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#MeToo gathers steam in India, at last

  • Published at 08:34 pm October 8th, 2018
Tanushree Dutta
Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta gestures as she talks to reporters in Mumbai, India, September 27, 2018. Picture taken on September 27, 2018. REUTERS

In recent days other Bollywood figures, a comedian, a best-selling author and top journalists have all found themselves accused of abusing their positions to behave improperly towards women

The year-old #MeToo movement has long failed to take root in India, but a Bollywood actor's accusations of sexual harassment appear to be emboldening women to speak out at last.

In recent days other Bollywood figures, a comedian, a best-selling author and top journalists have all found themselves accused of abusing their positions to behave improperly towards women.

The spark is actor Tanushree Dutta, who in a recent interview accused well-known Bollywood actor Nana Patekar of inappropriate behaviour on a film set 10 years ago.

She spoke out at the time, to no avail. But the global #MeToo phenomenon encouraged her to go public again, and on Saturday she filed 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.

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.

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.”

A crew member, who is not named, said Bahl insisted on escorting her to her hotel in 2015 and pretended to pass out drunk on her bed, only to awaken and masturbate on her later, HuffPost reported.

Kangana Ranaut, an actor 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.