Since its inception in October 2017, the #MeToo movement has seen a huge uprising across the globe. The movement which has given many women a voice has also given hope, courage and a renewed sense of dignity often brutally stripped from them in a variety of ways from sexual violence, discrimination in the workplace, to the continuous drip, drip, drip of everyday seemingly “I was only joking” misogyny.
From Harvey Weinstein to Brett Kavanaugh and from Cristiano Ronaldo to Les Moonves, there have been a number of allegations made making headline news, and now, India is having its own #MeToo movement.
Former actress Tanushree Dutta has claimed that actor, writer and filmmaker, Nana Patekar, sexually harassed her on the set of Horn Ok Pleassss in 2008. At the time, the allegations were widely reported with Patekar denying Dutta’s claims.
After claiming to tell Patekar how uncomfortable he was making her and what we can deduce was continued harassment, Dutta walked off set leaving her to be labelled ‘crazy,’ a ‘drama queen,’ and ‘tantrum queen’.
The claims resurfaced recently when during an interview, Dutta was asked why Bollywood hadn’t had it’s #MeToo movement, where she replied: “How is any movement going to happen in India until and unless you acknowledge what happened to me ten years ago?”
Since speaking out, multiple Bollywood actresses have come forward with their own stories of sexual harassment, putting a spotlight onto local police enforcement to investigate Dutta’s complaint and production companies and their staff to rethink how they operate.
What’s even more powerful here in the #MeToo movement is not only are more women coming forward, but it’s causing the people of Bollywood to take action. Aamir Khan Productions are to withdraw from a film as a result of one of the film producers having been accused of harassment, and in a joint statement with his wife, film producer Kiran Rao, stated:
“...at Aamir Khan productions we have always had a zero tolerance policy towards sexual misconduct and predatory behaviour of any kind. We strongly condemn any act of sexual harassment, and equally we condemn any and all false accusations in such cases... We believe that this is an opportunity for the film industry to introspect and take concrete steps towards change. For far too long women have borne the brunt of sexual exploitation. It has to stop.”
Initially you may say that perhaps they’re dropping out of the film without any full investigation or are casting judgement before the person has had a chance to address the claims. However, they have been made aware of an official investigation and have stressed this in their decision to remove themselves from the film.
On top of that, shooting for upcoming film Housefull 4 is set to be cancelled following allegations against director, Sajid Khan. Mumbai Film Festival has also dropped two films from their program due to accusations of sexual misconduct from the respective filmmakers.
It’s important to say that the allegations above are currently under investigation and everyone should have a fair trial. I do not condone condemning someone without the other having the opportunity to give their side of the story. What I will add is that the bravery of these women voicing their experiences, particularly in a country where women’s rights still have a long way to go, is nothing short of gargantuan.
Just as Dutta asked “how is any movement going to happen in India until and unless you acknowledge what happened to me ten years ago?” this question should be echoed in every country and every industry.
We must acknowledge these women, we must acknowledge what has happened to them and we must acknowledge their pain and the continual behaviours that allow people to abuse others in order to bring about equality.
If we are to give women equal rights then we must equally give them a chance to talk as it’s become all too common for survivors of sexual harassment and violence, whether male or female, to feel ashamed and embarrassed into silence.
The fact that individuals and companies alike, all of whom work to create this multi billion dollar industry, shows that no longer are survivors going to stay quiet and be exploited in order to maintain a lucrative industry.
Bollywood is not only actively investigating these issues, but they are taking action and now the rest of the Bollywood, and India, cannot ignore them. And neither can we in the West.