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How Effective Was The #MeToo Movement In Bollywood If The Accused Are Still Getting Work?

Posted: June 24, 2020
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While the accused happily got more work, the women lost out on jobs as people tarnished their reputation. How effective was #MeToo in Bollywood?

#MeToo has been a huge influence in starting the conversations about the hidden realities of ‘sexual harassment’ everywhere. Recently, ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ actor Ansel Elgort was accused of sexually abusing a minor girl. Though he denied the claims, Hollywood seems to have taken notice.

The noise around #MeToo is still getting attention in Hollywood. But that makes me wonder, what about Bollywood? Did our industry handle the #MeToo movement effectively or did we brush it off just as a phase?

While Bollywood did handle the #MeToo initially, the approach could definitely have been more effective. 

How #MeToo began in Bollywood

The wave of #MeToo hit Bollywood when actor Tanushree Dutta spoke of allegations against Nana Patekar. At around the same time, Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexually abusing a number of women. 

On the one hand, Weinstein got 23 years in prison on proven charges of sexual assault, while Nana Patekar was given a ‘clean chit’ by the police in 2019. But what’s worse is that a defamation case was also filed against Tanushree Dutta!

Once the movement gathered steam in India, allegations against Directors Sajid Khan and Rajkumar Hirani, actors Alok Nath, and Rajat Kapoor also came up. And these are only few of the men accused in the long list of the #MeToo India movement. The movement in India wasn’t only restricted to Bollywood, several politicians and ‘big names’ too were accused. 

While Sajid Khan faced a lot of ‘hatred’ and has been underground since, others like Alok Nath and Rajkumar Hirani are back to business like nothing happened. 

What #MeToo meant in Bollywood

In Hollywood, soon after the #MeToo movement, the accused faced a huge backlash, some losing out the projects they were working on. Director Bryan Singer is a prime example of this. The director of Bohemian Rhapsody was accused of sexually assaulting minors for years.

As the news made headlines, BAFTA didn’t just remove his name from the nominations, the movie crew also did so from the movie credits. The suspension of his nomination will remain in place until the outcome of the allegations have been resolved, BAFTA officials, then, said in a statement. 

But in India, while Rajkumar Hirani was accused of sexual assault, he went on to be awarded the Best Director in the Last 20 Years at IIFA awards. And he wasn’t the only one.

Singer Anu Malik was also one of the accused and was removed as a judge from Indian Idol. But that didn’t seem to last too long as he was roped back in. And only after singer Sona Mohapatra raised questions was he removed once again.

Not just that, while TV director and writer Vinta Nanda was still fighting for justice, Alok Nath was still shooting for films. Despite having three people speak up against him, he was given bail without being arrested. 

Why were women losing out on work for complaining?

While the #MeToo movement started a lot of conversations around these issues, it also seemed to cause a lot of other problems for the women. They were especially professionally harmed. 

A defamation case were filled against Tanushree Dutta. And Chinmayi Sripada, was ousted from South Indian Cine Television Artist Dubbing Union citing non-payment of subscription fees. All this because she spoke up against Radha Ravi, President of the organisation. 

Kannada actress Sruthi Hariharan accused co-actor Arjun Sarja of sexually harassing her during the shooting of a Tamil movie. Later, she admitted that offers drastically dried up after she spoke up. 

Even Vinta Nanda stated in an interview how some web show makers ousted her after she spoke up against Alok Nath.

https://twitter.com/Chinmayi/status/1127539123546255360

The conclusion is that the way Bollywood handled #MeToo was pretty complicated. A few cases were left open, offering closure to no one. And the legal procedures left the accusers unsatisfied because of obvious legal constraints. There still are a number of cases and allegations against ‘the rich and powerful’ that remain stuck in the country’s legal system. These cases may never see the light of day even as the accused run free. 

Addressing this issue in an interview, Vinta Nanda said, ‘I realise a year later that this was more of a social movement and legally we still need progress.’

How can we bring sensitivity towards this in Bollywood?

For starters by making better movies. Movies in Bollywood, Kollywood and Tollywood for years have objectified women and have shown them as eye candy.

Gruesome acts like stalking, molestation and eve-teasing are also normalised for entertainment. In such an environment where the power dynamics are always against the survivor, how do you expect women to speak up?

Talking of power dynamics, Bollywood is an industry that runs on power. There have been instances where women have given into sexual advancements because of the people in power. This is also the very reason by a lot of victims kept silent for a long time because of the threat to career.

Proper legal steps can help fix the problem 

To look into these things proper legal steps should also be taken. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) is the primary legislation on workplace-related sexual harassment in India. It is applicable to both organised and unorganised industries. Under the POSH act, Internal Communities are meant to be set-up in production houses to register complaints of sexual harassment. 

So far, Bollywood’s adherence to the POSH Act has been inadequate at best. As per publicly available information, of the many production houses in Bollywood, only seven complied with the requirement to formulate an IC under the POSH Act. What makes it tougher for the victim is the fact that even if there are functional ICs, the person may have connects with lots of committees. This is because many production houses produce one single movie.  

To cope up with this all the producers should come together and form a new overall IC. So that it would be easier to complain. Apart from this, the guild associations should also make stricter policies regarding sexual harassment. Something that all guild members should abide by. 

Proper guidelines for sexual harassment should be set up. Specific clauses should be mentioned in actors’ and all crew members contracts. Which should include a real-time penalty for any kind of sexual misconduct.

It’s high time that we start taking #MeToo as more than a social movement. Proper legal actions should be taken to increase accountability. 

Picture credits: Twitter and Instagram

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