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Time’s up in Bollywood

Friday, October 12, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

According to a press release issued by the Producers' Guild of India, the organisation “is committed to work towards making workplaces in the industry-safe spaces for everyone. In this regard, a special committee has been instituted within the Guild to address the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace within our industry. The membership composition of this committee is as follows – Sneha Rajani (Committee Head), Apoorva Mehta, Ekta Kapoor, Fazila Allana, Jyoti Deshpande, Kiran Rao, Kulmeet Makkar, Madhu Bhojwani, Priti Shahani, Rohan Sippy, Siddharth Roy Kapur and Vijay Singh.
“The first meeting of the committee was held on October 10, and it was resolved to immediately –
1. Ensure that our members are sent a copy of the Gazette of India with notifications issued on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace, so that they may implement these practices in their establishments at the earliest, if they have not done so already.

2. Organise specialised workshops with the support of professional agencies, to guide our  members in how to implement robust processes and best practices to deal with sexual     harassment at their workplaces, whether in their offices or on the sets of their productions. The     Guild will organise multiple sessions of these workshops over the coming weeks and months, to enable all our members and their teams to participate. The special committee that has been set in place will meet frequently in the coming days to ensure that this is an ongoing and sustained effort, that will lead to a safer environment for all members of our industry.”

In the light of how women are treated in the industry, this is a revolutionary step. Mostly these well-intentioned statements remain on paper and weak on execution, because very few women complain, and if they do, they can say goodbye to their careers. Tanushree Dutta whose accusations of harassment against Nana Patekar, that kicked off a social media storm of naming and shaming sexual predators, is no longer actively working in the film industry. Even then she is being mocked for doing this for publicity. Also, it is pertinent to note that except for Vikas Bahl, Alok Nath, Kailash Kher, Anu Malik and earlier Subhash Kapoor (news is that Aamir Khan has walked out of a film to be directed by him), no other major producer, director, actor or technician has been outed. Women in the industry know that being branded a “troublemaker” could mean the instant drying up of work. Does anybody remember Sabia, Preeti Jain, Mamta Kulkarni or Geetika Tyagi, who spoke out against harassment?

No major actress, except Kangana Ranaut has joined the chorus of aggrieved voices; most of them maintain that they have not been asked to “compromise” for a role. And it's not just actresses, it's an open secret in the industry that women lower down in the hierarchy are subjected to harassment and that some of them have to submit, or they don't get work. It is easy to say that they don't have to be in the film industry, but if that's their chosen profession, should they be forced to accept sexual exploitation? Casting couch is a pleasant-sounding term for the indignity women have to routinely go through – if not outright rape, there's the propositioning, groping, cat-calling, slut-shaming, lewd comments on their appearance, and many other kinds of humiliation that women have to put up with, or be called uppity, fussy, bad sports.

Wherever there is imbalance of power, there will be exploitation of one kind or another, but now women have an outlet on social media and support from others. At least till the current wave of anger and indignation dies down, men will learn to give women the respect they deserve and offer them a safe working environment.

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