American actress Lindsay Lohan found herself in hot waters after suggesting the 'MeToo' movement has 'made women look weak'. Talking to The Times, the actor implied that the whole movement exposes the fragility of women. There is a tirade on social media with people condemning her comment. But what about the largest film industry in the world? Is everything hunky-dory there?
In December 2017, the Minister for Women and Child development in India, Maneka Gandhi, wrote a letter to the bigwigs of what is called 'Bollywood' to comply with the Sexual Harassment at workplace Act, 2013. This step by the minister was aimed to ensure the safety of women working in the world's largest film industry. An industry that has a chequered history and repertoire of shocking silence over abuse.
In its history of over a century, Indian film industry has become colorful from black and white making everything look as real as possible on screen but failed to recognize its own real problem which is as simple as black and white. People are hired from different parts of the world to deliver the content up to the expectations of the global admirers of 'bollywood', but no one has been fired for damaging the chastity of a woman. How safe are women working in the Indian film Industry? Answer lies in the condition of women overall in the society which is deplorable at many stages in our country. Does this mean we should not have any different expectations from the film fraternity? The reason behind high hopes from the glamour world is because it has well educated elites working for it, lack of which is often blamed for undermining women's position or problem in general.
The safety of women working in the industry has been as insignificant as women on screen in the mainstream Indian cinema. When was the last time we heard industry as a whole talking about tackling its menace? On the contrary, it's been profoundly lackadaisical towards talking about it. The infamous sting of Shakti Kapoor is an example of how laid back approach of the people is, where support was poured in for the villain, whose deliriously lascivious intentions were exposed in a sting operation by a private news channel.
Let's talk about the heavy weights of the tinsel town. The superstar trio- Salman, Shahrukh and Aamir- who have ruled the box office- have been more or less tight lipped about women safety or for any issue pertaining to the society that would entail risk. Commercial interest has always been at the heart of every word uttered by most of the people in the industry. They might have been loyal to their girlfriend or wife but never been or showcased passion towards taking a firm step or making a benchmark by taking a decision how women should feel safe in their own office or companies.
Last year in March, Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman pledged to work with a female director every 18 months to advance the number of women working behind camera subsequently creating a safe environment for first timers. Anyone listening?
Considering the fact that some people love statistics, here are some facts. Salman Khan, in his career of over three decades, has worked only twice with female directors. Revathi's Phir Milenge (2004) and Lucky: No time for Love (2002) by Radhika Rao. The king of Bollywood- Shahrukh Khan has merely three names in his three decades of remarkable success: Zoya Akhtar, Hema Malini and Farah Khan. Aamir Khan could find only two women with good scripts- Zoya Akhtar, a good friend and Kiran Rao, his wife. Some may argue how Aamir's show, Satyamev Jayate or his film Dangal or Salman's 'Being Human' campaign has tried to improve the situation. And this is why it becomes more important because then we know that these people are very much aware of the ills but taken anti-vocal pills.
This should not imply that we want them to feature in films with run on the mill stories just to support the cause, but it's hard to believe they couldn't find a female director with a sensible script in three decades. And if they really couldn't then people running National School of Drama and FTII should rethink about their validity. Are they all acting-centric institutions? I don't know.
With a flood of complains against the Hollywood mogul Harvey Wienstein and him being taken to task, what has emerged is a hope for all those women out there whose bodies have been touched and hearts sabotaged for an opportunity to showcase their talent. It's high time for the reel world to reel off the names and plug the gap.
Women safety in Indian film industry is an institutionally undermined subject and it's high time to reel off the names of the Harvey Weinsteins of India. Itna sannata kyun hai bhai?