With Tanushree Dutta’s revelation for the second time about the harassment she faced, there is an awkward silence from the majority of people in that industry. Few have come forward. And I’ve never heard of any action being taken against people who are accused of sexual assaults. Casting couch has existed in Bollywood, and neither there’s a denial, nor there’s any acceptance. Whenever a woman expresses her desire to be an actress, people start showing their concerns. They are concerned because there are a lot of bad elements in the industry. Which is true, so why not acknowledge it once for all. Not just people at the top but even an assistant in a production company or a not-so-popular singer tries to misbehave with women in the industry.
All of this is coming from personal experience. These people contact you, tell you what they think you would want to hear. And, then ask favours! They create pressure and try to convince you that to be in the industry one needs to compromise. I’m not implying that everyone is wrong, but there are a lot of such people in the industry. During auditions, some exploit people by demanding sexual scenes which do not even have any relevance to the entire project. These people exploit you by selling dreams.
Sexual harassment is not just limited to women. One of my male acquaintance was made to strip (without any prior communication of such requirement) during a photo shoot. He was mocked for getting aroused, and the photographer started talking about explicit things. I’m not sure if this is the norm. But my friend felt really uncomfortable. He immediately left that place and forced the photographer to delete his pictures.
The problem is, victims are shamed and made to believe that they are wrong. People say things like, ‘yeh toh hona hi tha’ (This was meant to happen). And when somebody gathers the courage to come out they are ridiculed, questioned. It seems like nobody wants to listen to the victim.
There is another thing to be noted here, things like these happen in theatre too, especially Delhi theatre. A very senior person who had been performing since years is potentially one of them. It was nice to see his performance after which I along with a friend went to tell him how I liked his acting. After a lot of fandom he told me that I could join his group. Just months before this I had attended a theatre workshop which turned out to be a spiritual workshop for me. I learnt more about me somehow, my positives and negatives. So I was thrilled about the opportunity, and we shared numbers. He messaged me on WhatsApp. Initially, it was self-boasting and just weird cheesy lines, and then he tells me he is staying at a hotel in a South Delhi locality and that we could meet. I started telling him about how there are good restaurants over there where we could go. I’m a woman, and I have instincts. I felt this is not going nice. After a few minutes, he told me rehearsals take place in the hotel room, and everybody does it. Well, this story isn’t about how I faced something terrible because I told him that I am only comfortable meeting people in a public space. Then I got blocked. Seeing him perform at the big stage, it just didn’t feel right to hear “rehearsal” takes place in a “hotel room”. Also, I barely tried to find a theatre group to join after it. I was done.
Misogynistic comments, bad touches, the drunkenness of the privileged; all of it happens. There is something entirely wrong that we overlook. And it is spreading in every branch of the entertainment industry.