On Tuesday, the Cine & TV Artists’ Association (CINTAA), a film body that aims to protect the interests of film and television actors, broke its silence in the Tanushree Dutta case. In a statement, undersigned by the association’s general secretary Sushant Singh, CINTAA admitted to their failure at addressing Dutta’s chief complaint of sexual harassment against Nana Patekar in 2008.
In an interview with The Indian Express, Singh, also an actor, talks about the decision to apologise to Dutta, the association’s grievance redressal system and why such few cases of sexual harassment come to light.
What prompted CINTAA to issue the public statement in support of Tanushree Dutta?
After Tanushree’s statement that she had complained to CINTAA in the matter and received no support from the association, it was imperative for us to look into the matter. We went back to our old records; thankfully, every case is documented. We realised that while CINTAA got the producers to settle the monetary damages Tanushree suffered, her chief complaint of sexual harassment had been overlooked and the case had been closed. Even though the committee in power then was different, we felt it is our duty as CINTAA to admit to the fault on our part and extend support to Tanushree, who has been a member of our fraternity.
Initially, we wanted to issue a statement of support because anyone who comes forward with such a claim needs to be heard out, not shunned. But we decided to take our time and look into the matter before issuing any statement. We also believe this step on part of CINTAA may go a long way in encouraging other members who may have suffered harassment, to speak up and approach us.
But in the end CINTAA seems to have washed its hands off as it cannot take any action today in the case.
The constitution of the association does not allow us to look at cases that date back to more than three years. But we are willing to extend our support to Tanushree. Like I said, we have paperwork on the case, which was resolved by a joint committee comprising members from CINTAA and the producers’ association.
What is the process of filing a sexual harassment complaint with CINTAA?
A member can file any complaint, be it a payment dispute or sexual harassment, by filling up the complaint for online. The form is also available in the CINTAA office for those who may not have access to the internet. In case of emergencies, say if an incident of sexual harassment is taking place during a film shoot, they can call our office numbers and someone from CINTAA will make sure to intervene.
How many cases of sexual harassment does CINTAA receive in a year?
In the last three years I have been associated with CINTAA, we have received no more than five or so cases. I will not say that sexual harassment does not take place, it does. The truth is that most cases do not get reported. Sometimes the victims, who are all actors, fear that it will damage their career, at other times, they probably do not have the resources to see it through.
How does CINTAA address the sexual harassment complaints?
First and foremost, we advise the member to file a police complaint in the matter. But often the victims refrain from legal recourse. In that case we step in and arbitrate via the producers’ body as all such cases are to be brought to the notice of the producer in charge of the project that the victim is part of. For instance, last year, we had a case where an actor said she was narrated a script she was happy to work on but when she arrived on the sets, the script seemed vastly different. She was asked to perform certain intimate scenes that she was uncomfortable with. The set was in an isolated spot and dominated by male crew. She shot certain portions but approached us as soon as she returned from the shoot. The actor was unwilling to take the matter to the police, fearing it may result in her family barring her from acting. We called a joint meeting with the producer and ensured all footage objectionable to the actor was deleted from their system.
Does the committee looking into the case often face pressure from the end of the predator if he or she is powerful?
I will be honest, we don’t receive any complaints against the powerful names. I suppose it again boils down to the fear of losing work and the pressure they may be under. But I will add that the committee also comprises of actors, who probably face the same fears when dealing with a sexual harassment complain against a powerful person. Also, it has happened in the past that the committee has stood by the victim but the victim, under pressure, has withdrawn the complaint, leaving the committee members in bad books of the powerful predator. While this happens, I won’t say it is the right thing to do. We hope to fix this.