An eruption of sexual allegations has hit India’s film industry since October when Bollywood’s #MeToo movement began to emerge. The recent outcry of sexual abuse has encouraged greater scrutiny of the film industry, leading to huge programme changes at the Jio MAMI Mumbai film festival, which took place from 25th October to 1st November. Two features and three shorts were withdrawn after accusations were made against certain personnel, while another critically admired feature, ‘Balekempa’, was also retracted in response to a post on social media which claimed Ere Gowda, the writer-director, had committed sexual assault.
The creative director of the festival, Smriti Kiran, discusses the pertinency of this issue: “#MeToo started to escalate two weeks before the festival, and we are one of India’s leading festivals, so everybody was looking at us. They wanted us to take responsibility. We wanted to take responsibility.” However, the removal of films has not only been a very necessary act of exclusion; the changes in the schedule have created space for a plethora of female-driven films, giving women a greater presence and role at the event.
While #MeToo’s arrival in Bollywood is an important intervention into a deeply patriarchal industry, Actor and director Nandita Das correctly identifies how this movement must not only be focused on the elite in India, she asserts: “We do not want to trivialise the movement. We have to ensure that any woman who is abused and has been in any way sexually assaulted must come out […] We need to hear women out and not just make it an elitist thing and to remember that there are many women who are vulnerable all over our country who do not have the vocabulary of MeToo and do not use hashtags. They too are going through a lot of this kind of abuses that we all need to speak up about”
#MeToo is more than simply rooting out the corrupt elite, it’s a global fight against patriarchy. Das’s words hold precedence globally, beyond the celebrity names and hashtags there are numerous women still afraid to speak up and it these women #MeToo must encourage now.
Image (Nandita Das) Courtesy of the National