Film

Published on January 16th, 2013

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Let’s sex it up. Not.

M wonders how, despite rampant sexual harassment within it, Bollywood will address the subject in this Friday’s big film release.

Bollywood never ceases to amaze me. The Friday release this week is Inkaar (starring Arjun Rampal and Chitrangada Singh) and it delves into the subject of sexual harassment at the workplace, and how a man deals with allegations of abuse from a female colleague. I am keen to see how the film explores this issue, coming as it is from the horse’s mouth. Okay, I’ll come straight to the point.

When the Hindi film industry releases a film on sexual harassment, I want to see a disclaimer at the start of the film stating: ‘This film is not a piece of fiction and is based on real life instances from the producer/director/executive producer, etcetera’s lives. Due to the brief duration of the film, all the victims and their stories could not be covered. Viewers’ discretion is advised.’

The following is a true story.

An executive producer (EP) of a major film broadcasting house was fired and immediately hired by another broadcasting company. Like they say, one man’s dirt is another man’s treasure. Well, this guy did have loads of dirt on him. To begin with, he was fired or to put it politely, “asked to leave” because of the constant complains of sexual harassment he meted out to his female colleagues. In fact, tales of his behaviour were known to all and sundry in the industry. This didn’t stop him from doing the same at his new workplace. He believed that when you work at a film production company, you are expected to flirt a little to keep the atmosphere ‘light’.

He also believed that wearing a skirt to work makes the female colleague ‘available’ and that she’s ‘looking for some action’. So, he thought he did the right thing by constantly passing nasty remarks about their appearance and their clothes at the workplace. He even told stories about how he was popular amongst starlets, and how they sent him titillating pictures of themselves on his Blackberry Messenger.

Sometimes, he would even tell his males colleague to “go for it” and ask the superiors if they were “screwing” their subordinates (of course, the subordinates were women). He would narrate numerous stories about how, at his previous organisation, he would conduct ‘screen tests’ at hotel rooms and put the tab on the production budget. Stories about him luring young, struggling actresses and taking advantage of them were aplenty. He would drool at new faces and purposely set up meetings at the office to prove he was the alpha-male of the pack; the other men in office would wonder what they had to do to be as charming with the ladies as he was.

Of course, he also had stories of the industry to tell. The most disturbing incident he narrated was of an industry head honcho. He didn’t name the Person, but said that he was once present at a party at this Person’s house. After the guests left at around 4 am, this Person, intoxicated, walked straight into the domestic help’s room and locked the door from the inside. He stepped out of the room a few minutes later and crashed on the couch in the living room. The Person’s wife, who had watched him step in and out of the help’s room, got up, walked into her bedroom, came out with a bundle of rupee notes and when to the help’s room. She walked out again without uttering a word to anyone.

Coming back to Mr EP; he didn’t stay in the new organisation for long either. The women in the new organisation also complained to the bosses. The reason for his exit is still unclear, with most reports hinting at ‘under-performance’. In one year, Mr EP had walked all over the production house’s already non-existent work culture; he was insensitive and loathsome and everybody knew about it and tolerated it. This is exactly what perplexes me; when Bollywood turns around and makes a movie on sexual harassment. The industry that sells dreams is also known for its debauchery and immorality, and men like Mr EP reinforce the cynical view one already holds against the entire fraternity.

I am very keen to know what the filmmakers have depicted in Inkaar and how far-off or close it is to the ground realities of  filmy battlegrounds. I’ll watch this one to gauge Bollywood’s point of view on the subject.

Sharp as a tack and sitting on more hot scoops than she knows what to do with, M is a media professional with an eye on entertainment.

(Picture courtesy sabhot.com)

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