The #MeToo movement arrived late in India. But it is a juggernaut that is here to stay, and is having a measurable effect on production.
Aamir Khan Productions is to withdraw from a film where one of the filmmakers is accused of harassment in a 2014 case that is currently sub-judice. “This is an opportunity for the film industry to introspect and take concrete steps towards change,” actor/producer Aamir Khan and producer Kiran Rao tweeted in a joint statement. “For far too long women have borne the brunt of sexual exploitation. It has to stop.”
The movement kicked off with actress Tanushree Dutta accusing veteran actor Nana Patekar of harassment on the sets of “Horn ‘OK’ Pleasss” in 2008, an allegation she made then and again last week. This was followed by harassment allegations against Phantom Films founding partner Vikas Bahl by an employee. That led to the dissolution of the company. Popular actor Hrithik Roshan who stars in Bahl’s “Super 30” has asked the producers to take stock of the facts. The fate of the second season of Netflix show “Sacred Games”, produced by Phantom, remains unclear.
Allegations also emerged against employees of comedy outfit AIB. In response, CEO Tanmay Bhat stepped down from his role and the Mumbai film festival cancelled its selection of the company’s “Chintu Ka Birthday.” The Hotstar streaming service then cancelled the third season of web show “On Air with AIB”.
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Allegations were also levelled against actor/director Rajat Kapoor, and his “Kadakh” was also dropped from the Mumbai line-up. Kapoor apologized on Twitter.
Accusations have been emerging thick and fast on social media. Filmmaker, Vinta Nanda and actors Sandhya Mridul and Deepika Amin pointed out alleged infractions by senior actor Alok Nath.
The South Indian industries have also begun speaking up. Several women have spoken up against renowned lyricist Vairamuthu, who has denied all accusations, and a singer accused fellow singer and composer Raghu Dixit, who has publicly apologised. Casting director Tess Joseph called out actor Mukesh Kumar for harassment on the set of game show “Koteeswaran,” 19 years ago. Kumar says he has no recollection of the incident or of Joseph.
The Producers Guild of India says it is establishing a special committee led by Sneha Rajani to address the issue of sexual harassment.