“A wonderful day to spend among women in leadership” said Rashmi Karthik an attendee of Women #BreakingBarriers Bangalore. Breaking Barriers is now coming to Pune, Panjim, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Chennai. Register now to attend!
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
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