The #MeToo movement that struck the West last year, has arrived in India, and it’s the media industry that’s feeling the heat. While sexual incidents have been long considered a part of the film industry with Emraan Hashmi, Tisca Chopra and Ranveer Singh, openly admitting the strength of a casting couch, most people turned a deaf year to it. But now, the “Bollywood mein yeh sab toh hote rehta hai,” attitude has come under a serious scanner, all thanks to Tanushree Dutta’s complaints. Several women, celebrities and journalists alike, have come out with their harassment stories on social media causing a storm of controversies.
Here’s how it all unfolded.
The spark: The Tanushree Dutta case
It all started when a few weeks ago when Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta raised allegations of sexual harassment against Nana Patekar. The two were supposed to be co-star for a 2008 movie Horn Ok Pleasss. The actress alleged that Nana misbehaved with her on set and tried to get physically close without her consent. She spoke back then as well, but it fell on deaf ears. In fact, she was overshadowed by other actresses and shown the exit door. Not just that, when she was leaving the set, she was attacked by a mob of people which included the MNS, Nana’s fans and a few journalists. After the ruckus, she was boycotted from the industry for speaking against Nana and her career went downhill.
Apart from Nana, Tanushree also spoke about Vivek Agnihotri the director of her 2005 movie Chocolate. Agnihotri, she said, asked her to remove her clothes and dance in front of actor Irrfan Khan as a part of a scene. It was Khan and another co-actor Suniel Shetty who came to her support and shouted at the directors for their conduct.
After a decade of silence, Tanushree went on to give multiple media interviews describing her tribulations from the past. As a result, both Nana and Agnihotri slammed defamation charges on her. But the story didn’t end there.
Her complaint magnified the MeToo campaign
Tanushree’s case caused a chain reaction, leading several women to open up about their experiences with their seniors. And its repercussions were strong.
On 6th October, a former crew member of Phantom Films, founded by filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl, and Madhu Mantena, accused Bahl of molesting her in May 2015. In an anonymous interview to Huffington Post, the accuser said that Bahl barged into her hotel room and forced himself on her after a party in Goa. When she resisted, he dropped his pants and masturbated. Over the next few months, he made several more advances at her, until she quit in January 2017.
Owing to the controversy today, Phantom films has been dissolved and Kashyap gave a public apology to the victim.
Bahl’s, however, is only the latest in a string of relatively high profile names to be outed over the past few days. a few days back, writer Mahima Kukreja caused AIB comedian Utsav Chakraborty of sending her pictures of his genitalia and asking her to do the same. Following her revelation on Twitter, more women tweeted saying he was a repeat offender. Shakti Kapoor has been entangled in several such cases, the most popular one being the 2005 sting operation. Kapoor asked a budding actress for sexual favours and said rather explicit and obscene things.
Bollywood celebs came out in support of Dutta and the others
But while several such cases have been unravelled in the past few days, many other celebs have come to Dutta’s support. Sonam Kapoor, Chitrangada Sen, Radhika Apte, Priyanka Chopra, Kalki Koechlin, Ranveer Singh and Swara Bhaskar lauded Dutta’s courage to speak up.
Farhan Akhtar started a foundation called Men against Rape and Discrimination to end the system of “sexual benefits” in return for roles by senior Bollywood members. But the story doesn’t end there either.
The effects spread from Bollywood to Newsrooms
Journalists from across the nation have jolted social media with their #MeToo stories proving that this crass system is not just limited to the film industry. From the Wire to Business Standard to Times of India, all the big media names have been dragged into this controversy.
On 5th October, for instance, Anoo Bhuyan, a reporter at The Wire, accused a fellow reporter of the Business Standard newspaper, Mayank Jain, of making unsolicited sexual advances. Two women journalists replied to Bhuyan’s tweet, saying they had similar experiences with him. Business Standard has reportedly set up an internal investigation committee to probe the accusations.
Soon after Bhuyan’s tweets, journalist Sandhya Menon tweeted that KR Sreenivas, resident editor of the Hyderabad edition of The Times of India newspaper, had made an unsolicited advance at her in 2008.
Chetan Bhagat too was criticised for flirting with a female journalist despite being married. Then Sonora Jha, a former journalist at TOI Bengaluru confessed to have been assaulted by the then Executive Editor, Gautam Adhikari. Avantika Mehta, a former journalist at Hindustan Times caused Prashant Jha, the them political editor for sending her sexual content through text messages, forcing her to quit the newspaper in 2016.
All of these cases, though happened years ago, came to the surface with the MeToo campaign catching momentum. Why?
Women’s solidarity is real
Psychologists and women’s support foundations see this as solidarity trend. If one person comes out, it emboldens the others. It almost feels like an obligation. If one person has outed somebody, then other people feel it’s better that they also come forward so that the one person is not victimised.
Not just this, but the women got the confidence to tell their story without the fear of being victimised themselves. Which is why, one tweet against a person receives multiple replies by women who’ve been assaulted by the same man.
Meanwhile, the accused men have often blamed their despicable actions on false claims, miscommunication and in certain cases on foggy memory. Bollywood celebes have started foundations to fight against the system and news orgs have launched investigations, but the victims have little hopes of anything fruitful.
The MeToo campaign has brought furore of controversies but whether or not we’ll get a real solution out of all this, is still debatable.