A step in the right direction?
The casting couch and the entertainment industry go hand in hand. And if you thought the debate was getting a little stale, guess what actor Rajneesh Duggal had to say about the issue just today.
"I have never experienced it, touch wood, but I do feel it is an individual's choice. No one really forces you to get into a trap. Somewhere, it’s people’s own desperation maybe, or they get blinded into it," Rajneesh told IANS over the phone from Mumbai.
Hence, it comes as a breath of fresh air to know some of the top production houses in Bollywood have formed anti-sexual harassment cells, on the request of Maneka Gandhi, the Union minister for women and child development.
Gandhi had urged Bollywood filmmakers to comply with the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 and set up committees to hear complaints last year. She had written to about 24 production houses in Mumbai, including Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment, Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and Aamir Khan Productions.
Tweeting a media report, Gandhi wrote yesterday, "It is encouraging to know that 7 #Bollywood production houses have already accepted my request & complied with the #SexualHarassmentAtWorkplace Act. I expect the other producers to ensure similar compliance at the earliest. 1/2 #SafeWorkplace4Women."
As per the list, the seven names include Yashraj Films, Aamir Khan Productions, Mukta Arts, Excel Entertainment, Phantom Films, T-Series and Drishyam Films.
It is important to note here that all this while production houses in India — which have a substantial number of women employees — were functioning without an anti-sexual harassment cell. Even in the wake of sexual harassment complaints — a complaint was filed against Queen director Vikas Bahl just last year — Bollywood had failed to take a definitive step. On the one hand, we have the likes of Rajneesh and Saroj Khan, who, earlier this year, turned to the blame-the-victim game, and on the other, we have responsibility shruggers like Vikram Bhatt, who had said, "What can we do? We cannot do any moral policing. We cannot keep moral cops outside every film office to see that no girl is being exploited,” in an interview with Reuters last year.
Call it the after-effects of the #MeToo campaign or the Harvey Weinstein episode, we are glad things are starting to shake. Even though the number of organisations who have complied is still shockingly low.
Could this eliminate the casting couch? Probably not. But it could definitely give it a spring cleaning.