The last three weeks have proved to be unprecedented in the history of Bollywood. After former actor Tanushree Dutta renewed her allegations of sexual harassment against Nana Patekar, several such cases have come to light, triggering what is being dubbed as India’s #MeToo movement.In the light of this, Cine & TV Artists’ Association (CINTAA), at a recent press conference in Mumbai, announced several measures to counter and tackle the sexual harassment practice that has been prevalent in the industry.
The association was the first film body to extend support to Dutta, accepting that the issue needs addressing. The steps they intend to take are thus, an extension of their intention to curb the practice. “We have been trying to raise this issue for some time now because we were aware that it can blow up in the industry’s face one day. We wish it didn’t happen this way but now is the time to counter the issue,” said CINTAA general secretary Sushant Singh. Also present at the conference were members of the association executive committee, including president Vikram Gokhle, Ayub Khan and Rajeshwari Sachdev.
Singh as well as CINTAA joint secretary Amit Behl said a special advisory committee is being formed to frame the guidelines for making film sets a safer workplace. With several lawyers including the founder of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) Sana Hakim, on board, CINTAA is hoping its members come forward and discuss matters of sexual harassment. “We hope to closely work with the producers’ bodies to ensure that our suggestions to prevent sexual harassment at workplace are implemented,” says Behl. “We hope to make CINTAA a strong association that will be able to push its way through and not have to back down in face of pressure from powerful producers,” Singh added. In addition, a sub-committee will be formed where actor Swara Bhasker will initiate and actively participate in its programmes to create awareness.
The executive committee also took the opportunity to talk about Vinta Nanda’s case where the TV writer-producer has alleged rape by actor Alok Nath in the ’90s. Singh said that the actor has responded to their show cause notice. “He has requested us not to cancel his membership with the association until the matter is legally resolved. However, we are yet to take a decision on that. We have sought legal advice on the matter,” said Singh. He also added that Navneet Nishan, Nath’s co-actor on the show Tara — during the shoot period of which the incident allegedly unfolded — has offered to corroborate Nanda’s version.
While they refused to comment on the Tanushree Dutta case, Singh said they had reached out to the former actor. “But by the time she responded and Nana Patekar replied to our letter, the matter had become subjudice and we had to step back,” Singh explained. CINTAA has, however, handed over the 2008 case files to the police for further investigation.
Singh appealed that the media handle the emerging cases “carefully”. “We all know there is an attempt to discredit the survivors and one of the easiest ways to do that is by issuing anonymous false accusations via social media. What such instances will do is make the movement weaker by raising a doubt at the authenticity of the real survivor accounts. Let’s not let the movement die, now that it has started many years too late,” he said.