Singer Sona Mohapatra has been targeted by internet trolls ever since she came out with her side of the story, accusing musicians Kailash Kher and Anu Malik of sexual harassment. Recently she was involved in a war of words with Sonu Nigam, where the latter felt that “delivering judgements” and asking “ to take away people’s jobs” was not the right thing. Sona responds to Sonu’s remarks and calls him out for being “blatantly sexist”. Excerpts:
Sonu Nigam says one should let the law of the land decide the outcome, even when it’s the case of sexual predators. What’s your reaction on it?
Essentially what Sonuji is saying is that we as a society should let sexual predators continue with their lives like nothing has happened and conduct business as usual despite a groundswell of multiple call outs against them. He says only the courts can restrict these perverts and that the fraternity, industry, society and the rest of us as civilised humans have no responsibility to put checks and measures in place to hold them accountable for their terrible actions over the years.
There’s a feeling that asking for someone’s job to be taken away is not the right kind of punishment, as per the crime committed. What are your thoughts on that?
What punishment is he referring to by the way? Which of these guys are really punished in a manner commensurate to their actions? Sexually abusing so many, using your power to exploit so many, harming people over the years. Women, girls, families and you shouldn’t be held accountable? Have you not observed that the women are the ones who are more likely to lose the few jobs they have? More likely to be shamed, labelled trouble makers and all in all hold the shorter end of the stick in these situations? The boys clubs in power have the back of most of these powerful men who have been called out.
Are you saying that women, who have come out with their stories, too are suffering because of their revelations?
Kailash Kher is continuously performing in big government shows and is now headed to a year-end celebration hosted by Gujarat Tourism after one hosted in Delhi. In another world Chinmayee, the famous playback singer from Chennai, has been thrown out of the Tamil dubbing union for calling out the lyricist Vairamuthu. I have had concerts and career opportunities cancelled for no reason given, in this period and overnight because of being a crusader of this movement too. Is petitioning for a man accused of sexual harassment to lose some work such a terrible thing therefore?
People, including Sonu Nigam, felt that writing a letter to Arvind Kejriwal asking for him to put a stop on the Kailash Kher concert wasn’t right.
Writing to Arvind Kejriwal, CM of a democracy, one who was hosting a multiple accused in #MeToo like Kailash Kher for a government show on the anniversary of the Nirbhaya [incident] and expressing my despair and requesting for a stay on his performance till he is proven innocent was a legitimate move. That neither he nor his administration responded is a shame, on them. My right to petition is listed in the Fundamental Rights of the Indian Constitution. Sonu Nigam questioned my right and also said that it was akin to Islamic terrorism. It is one of the most ridiculous analogies I’ve ever heard and is also deeply bigoted. He should enrol in a basic civics class about how democracies should function. Leaders and governments have to be questioned and are answerable to us citizens.
A lot of people also alleged that you accused Sonu Malik, and the other singers because they have had “better careers” than you. How do you respond to that?
My own career is built on an uphill climb, without compromise and on my own terms. It’s the kind of success I’ve always aspired for. I have a multi-dimensional presence as an artist and music producer. I speak my mind and stand for things. I have been successfully running a music production company for over a decade, work 18 hour days and I am also turning film maker and content creator in the coming year. Who is to say that a 100 or even 1000 film songs sung perfectly , commissioned film work is ‘better’ than the diverse work I have done across genres and domains of music and production and performances across world stages? Also, people who blindly worship at the altar of one kind of singing, Bollywood celebrity or bank balances don’t impress me much.
He (Sonu) also joked about you making a mountain of a molehill with the “friend’s wife” remark.
The only ones who would feel this way are the ones who are conditioned by patriarchy. No fair minded, woke person, man or woman would be okay with the condescending manner in which Mr. Nigam spoke about me in this day and age. That he was ‘holding himself back’ because I was the ‘wife’ of someone is as blatantly sexist as it can get in today’s times. I say this to him; please don’t hold back. You haven’t done anything of the sort in any case, so stop with the macho bluster. You want to swear, threaten me, question my talent, something else? Go ahead. Please do not worry about my ‘wifely status.’ I do not need or care for your chivalry and can very easily take care of myself.
So to clarify, you don’t have a problem with Sonu Nigam, but what he believes in?
He is someone I’ve had the most cordial relationship for over a decade. I still state that he is a master of his craft as a singer and very talented. Talent, knowledge and wisdom unfortunately have no co-relation. If at all anything he’s disgracing himself. Defends Anu Malik discrediting all the women who have called him out in the #MeToo movement and then next day says only an ‘animal’ will not support #MeToo. Says that he sometimes wishes he was born in Pakistan and complains about Pakistani artists. Then says he was ‘joking’ next day. Refers to my defence of the #MeToo movement as ‘vomiting’ and my democratic petition to stop Kailash Kher from performing until proven innocent akin to ‘Islamic terrorism’ and then says he’s maintained his decorum while responding to me. I am not disgracing him. He’s doing it himself is what I feel.
Sonu Nigam had earlier said that common people cannot be passing judgements.
How do you see the impact on #MeToo movement in the music industry especially?
Music? Women voices can hardly be heard in mainstream film releases because for over six years an average of nine odd songs out of 100 have a female voice. Solo songs are rare, mostly reprise versions and never promoted and a romantic duet has all of four lines from the woman or at best a chorus line. An exception to this rule is a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. He features men, women, established and new singers equally, and I hugely admire him for that. The big music festivals like NH7, IITs and others do not host women leads either, apart from a token 1/2 female artists in a lineup of 30. So it’s the celebration of testosterone and giving the men most of the opportunities all the way. So the current trend indicates that we are more likely to wipe out the feminine perspective in mainstream music all together.
First Published: Dec 28, 2018 17:30 IST