The first time Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta accused her co-star of sexually harassing her a decade ago, she was threatened with violence – and then ignored. But now her accusations appear to be emboldening women to speak out at last.
The year-old #MeToo movement has long failed to take root in India, but a Bollywood actress's accusations of sexual harassment appear to be emboldening women to speak out at last.
The first time actress Tanushree Dutta accused her co-star of sexually harassing her on set a decade ago, she was threatened with violence – and then ignored.
Dutta, however, in a recent interview accused well-known Bollywood actor Nana Patekar of inappropriate behaviour on a film set 10 years ago, sparking a chain reaction.
The global #MeToo phenomenon encouraged her to go public again and on Saturday to file a police complaint against Patekar, who issued a denial.
Dutta also alleged that filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri behaved inappropriately towards her while shooting a 2005 movie. Agnihotri's lawyer denied the "frivolous" claims.
This is the footage of the 2008 attack on Tanushree Dutta. One look at it & you will know that why she is so traumatised even 10 years later. Picture yourself sitting in the car while people smash your windows, abuse you, puncture your tyres & dance on the roof— Soumyadipta (@Soumyadipta) October 1, 2018
Video: NewsMo pic.twitter.com/qxzhJTf44N
Dutta said she has received threats, but she has also won support from several high-profile stars, while other actresses have now started to speak out about Bollywood's darker side.
India's Cine and TV Artistes Association said on Tuesday it was "highly regrettable" that a complaint filed by Dutta at the time had not been properly investigated and urged members who had suffered similar experiences to come forward.
"No apologies can suffice, hence we must resolve today to never allow such lapses to occur again," said a statement from the association published by Indian media.
Today filed a complain in Oshiwara police station, in connection with 2008 movie set incident against Nana Patekar and Ganesh Acharya.— Tanushree Dutta (@Tanushree_says) October 6, 2018
Men in other sectors named
In recent days, #MeToo claims have also begun to surface against men in other sectors, including several top Indian newspaper editors, comedians and writers including a top-selling English language author.
Over the weekend a HuffPost India report published accusations against director Vikas Bahl, one of the four founders of Phantom Films, the edgy production house behind Netflix's first original Indian series, "Sacred Games."
Kangana Ranaut, an actress who worked with Bahl on "Queen," his 2014 hit film touching on female empowerment, came out and said that the director would "bury his face in my neck and hold me really tight."
"It took me a great amount of strength and effort to pull myself out of his embrace," she told the India Today news channel.
On Friday Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, two fellow Phantom Films founders, announced on Twitter that they were dissolving the production company.
Kashyap released a further statement over the weekend saying they had not acted earlier because the alleged victim had not wanted to speak out until now.
"Now in hindsight and after taking stock of things myself, I can quite see how I was ill-advised," Kashyap said.
He added that the company had disciplined Bahl internally by suspending him and barring him from their premises.
Bahl has yet to comment publicly on the allegations.
Prashant Jha of the Hindustan Times became #MeToo's first casualty in the Indian media as he stepped down as Political Editor after a former colleague accused him of harassing her, NDTV reported.
Stories of bad behaviour are also now emerging about men in other sectors.
On Monday, Indian junior foreign minister M J Akbar was accused of sexual harassment, The Quint reported.
A Mumbai comedian, Utsav Chakraborty, last week found himself at the centre of a Twitter storm accusing him of sending lewd messages to women and young girls such as requesting topless photos.
After an initial dismissal, Chakraborty, who now faces a possible police investigation, tweeted that he has "been the exact monster I've been trying to fight all my life."
The #MeTooIndia mvmnt in India shows our society's moral collapse. The same spineless mentality that bends before the powerful, also preys on those with less power to bully & torment them. Bullies are then raised to a pedestal by club of power worshippers. https://t.co/dye2JvdFsR— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) October 7, 2018
Another woman shared screen shots of WhatsApp conversations between her and Chetan Bhagat, one of India's top-selling authors, in which he propositions her and ignores her objections that he is married.
Bhagat confirmed the veracity of the screen shots and said in a long Facebook post that he was "really sorry to the person concerned" – while also apologising to his wife.
Meanwhile The Wire, an online news site, ran an article it said reveals the "dark underbelly" of the Indian media, quoting accusations against at least three newspaper editors.
My response to the screenshots, that just came a couple of hours ago. Been as truthful about it as possible : https://t.co/1JC7kVcodl— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) October 6, 2018
But Rituparna Chatterjee, an independent journalist and a member of the Network of Women in Media group, cautioned that the women coming forward so far were members of India's minority urban elite.
India's abysmal record on sexual violence has been the focus of international attention since the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus sparked nationwide protests.
The incident led to tougher sentences and reforms in the country's rape laws but sexual crime remains rampant.
To say India is having its #MeToo moment now is simply an ERASURE of Dalit women’s voices.— Malarăsculat (@caselchris1) October 8, 2018
For vast numbers of women, life remains grim – and with no access to Twitter to seek justice.
"They have faced bodily and verbal violence all their lives from men they know, relatives, strangers and friends they trust," Chatterjee told AFP news agency.
"Where are these voices? While it is tremendously important that India's #MeToo moment happens, and it is happening, it is equally important to find voices which are not in urban spaces."