How the “MeToo” movement has reached Bollywood
#MeToo – an online movement that went viral and covered every corner of our web in October 2017, is one that is here to stay for good. The movement began soon after the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was called out by at least 80 women from the industry for repeated cases of the sexual offense.
While the wave of “Me too” began in Hollywood, it has been traveling across the globe – with women from different countries increasingly speaking up about the harassment they have faced. The glamorous alleys of Bollywood have been no exception. In latest news, actress Tanushree Dutta has accused Nana Patekar of harassing her on a movie set ten years ago. While that incident is still under scrutiny, an uneasy question still creeps up in these tense times. Is our Bollywood industry safe for its women?
Bollywood’s relationship with its women
Bombay is called the city of opportunities and dreams. It is the entertainment capital of India, after all. However, the city and its glamorous world of films and music do have their shortcomings. Years of progress later, our film industry still remains significantly cold and uninviting towards women.
Many a time, actresses have come forward to complain against the pay scale gap between males and females in the industry. Moving ahead, the objectification is a problem not exactly behind closed doors. Item songs seem more like a prerequisite in movies these days, with a female dancer in ‘revealing’ clothes shown swarmed and ‘teased’ by a flock of males. The sad part is the normalization these activities enjoy in the form of our clapping and whistling audience, as well as, our film-makers.
Sexual harassment in the industry
“Casting couch” is, unfortunately, a term that is quite popular in the entertainment industry – both India and outside. Roughly speaking, it is the practice of asking for sexual favors by a person in authority from a subordinate or employee etc, in exchange for an entry into the profession or other career-related benefits. Over the years, many known faces from Bollywood have opened up about their own brushes with the casting couch.
From Kalki Koechlin, Kangana Ranaut to even Ranveer Singh and Ayushmann Khurana have over the years, shared their stories of facing the ugly side of Bollywood. Ranveer Singh has also talked about how common it is, especially for newcomers in the industry to face casting couch. It is, of course, an undeniably big scar on the bright face of Bollywood, where struggling entrants have often been told that they will reach nowhere with a “resisting” attitude.
While the practice of casting couch remains a dirty ‘secret’ of Bollywood, its actresses repeatedly come forward, sharing their experiences of harassment on the set. With the recent light thrown on Tanushree Dutta’s allegations against Nana Patekar, many Bollywood celebrities have come to her side in solidarity. Whether or not the claims are true, they have regardless put a big, red mark on the safety of women in the industry.
Are women safe in Bollywood?
As bitter as this may sound, the truth is, women are not safe in India– let alone Bollywood. The reason being simple, the problem is much more than just a few powerful producers or directors in the industry who take advantage of women. It’s the general mindset that is corrupt, and on a larger scale, it is the women who fall prey to these toxic intentions. In this sense, it would be wrong to declare that Bollywood is not safe for women- simply because it has also been a wonderful experience for many. There are several women who has fought back against the lurking predators, and new voices continue to join the struggle every day.
Unfortunately, sexual harassment at the workplace is a phenomenon not only limited to the film industry but has rather spread its hold in almost every profession that there is. Is Bollywood safe for women? A more accurate question would be “Does Bollywood need to introduce new reforms for the safety of women?” The answer is a solid yes.