A year after the #MeToo movement began in the United States, its rippling effects have finally hit the Indian entertainment industry.
Former Ms. India Universe and actress Tanushree Dutt came forward with accusations of sexual assault against Bollywood actor Nana Patekar. Her brave actions spearheaded and empowered the movement in India.
Dutta alleges that Patekar sexually harassed her while shooting for an item song in the film “Horn OK Please” in 2008. Dutta reported these accusations 10 years ago but she was brushed off and her credibility undermined.
“Men in our entertainment industry and in our society at large think demeaning and insulting women is their birthright,” Dutta said in an interview with NDTV. “It is such mindsets that lead to serious crimes against women. Today’s eve teaser is tomorrow’s rapist.”
However, on Oct. 6, 2018, Dutta filed a formal complaint for the second time to the police regarding Patekar, choreographer Ganesh Acharya, as well as Rakesh Sarang and Sameer Siddiqui, the director and producer of “Horn OK Please” respectively.
In her report, Dutta states that she agreed to do an item song in the film as long as it wasn’t obscene. She alleges that even though it was a solo performance, Patekar would violently grab her under the pretense of showing her dance steps. She became uncomfortable but when she made a complaint to Acharya, he allegedly returned the next day with new intimate dance steps offering Patekar more opportunities to grope her.
Dutta said the filmmakers all ignored her and producer Siddiqui even threatened to defame her after which Dutta decided to walk off the project. As she was leaving the sets, she was also attacked by a mob while in her car, allegedly called upon by men behind the film. Police had to be called for her to safely leave. Recently, a video of this incident has gone viral, proving the attack happened.
Dutta states that she was bullied into leaving India when the incident originally happened, and it’s why she settled in America over the past 10 years.
Inspired by the #MeToo movement in America, Dutta decided to open up about her story again. Journalist Janice Sequeira and the assistant director of the film “Horn OK Please” Shyni Shetty have come out to support Dutta and corroborated her side of the story.
— Janice Sequeira (@janiceseq85) September 26, 2018
Since her accusations against Patekar, Dutta has also spoken out about filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, who allegedly wanted her to take off her clothes for a shot she was not even in during the filming of “Chocolate: Deep Dark Secrets.” Dutta says her co-stars Irrfan Khan and Suniel Shetty stood up for her at the time and she is thankful for their support.
Dutta bravely came forward all these years later and it has caused Indian media and the entertainment industry to reflect on their own #MeToo movement.
Stand-up comedian and former All India Bakchod (AIB) comic Utsav Chakraborty has been accused of sexual harassment by comedian Mahima Kukreja. She alleges that Chakraborty has sent her obscene messages and pictures of his genitalia. Other women have come forward with similar allegations since Kukreja came out.
Dutta and Kukreja’s revelations have sparked a movement. Their bravery has inspired other women to come forward with their stories. From journalists and actresses to fans and ex-girlfriends, the predatory behavior of powerful industry members is slowly being uncovered.
AIB co-founder Gursimran Khamba has also taken a leave of absence due to being accused of two counts of sexual harassment in 2015 and 2016. Khamba allegedly made unwelcome advances, called the victim when intoxicated making threats, and emotionally blackmailed her. Khamba has released an apology for his actions and emotional abuse of the victim.
AIB has released a statement regarding their future, proving that they are taking these accusations seriously. Since the allegations, AIB has removed any videos with Chakraborty and Khamba has taken a leave of absence.
Co-founder of AIB Tanmay Bhat was privy to Chakraborty’s actions and though he had spoken to Chakraborty privately, it only led to further harassment of the victim. Bhat did not take any further action then and has now stepped down due to his role in these allegations.
AIB is putting their support behind these women, leaving the comedy group’s future unclear. Indian streaming platform Hotstar also decided to immediately stop producing new episodes of their news comedy talk show “On Air With AIB.”
— All India Bakchod (@AllIndiaBakchod) October 8, 2018
Vikas Bahl, who directed the award-winning Bollywood movie “Queen, which focuses on women empowerment, has also been accused of sexual harassment by a female crew member. During a promotional tour for the film “Bombay Velvet” in 2015, the Phantom Films co-founder was allegedly intoxicated and under the pretense of dropping the female crew member home, came into her apartment. The victim claims that Bahl allegedly fell asleep on her bed and woke up later to masturbate on her.
The crew member was just recovering from an accident so she was vulnerable, alone and had just started walking without crutches at the time. She reached out to director and Phantom Films co-founder Anurag Kashyap but it took 2 years for any action to take place. In the meantime, Bahl harassed her so much she quit her job. Actress Kangana Ranaut has also accused Bahl of harassment in the past.
Kashyap and Vikram Motwane, who recently found success with “Sacred Games” and “Ghoul” on Netflix, have openly stated they believe these women and should have taken stronger action sooner but they are working to change the situation now. Kashyap and the remaining founders of Phantom Films have now chosen to dissolve the company in response.
Phantom was a dream, a glorious one and all dreams come to an end . We did our best and we succeeded and we failed. But i know for sure we will come out of this stronger, wiser and will continue to pursue our dreams our own individual ways. We wish each other the best.
— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) October 5, 2018
Bollywood veteran writer and producer Vinta Nanda wrote a heartbreaking account of her suffering allegedly at the hands of Alok Nath on Facebook. She accuses India’s most “sanskari babuji” of raping her about 20 years ago. She reveals how difficult it was for her and how much she feared speaking out for it would ruin her career.
Three different women have come forward accusing filmmaker and actor Rajat Kapoor of sexual misconduct. An anonymous journalist alleges that Kapoor was asking inappropriate questions and making unwanted advances towards her. An anonymous assistant director alleges Kapoor wanted to meet with her alone in an empty house to shoot a film. A third young woman came forward with a detailed account and even screenshots of messages between her and Kapoor. She idolized Kapoor and he tried to take advantage of her young age and admiration for him.
I don't even know any more.
Filmmaker Rajat Kapoor
Two separate and different accounts pic.twitter.com/nBjNOsun3j
— Sandhya Menon (@TheRestlessQuil) October 7, 2018
More about Rajat Kapoor. pic.twitter.com/EkerCEuYBi
— Sandhya Menon (@TheRestlessQuil) October 9, 2018
Journalist Sandhya Menon brought forth the stories of these three women alleging Kapoor had acted indecently. Menon came forward with her own story of sexual assault, calling out fellow journalists for harassment via Twitter. She continues to spread the #MeToo movement by sharing the stories of the many women who reach out to her, most of whom choose to remain anonymous for fear of what these powerful men can do to their career.
Menon, Dutta, and Kukreja are fueling this all-consuming forest fire spreading through India. It’s a movement that is a long time coming. Women are speaking up and it’s not just predatory Bollywood stars but men in politics, journalism, advertising and other industries who are finally facing the brunt of their actions. Prashant Jha, the reputed Chief of Bureau of famed Indian newspaper Hindustani Times stepped down from his post following allegations by a former employee.
India’s #MeToo movement is finally here and it is #TimesUp for the predatory men (and women) of the nation.