2018: The year when #MeToo came to India and Bollywood found its voice
In India, the #MeToo movement took nearly 8 months to gain momentum.
When American actress Alysa Milano urged women across the world to speak up against sexual violence in 2017, the #MeToo hashtag became viral almost instantly. Milano tweeted, "If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet," and scores of women across the world shared personal experiences on social media leading to the beginning of global #MeToo movement. One of the first names to have come out in the movement was Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein as multiple women accused him of rape, sexual harassment, and misconduct. These women also included prominent names from the cinema including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Anniston, Angelina Jolie and others.
Soon enough, the movement caught everyone's attention in other countries. While France, Israel, Canada, Italy were the first few countries to join America in the movement, closer home in India, the movement took nearly 8 months to gain momentum. There were, of course, the initial reports that were reported on social media but it was only when former Miss India and actress Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual misconduct on a film set in 2008, did the movement get its much-needed boost in India. In an interview to a news channel, Tanushree recalled how Patekar had sexually harassed her on the sets of 'Horn Ok Pleasss'. She even accused the film’s choreographer Ganesh Acharya, director Rakesh Sarang and producer Samee Siddique of being mute spectators on the set and allying with Patekar when the incident took place. Tanushree was to do a special song in the film and she eventually left the set and was replaced by Rakhi Sawant.
Incidentally, Dutta had raised objection a decade back, when the incident had actually taken place but the Police and the film body had not taken any action against Patekar. Tanushree's tell-all incident not only started a conversation on sexual harassment in Bollywood but also encouraged other women in the film industry to speak up.
In an emotional post on Facebook, TV producer Vinta Nanda accused actor Alok Nath of brutally raping her. The incident took place 20 years ago, and Vinta in a press conference later said how Tanushree Dutta's case had given her the confidence to speak up, many years after the incident. Several other actresses including TV actress Sandhya Mridul and Dipika Amin corroborated Nanda's story with their own personal encounters with Nath. Both accused him of sexual harassment on different occasions on film sets. Nath did not react to the accusations but filed a defamation case against Nanda.
Soon after Tanushree Dutta's interview, another case that completely shook the film industry was the dissolving of Phantom Films. The production house which had made critically acclaimed films like 'Lootera', 'Udta Punjab', 'Queen' and others was co-founded by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Bahl. A former employee had accused Bahl of misconduct in 2016 but the case finally came into light after Tanushree Dutta's case got widely reported in September this year. In a detailed report on Huffington Post, the victim stated that how during a party in Goa, Bahl had molested her and she had even gone and complained to Kashyap about it later but no action was taken while Bahl continued to harass her until she finally quit the company.
Subsequently, both Nath and Bahl were expelled from film bodies. CINTAA served a show cause notice to Alok Nath while Bahl was sent one from Indian Film and Television Directors'Association(IFTDA).
Several other prominent names came out in the wake of the movement. Multiple women accused Subhash Ghai, Kailash Kher, Rajat Kapoor, Chetan Bhagat, Anu Malik, Sajid Khan of sexual misconduct. The MeToo movement also heavily impacted other industries as well with prominent names from media, politics, and theatre got called out.
As prominent names from the entertainment industry came out, there was the natural uproar. The need of the hour was to disengage with those who had been serial offenders.
Amid the #MeToo drama, several producers and actors to a stand publicly and disassociated themselves from those who had been accused. Vikas Bahl was asked to finish the patchwork of 'Super 30' a film that he was directing but his name would not be credited for direction. Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar both decided to disassociate themselves with Subhash Kapoor and Sajid Khan respectively. Both the actors were working on projects that were being helmed by these men.
Malik had to step down from his role as a judge on the reality show 'Indian Idol' and Sajid Khan was asked to step down as the director of 'Housefull 4' which incidentally also had Nana Patekar in the cast. He was eventually replaced by Rana Daggubati.
Mumbai film festival (MAMI) decided to drop three films — AIB’s Chintu Ka Birthday, Anurag Kashyap’s 'Bebaak' and Rajat Kapoor’s 'Kadakh' — from its lineup. OTT platforms Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar too cancelled shows that they had worked on with AIB and Chakraborty.
Meanwhile, 11 women Indian filmmakers joined hands to support the movement and pledged to not work with those men who had been accused in 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 were some of the women who decided to take a stand.
Accused of sexual misconduct by 4 women, Anirban Blah, the founder and head of talent management agency KWAN Entertainment, trying to commit suicide at Vashi bridge in Mumbai in October but was rescued by traffic police and then sent to police custody.
The way forward
While a lot of the companies- not just in entertainment industries, but outside of it as well- have pledged to create a more safe workplace environment, perpetrators are still at large. Some who were sent on forced leave as names came out have now resumed work in their workplace. Many of those accused in the entertainment industry continue to get work. A lot have argued that there is also a need for thorough investigations in each of the case so as an unbiased judgment can be made as a lot of careers are at stake. Insiders, though the state, that only a fraction of names has been reported in the #MeToo movement and that lot of names, prominent ones, will never get reported thereby limiting the impact of the movement in the country. It is also to be seen whether those who lost out of work because of repeated harassment, including Dutta who eventually left the film industry altogether, would get an opportunity to make a fresh start in Bollywood or not.
While the outcome of the movement is yet to be fully understood, it should be noted that after years of being mum about issues, Bollywood finally found its voice in 2018.