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2018: The Year Women in Bollywood Finally Said #MeToo

2018: The Year Women in Bollywood Finally Said #MeToo

Tanushree Dutta's allegations triggered an industry-wide reckoning on sexual harassment and assault which rapidly spread far beyond the confines of Bollywood.

#MeToo gained long due attention in India one year after American actor and activist Alyssa Milano posted on Twitter: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”

The post, which came in the wake of the mass sexual assault charges against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, reignited a campaign that began a decade ago by activist Tarana Burke, and saw an outpouring from women who withstood harassment and abuse.

Cut to September 2018, it was like any other day for me until I started getting ready for my work and realised the coming month would mark the one-year anniversary of the revolutionary movement that gave power to thousands of women to come forward with their own accounts of being sexually assaulted. While scrolling down a number of articles on what #MeToo actually changed in the last one year, I stumbled upon a piece titled ‘Why Bollywood will never have its #MeToo moment.’ And, as much as I hate to admit it, the article pinched me real bad. This was followed by a couple of wakeful nights until my frantic research on the subject led me to an old link of a news website that read: “Nana Patekar gives it back to Tanushree Dutta.” It shook me pretty much to the core. For some reason, I felt there was not enough explanation available for what happened back in 2008 which was why and how I reached out to Tanushree.

In an exclusive chat with News18 on September 25, Dutta described, for the first time, in detail - her allegations of how she was sexually harassed on the sets of 2008 film Horn OK Pleassss.

Dutta accused Nana Patekar of misbehaving with her verbally and physically while filming a dance number for the film. She also made allegations against the film’s choreographer Ganesh Acharya, director Rakesh Sarang and producer Samee Siddique, of ganging up against her and witnessing everything mutely, and not interfering.

Her allegations triggered an industry-wide reckoning on sexual harassment and assault which rapidly spread far beyond the confines of Bollywood, with several media personalities and politicians finding themselves at the centre of the #MeToo storm.

Another big name brought down by the accusations of sexual harassment was that of filmmaker Vikas Bahl. The allegations, which were detailed in a Huffington Post story published on October 16, came after the dissolution of Phantom Films which Bahl co-founded with fellow directors Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and producer Madhu Mantena.

An unnamed former female employee of Phantom films accused Bahl of sexually assaulting her during a party in Goa three years back. She, however, decided not to file a complaint against Bahl stating, “I have had enough and I am still suffering at the hands of this man even after three years.”

The industry was still reeling with the aftershock of the news when writer Vinta Nanda shared her horrifying account of allegedly being raped by Alok Nath. In a heart-wrenching post, she recounted being harassed by Nath on more than one occasion. Soon after calling him out on social media, Nanda filed an FIR against the actor following which Cine & TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA) expelled Nath from the association. Actress Sandhya Mridul also accused Nath of sexually harassing her during a shoot of a telefilm.

Dutta and Nanda’s courage opened the floodgates in Bollywood leading to a flurry of similar stories from other women. Filmmaker Sajid Khan was asked to give up his director’s chair of Housefull 4 after multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him emerged online. He has also been suspended by the Indian Film and Television Directors Association (IFTDA) for one year. Actresses including Bipasha Basu and Dia Mirza also called him out for his "lewd" behaviour on films' sets.

Subhash Ghai, Anu Malik, Kailash Kher, Rajat Kapoor, Vivek Agnihotri, Raghu Dixit, Gursimran Khamba, Utsav Chakraborty were some of the prominent names who were caught in the #MeToo storm. While most of these men were condemned by the public, some were even fired from their jobs.

Now, all eyes were on MAMI film festival to be held for the first time since sexual harassment and allegations hit the industry. The festival addressed the cloud of sexual misconduct allegations hanging over the movie industry by dropping three films — AIB’s Chintu Ka Birthday, Anurag Kashyap’s Bebaak and Rajat Kapoor’s Kadakh — from its lineup. It also organised a special programme on the global movement with an aim to sensitise people around it.

In another significant moment, as many as 11 women Indian filmmakers joined hands to support the movement. Alankrita Shrivastava, Gauri Shinde, Kiran Rao, Konkona Sen Sharma, Meghna Guizar, Nandita Das, Nitya Mehra, Reema Kagti, Ruchi Narain, Shonali Bose and Zoya Akhtar are among the filmmakers who have taken a stand to never work with any proven offenders.

But what came as a huge disappointment was when International Film Festival of India (IFFI) did not make a single effort to acknowledge and fight sexual misconduct in the industry in the #MeToo era.

So how much impact has the #MeToo movement made in India? Will it bring about any dramatic change? Only time will tell. Having said that, while the #MeToo battle is still far from over, it has brought a few fundamental changes in how the Indian film industry functions. But we still have a long, long, long way to go as a society.

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