‘Culture of silence’

In watershed moment, #MeToo appears to be making a real impact in Bollywood

As the #MeToo movement began to sweep through Hollywood a year ago, a number of prominent women in Bollywood expressed support but also suggested that the more deeply entrenched patriarchy in the country made it impossible for similar changes in their own film industry. But as the power of #MeToo continues in the U.S. unabated, it appears that India’s film industry may be on the verge of a breaking point after a number of allegations, some as old as a decade, finally resulted in at least some consequences.

Over the past few weeks, Phantom Films Pvt., an Indian production house that produced the Sacred Games series for Netflix, announced that is is dissolving amid allegations that its founder, Vikas Bahl, sexually assaulted a crew member in 2015. Popular comedy troupe All India Bakchod also removed senior leadership partners after they were accused of covering up the actions of an employee who sent women at the company lewd photos, and powerful Hindi actor, Nana Patekar, is reportedly being investigated by police for sexually harassing actress Tanushree Dutta in 2008.

“The whole culture of silence and shame has been existing not just in Bollywood, but in Indian society as a whole,” said Dutta. “I was just speaking the same truths I have been speaking for the last 10 years. Ten years ago there weren’t any takers.”

Patekar has denied the allegations, and has sent Dutta a message from his lawyers demanding that she apologize or face a lawsuit, according to Reuters.

The movement is also slowly spreading beyond just Bollywood. On Wednesday, the first politician to be implicated as a result of India’s #MeToo movement, M J Akbar, India’s junior foreign minister, was accused of inappropriate behavior from his time as an editor — including a first-person account of his alleged sexual harassment of reporter Ghazala Wahab in the 1990s. Nonetheless, some activists are tempering their excitement about recent developments. In April, Radhika Apte, one of the few high-profile Bollywood actresses to come forward about what she described as a casting couch culture in the industry, suggested that #MeToo wouldn’t be able to take off so long as the men in the industry refused to show support and solidarity with the women.

“[I loved] the way the women, and the men, of course, came together and decided that as a team we’re not going to let this happen. I wish that could happen here,” said Apte.

Last November, as the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum in the U.S., director Alankrita Shrivastava said that harassment was seen by many as simply the cost of doing business. “The way men are being called out in Hollywood right now, I don’t know if it can happen in India,” she said.

Below, watch Indian journalist and frequent Women in the World contributor Barkha Dutt lead a discussion recorded earlier this week with Tanushree Dutta and journalist Sandhya Menon on India’s #MeToo movement.

Read the full story at Bloomberg.

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