BANGALORE: A Kannada TV channel has exposed the seedy underbelly of our Kannada film industry with its sting operations, candid testimonials and studio discussions.
Although all this may be causing anxiety and humiliation to many in the industry, we must acknowledge that shedding public light on such concerns will have long-term benefits for the growth of Kannada cinema in particular and art as a whole.
As we are all aware, sexual harassment at the workplace is both legally prohibited and morally unconscionable. The film industry is a professional environment, where sexual impropriety cannot and should not be condoned.
Those in positions of power and respect, such as industry elders, association and guild presidents, producers, directors and lead actors have multiple ethical responsibilities towards social well-being and artistic harmony.
They have to make the overall work atmosphere safe for everyone, especially newcomers and women, mostly outnumbered on the sets 50 to 1; and hold those who take advantage of our most vulnerable teammates liable for their actions, regardless of their status and influence.
If our industry is to grow and prosper and thereby enrich our languages, arts and cultures, it is not only through hard work but also through talent and creativity. For this to happen, we need to open our doors to fresh ideas and new blood.
By publicly denouncing acts of sexual harassment, we strengthen the confidence of women and sincere workers, and give ourselves an image makeover we so badly require.
We hope this behavioural shift can, in the near future, encourage many more passionate youth and capable graduates -- women and men -- to enter our fold.
It's time we in the Kannada film industry, instead of pretending that those five or six caught in the sting are mere exceptions, took a hard look at ourselves, and started working in the best interests of a larger artistic vision, rather than going after personal fame, financial glory and sexual indulgence.
Thank you, news channel, for telling it like it is… it’s now our turn to fix it.
Chetan is a Yale University graduate and actor who has starred in such hits as Aa Dinagalu and Mynaa
Like health hazards in some other professions, film industry is fraught with physical hazards. There is no safety for women at many workplaces and the film industry is no exception. Those who work in other sectors suffer too.
However, some girls accept offers involving sexual favours only to be in the limelight. There are similar cases in hospitals, and in schools. I even had a case from Chamarajpet, where a 13-year-old girl went to learn magic from a 48-year-old man, and married him within three months. It (self-preservation) is a natural instinct and the circumstances make the instinct work. After the Vishaka case, every work place should form a committee to address issues related to sexual harassment, and that includes the film industry. They could seek help from social workers, NGOs.
Filmmakers part of the casting couch can be punished provided the girls come out and complain. But most girls hesitate to come out and talk about their struggle -- the men involved ensure that they have a hard time professionally. If they do complain, however, a we can book a rape, molestation, intimidation case and the offender can be jailed.
Pramila Nesargi, advocate and women's rights activist
‘Most often, there are no eyewitnesses’
We know of the casting couch but nobody seems to know the specifics. If someone as popular as Om Prakash Rao can stoop so low, we can't say what other filmmakers are up to. Most often, there are no eyewitnesses, so taking immediate action might not be possible. I have said repeatedly that there is a body that these girls can approach, They can speak to us at KFCC. Then it will ensure filmmakers think twice. But, of course, the women can't expect great offers in future. We need a provision that can benefit the young aspirants, the struggling actresses and the film industry on the whole. This will involve meetings with the various associations.
H D Gangaraju, President, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce
'Take action in the beginning'
Women artistes can approach us if they feel there is a threat to their safety. We can solve the problem. This is a known issue — girls are targeted. It is back in focus now after some filmmakers have been caught red-handed on camera, thanks to a TV channel's efforts. If they approach us, we will talk to the ministers in charge and do something. I feel that these young girls should alert us in the initial stages and not wait till the problem gets out of hand. There are so many organisations that can support women in case of harassment and these young aspirants should not fear losing out on opportunities.
Manjula Manasa, chairperson, Karnataka State Women's Commission
‘Vishaka Guidelines are weak’
In case a woman is in danger, there is only one provision under section 376 IPC and this act can be considered if and only the woman lodge a complaint. Since a film industry is also a workplace, if an actress feels she has been disrespected, she can file a case under the Vishaka Guidelines - Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act. However, this act is weak as there are not many cases registered under the act yet. There is no safe law to substantiate such kind of incidents. It clearly depends on the situation. It is a grey area.
In the film industry, it entirely depends on the woman's perception. If a woman is violated and if she feels it is a crime, there a few provisions under the IPC, which can be considered by her, if she wants to file a case.
Gowthaman Ranganathan, Lawyer