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2018 was an important year for women across continents, as we decided to raise our voices together against oppression and harassment. The #MeToo movement which originated in USA swept across India and started the cycle of much needed change.
I grew up in a small town and the magical world of movies always fascinated me. Hence, when I had a chance to move to the dream city of Mumbai, I tried to enter the entertainment industry.
However, I soon realized the grime that was hidden behind the glitter of this industry. I realized that unfortunately, talent alone was not enough to make it in this world and decided to sacrifice my dream for something less demanding.
My love affair with Indian movies continued and I would devour the gossip columns of newspapers. Ten years ago when I read the news of Tanushree Dutta accusing Nana Patekar of harassment I was surprised but not shocked. Tanushree was a newcomer with no industry backing or godfather. Her entry in the movies had been aided by her winning the ‘Miss India’ title and she was only a few movies old. As expected, the entire incident was called a publicity stunt and her budding career died a premature death.
However, a few months ago she got a chance to speak up for herself. The #metoo movement which had started in Hollywood and was shaking the foundations of some big studios there hit India and found a wave of support.
Tanushree once again bought forward her story and this time around she was heard. The episode as narrated by her was confirmed by another woman journalist as well as an assistant director who was present at the set. The decade old video of her car being trashed came up and went viral, silencing those who insisted that she was back to reinstate her career and was once again lying.
Once Tanushree showed courage, stories of other women being traumatized by the stalwarts of the movie industry started coming out. Not surprisingly, film director Sajid Khan’s name appeared on the list. He was accused by his former assistant director of mental and emotional trauma. Many aspiring female actors also added their voice against him. This accusation against him led to his dismissal from the big banner film he was directing.
Another director, Vikas Bahl, who ironically directed the woman centric film, ‘Queen’ was accused by the former employee of a production house he was a partner in. The company had to be dissolved when it came to light that though the partners were aware of his misbehavior, no action had been taken. One of the most unexpected names that came up was that of Alok Nath, the epitome of the ‘Sanskaari’ father in Indian cinema. He was accused by writer – director Vinita Nanda of raping her almost twenty years ago.
The responses to allegations hurled against them ranged from the merely weak to the completely atrocious. For Eg.: Alok Nath gave a statement saying “It (rape) must have happened, but someone else would have done it. Well, I do not want to talk much about it as for the matter if it has come out, it will be stretched.”
This insensitive response clearly shows the misogynistic mindset that exists. The other influential names added to this infamous list were – Comedian and former AIB member Utsav Chakraborty, Singer Kailash Kher and Singer Abhijeet.
The movement also hit another industry replete with incidents of harassment – the media industry. The torch bearer here was journalist Priya Ramani who accused the then junior minster of external affairs MJ Akbar of sexual misconduct when he was an editor. As many as eleven women came ahead with their accusations post that. As voices against him rose to a crescendo, he had to resign.
Author Chetan Bhagat, who claims to be a supporter of woman’s rights, was accused by two women of sending flirty messages even though they did not encourage such behavior. The Chief of Bureau of Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha was named by a lawyer and journalist and had to resign from his post.
Other names such as Suhel Seth, Mayank Jain, Sidharth Bhatia, Gautam Adhikari, KR Sreenivas – all names to reckon with in the media industry were pulled up for making unwanted advances towards their juniors or colleagues.
Women have finally decided to fight back and not take such behavior lying down. For once, many in the various industries have also risen in support and spoken up against harassment. Powerful people have come forward in support of this movement which in itself is remarkable.
Thanks to this movement many of those accused were forced to resign and were held accountable for their actions.
But, will this change be sustainable? Will this revolution continue? Will women finally get an equal and fair chance without having to bow down to the demands of those in power? We can only wait and watch.
My first book - Second Chances has just released and is present on all online book stores. Do pick up a copy to read about the adventures of a novice ghost. read more...
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Shows like Indian Matchmaking only further the argument that women must adhere to social norms without being allowed to follow their hearts.
When Netflix announced that Indian Matchmaking (2020-present) would be renewed for a second season, many of us hoped for the makers of the show to take all the criticism they faced seriously. That is definitely not the case because the show still continues to celebrate regressive patriarchal values.
Here are a few of the gendered notions that the show propagates.
A mediocre man can give himself a 9.5/10 and call himself ‘the world’s most eligible bachelor’, but an independent and successful woman must be happy with receiving just 60-70% of what she feels she deserves.
Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).