Multi-talented Bollywood celebrity Farhan Akhtar, who is vocal in his support for gender equality, says there is no point in targeting only the film industry for perpetuating sexual harassment as it exists everywhere. However, he urged the victims to come out and talk about it openly. Farhan, along with film director Feroz Abbas Khan and Poonam Muttreja of the Population Foundation of India (PFI) were here together on Wednesday as a part of the social campaign ‘Bas Ab Bahut Ho Gaya’ that is organising a concert titled ‘Lalkar’ to address the issue of sexual violence against women. At a time when several women in Hollywood have come forward to voice their experience with sexual harassment in the field, Bollywood has been fairly quiet about it. People have spoken about the casting couch and some women celebrities joined the #MeToo campaign, but not many men have spoken out and women, especially budding actors, who may have even faced it, fear taking names.
What is Farhan’s opinion on securing women in the industry to share their stories fearlessly? Farhan, who is also the founder of MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination), said: “Wherever there is an industry where the power dynamic is in play — be it corporate, be it film industry, such issues will unfortunately occur. But I think right now, the world over, the environment is such where all the women should feel empowered and secure to come out and share their stories. “There is a constant dialogue on gender equality, gender discrimination across the globe. I think anyone who has their heart and mind in the right place, will support them.”
Asked if he heard any such stories from the industry people of asking to compromise for getting work in a film, Farhan said: “Well, not from the film industry that anyone has come up to me with such a story, but I do come across some such stories from different industries. “It is true that such situations of molestation, sexual violence at workplace exist in all industries and it is not unique to one industry.”
What about the sense of insecurity that actors have in naming and shaming people as far as sexual harassment is concerned? Farhan said: “If that person has come out and spoken about harassment, it doesn’t mean I won’t cast that person in my film. They are two completely different things and they should not be confused together.” “What we have seen in reverse is that when somebody has come out about people who have harassed them, there has been a reaction to it. Maybe it was not the one that you expect, but there have been reactions. If someone has something to share, this is the perfect platform to come out. You will be doing yourself and others a favour by coming out and speaking.”
Seconding his opinion, Khan said: “There was one maidservant who came out and destroyed an actor’s career (referring to actor Shiney Ahuja). That woman had everything to lose and she still stood up. People from the film industry should come up and speak. But this power should not be limited to the film industry. It should be given to women all across the world.” Farhan’s MARD started in 2013 and continues to create awareness among youth against violence and discrimination against women.
The concert ‘Lalkar’ is taking place here on November 21. Musicians like Salim-Suleiman, Papon and Prakriti-Sukriti will perform along with Farhan and share their thoughts on the issue of gender discrimination in society.