Hollywood Producer Ashok Amritraj: I Wouldn’t Send My Daughter to India Alone

Producer spoke with TheWrap about perilous conditions in his native country

Veteran Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj, born and raised in India, said that he would not feel comfortable sending his daughter to his native country because of the violence against women that has rocked international headlines of late.

In an interview with TheWrap on the occasion of the publication of his biography, “Advantage Hollywood,” and ahead of the Toronto Film Festival, where his movie, “Life of Crime,” will close the festival, Amritraj was asked if he would feel comfortable sending his daughter, a college freshman, to India.

“Not alone, I wouldn’t,” he said. “She’s also grown up here in a different atmosphere. For her to go around Delhi or Bombay, I would worry.”

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Multiple incidents of gang rape have roiled India in the past year, including that of a young medical student on a bus, and a foreign tourist in March.

An American woman was gang-raped in May; more recently, a photojournalist on assignment in Mumbai was gang raped. Under pressure, the Indian government passed tougher laws against sexual assault. The verdict in the trial against four men accused of gang raping the woman on the bus is expected next week.

Amritraj, who travels frequently to India, said he was disturbed by the economic and social situation in his native country.

“We’re at a crossroads right now,” he told TheWrap, noting that the coming election next year in India will be critical. “A decade of incredible growth is stalled at the moment. The currency’s taken an incredible beating. A lot of concern about the economy has sent foreign money running for the hills.”

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Vodafone’s long legal battle against a tax bill exceeding $2 billion is also spooking foreign companies, he said.  “There’s this big concern about how the laws are working in India. There’s a lot of cleaning house to be done to have the next decade of growth.”

And the incidents of gang rape have given the country a poor international image, he said.

“There has always been this dichotomy in India where mothers and sisters are held as great figures and the centerpiece of a family,” he said. “But there has always been this side, especially in villages, of rapes. What is strange today is there is more of this in big cities that didn’t happen when I was growing up. Chennai, which was Madras, is a big city, like Delhi.

“It’s horrible, horrible stuff,” he continued. “Definitely not enough is being done to chase down (perpetrators) and have a severe punishment. It takes too long. It gets caught in a whole social thing, how was it the woman’s fault, how was she dressed.

“A lot of that has to do with information that filters in from the West,” he added. “Things have changed. Girls do dress differently. And there’s a conservative part of Indian society. There’s a social conflict.”