend Dutta with those comments. In its B-Summary report, the police sided with Siddiqui, concluding that since he was being recorded without his knowledge, his remarks could not be considered his honest and natural opinions, leaving no evidence to prosecute him under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that attracts an imprisonment of up to one year or a fine or both. A B-Summary report is filed by the police to close an investigation due to a lack of evidence or when a complaint has been filed maliciously.

The 19 witnesses the police examined in its investigation also did not back allegations made by Dutta against Patekar, Acharya and the film director Rakesh Sarang were booked under Section 354 of the IPC for outraging the modesty of a woman and is punishable with a two year prison term or a fine or both.

In Dutta s case, the police concluded in its report that she must have filed the case because she wanted to be the sole performer in the item song or when the producer told her that she would have to compensate him for the financial damage caused to him as a result of the shoot being cancelled on March 26, 2008.

When Dutta attempted to leave the studio, she was allegedly mobbed by television journalists, cameramen, MNS party workers and supporters of Patekar. She later filed a complaint at Goregaon police station against the men. All along, she had alleged that after Patekar misbehaved with her on the pretext of teaching her to dance, she was pressurised to resume work in spite of clearly stating she was uncomfortable with his behaviour. Both the producer and Patekar had claimed in their statements to the police that they were simply not capable of the actions they were accused of as Dutta was like a daughter to them .