A statement has been made by various individuals and groups from Hyderabad in support of actor Tanushree Dutta and her brave fight against sexual harassment in the Hindi film industry. The recent statements and interviews given by Tanushree Dutta where she has recounted the harassment and intimidation she faced during a film shooting back in 2008, have once again brought into focus, the pervasiveness of a culture in Indian film industries that allows men to objectify women, harass them, intimidate them and exploit them with great impunity. Moreover, it is the harassers who use the law to further intimidate the victim.
We keep hearing about the continued verbal threats and legal notices that the actress is receiving. Dutta’s experience also shows that even educated, upper-middle-class women who come with some amount of social and cultural capital are not immune to a routinely degrading treatment which is accepted as “normal” in the industry.
In this particular case, when she complained about her co-star, Nana Patekar’s unacceptable behaviour, not only was her complaint ignored, but she was instead pressurised to continue performing with him by the dance choreographer, the director and the producer. And when she refused to do so, instead of changing the dance steps or trying to persuade her co-star to behave in a more dignified manner, his political supporters were brought in to tame her and punish her. We watched with horror the shocking videos of the attack on her car that are being re-circulated in the media. The videos clearly show a mob of angry men yelling at her, breaking her car’s windshield and wipers, jumping up and down on the roof with the police only pleading with them to stop. If this is the response to a complaint of harassment, is it any surprise that most women choose to keep quiet, endure and suffer the treatment or forego many opportunities or even quit the industry?
Therefore, we think that it took extraordinary courage and moral stamina for Tanushree to complain to the CINTAA (Cine and TV Artistes Association) and the police back in 2008, although nothing came out of it, and to once again bravely recount her experiences today after ten years! We must express our complete support and solidarity with Tanushree. It is high time we collectively think of ways to ensure that all women are guaranteed dignity, safety and security at their workplace.
Over the last one year or so, different events have created a space for women to speak out about their experiences and demand justice. The formation of the Women in Cinema Collective in Kerala where many top actresses and female technicians from the Malayalam film industry raised their voice against sexism and misogyny is one such example. They submitted a memorandum to the CM of Kerala too. The other is the protest by actress Sri Reddy against the harassment and exploitation of women in the Telugu industry which inspired a number of women, mostly character and dialogue artists, to speak out. Their anger and anguish at the blatant culture of demands for sexual favours, discrimination on the basis of skin colour, economic exploitation by the brokers and agents who fetch them roles in films, all these led to a sustained agitation with the support of several women rights activists and trans-activists. Memorandums with several demands were placed before the Cinematography Minister of Telangana, the State Women’s Commission and the Film Development Corporation. Even a PIL was recently filed in Hyderabad High Court to demand a high-level committee to investigate the matters of sexual harassment and exploitation of women and transgender people in the Telugu film industry.
The time for recognising and addressing the problem of sexual harassment of women cannot be put off any longer. It is heartening to see the slow but steadily growing support for Tanushree from her colleagues in the industry. We also appreciate the fact that CINTAA has expressed support for the actress and acknowledged its failure to address her complaints in 2008. But they should not use their rules to say that a ten-year-old complaint cannot be taken up now. The time for justice is always NOW! The #MeToo movement in Hollywood led to action being taken for the wrongs committed more than a decade ago by men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. Admittedly, that’s something our film industries can emulate. Support from the film fraternity will not only give hope to Tanushree and vindicate her courageous stand but will also give hope and strength to many other women to finally voice their complaints. Therefore,
Here is the list of people from different organisations who have expressed solidarity with Tanushree Dutta:
K. Lalita, Anveshi RCWS
Rama Melkote, Retd Professor, Osmania University & Anveshi RCWS
Susie Tharu, Anveshi RCWS & Retd Prof of Literature and Film Critic
Veena Shatrugna, Anveshi RCWS and Retd. Assistant Director, NIN
Sri Reddy, Telugu Film Actor
Apoorva, Telugu Film Actor
Sherin B.S., EFL University
Uma Bhrugubanda, EFL University
A.Suneetha, Anveshi RCWS
K. Sajaya, Activist and Columnist
Vasudha Nagaraj, Lawyer
Chaitanya Pingali, Lyricist
S. Seethalakshmi, Independent Researcher and Consultant
Asma Rasheed, EFL University
S. Ashalatha, Women’s Rights activist
Girija, B, State Project Co-ordinator, One Stop Centre Scheme, TISS and Women Dev and Child Welfare Dept, Govt of Telangana
Vimala Morthala, Activist and writer
Sister Lissy, National Workers Movement
Nikhat Fatima, Civil Rights Activist, Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee
Khalida Parveen, Amoomat Society
Sudha Murali, Child Rights Activist
Rachana Mudraboina, Telangana Hijra Instersex Transgender Samithi
M. Mandakini, Lawyer
Anjali Khemani, Disability Consultant
Jayasree Subramanian, Academic
Kaneez Fathima, Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee
Gita Ramaswamy, Hyderabad Book Trust
Malini Subramaniam, Independent Journalist
Tejaswini Madabhushi, Hyderabad for Feminism
Shalini Mahadev, Hyderabad for Feminism
Gitanjali Joshua, Hyderabad for Feminism
Shraddha Chickerur, PhD Candidate, University of Hyderabad and Hyderabad for Feminism
Tashi Choedup, Genderqueer Buddhist Monastic, Human Rights Activist, Interfaith Activist.
Lakshmi Kutty, Health Researcher
V. Sandhya, Progressive Organisation of Women
Sarah Mathews, Sankalp Women’s Support Alliance
Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli, RTI & PIL Transgender Activist
Monalisa KMV, Secretary, Telangana Transgender People’s Association and Member, Mobbera Foundation.
Aisha Farooqui, Retd. OU Professor & Anveshi
Madhumeeta Sinha, EFL University
Akhileswari Ramagoud, Retd. Professor
Anjali Rawat, Lawyer
Satyavati Kondaveeti, Bhumika Women’s Collective
C. Vanaja, Independent Journalist Filmmaker
Nazia Akhtar, Independent Researcher
Ambika, Social Activist
Haritha Busarapu, Yugantar