Over the last few weeks, the Me Too movement has gained momentum all across the nation with women from all walks of life calling out men who have sexually harassed them. Speaking about the entertainment industry, after Tanushree Dutta levelled sexual harassment allegations against Nana Patekar, several other skeletions tumbled out of the closet in the form of powerful names like Vikas Bahl, Rajat Kapoor, Kailash Kher, Alok Nath amongst others being called out for their sexual misconduct.
When Filmibeat exclusively got in touch with Kritika Kamra regarding the ongoing #MeToo wake, the actress revealed, "Since the last few days, I have been reading about every single thing on Twitter. It's shocking that almost every hour when I open the app, there are new names and instances. It's great that the movement is sort of catching on. Secondly, there has been a domino effect with so many people coming out with their stories and it's so brave of them. "
Excerpts from the conversation-
One of the most horrifying experiences was shared by Vinta Nanda where she alleged some really shocking details about Alok Nath raping and harassing her. You have worked with the man in question in your TV show, 'Kuch Toh Log Kahenge'. How has your interaction been with him in the past?
I will just say the truth in the sense that, I have never personally encountered anything with him. He was very respectful and all that, at least in the working environment on my sets. I had shot quite a few scenes with him. I personally didn't encounter anything like this. But that's my experience.
I also read this thing about him on Monday. I read the articles and even went through Vinta Nanda's Facebook post. It's appalling and so shocking in the sense that, this had details and I am just thinking what she must have gone through and the fact that she held on to it for so long. She also spoke about how she tried to write about it in the past and then she lost work. The kind of toil it must have taken on her is almost giving me the chills.
Referring to her Facebook post, Vinta mentioned that it was a 'now or a never' moment for her. Still there were a certain section of people who questioned her as to why she is speaking after 20 years.
I am tired with this debate around, 'Why are people speaking up now?' It is one of the most ridiculous ones. This is not what we need to discuss. Instead, we need to discuss what and why it happened, how can we stop it, how can we make it safer and how do we get justice for these people. It's so irrelevant to ask, 'Why are they saying it now?' Of course, they are saying this now because the environment is such now. Now is the time when people are actually hearing these stories. Otherwise, people have been dismissed in the past.
There have been so much instances. Even Tanushree Dutta tried to say it then and she was shut down. I even read something about Mamta Kulkarni. Whenever people have tried to say these things in the past, they haven't been taken seriously. They have been shut down or shamed. If we continue to shame people today for coming out with the truth then, we are at fault. So, I don't think this whole argument only holds as to why somebody is telling this today.
This friend of mine went through something like child abuse when she was in her early teens. She's happily married now. But even after so many years later, it has come back to haunt her. It has come and gone but that person has been presently triggered by something. She is taking therapy today as she's getting all kinds of thoughts. She's really affected by that whole thing. If today she wants to talk about it and has the support system to be able to talk about it, we should encourage such people and respect the fact that they have opened up.
Vinta Nanda has clearly written what all she went through in the last so many years. Nobody would take this upon themselves. I hope it's cathartic and it helps. I hope it's therapeutic when people can at least come out and say that this is what happened with them and release it out of their system. I can't even imagine what the women who have held on to something like this for so many years have been feeling and how they have been living with it.
Are you aware of Alok Nath's reaction to Vinta Nanda's allegations?
I haven't read his reactions yet. Though I did see a couple of headlines where it read that he neither accepts nor denies these allegations.
To begin with, he made some shocking statements like, 'We only have to hear to women's stand because they are considered weak' and 'It was me who made her what she is.' What's your take on this?
Frankly, I don't want to react to his statements. Because again, the reaction doesn't matter to me. At this point, what matters to me is if something as grave as this has happened to somebody then what are we doing about it. And the fact that now it's the time to come out and people are naming and shaming people. They are from all walks of life including journalists, writers, artists. They have taken names of people who have harassed them or given them a tough time at work. So many of them are putting their personal lives out there to encourage somebody else and with this movement to make people realize that this exists. Sexual harassment is rampant and we have do something about it.
I have also read threads on Twitter which are like manuals of trying to explain consent to people which some of them don't understand. Sometimes even if they understand, they just abuse as they are in the position of power and they go ahead and exploit anyway. That's wrong and we need to be held accountable. That's what we need to worry about.
Everybody is going to say something in their defence or react or whatever. Frankly, I am not bothered about that. I don't want to react to it or validate responses. The idea is not to just keep having an ongoing debate. Instead, the idea is to first talk about it and then take some action.
What would you like to tell these women who have finally found the guts to open up and share their #MeToo stories with the world?
I think it's very gutsy to be able to share something very personal and dark. It's like exposing your vulnerable side to the world. At times, we ain't able to do that even with our closed ones. It's hatsoff to be able to come out and write this anonymously or not, to put it out in the public domain, to be able to name and face your demons. Recently, I had to make an appearance at a beauty events show. Another story had broken that same day. I am telling you, I am a distinct person...it's not like it's my or my friend's story. Still, I was so affected and pissed off. I didn't feel like even dressing up and going or just celebrating anything or celebrating myself as a woman that day.
I stand with everybody who has the courage and even with those who haven't been able to say it at this point, but have gone through something like this. Hats off to them and their spirit. The fact that they have led beautiful lives and today, they are ready to erase this forever. It's high time that people are named and these things are not just restricted to rumours and spoken in hushed tones. Now, it's out there and people are talking about it. Now, the wrongdoers need to be held accountable.
But then, there will be men out there who will say that now we are scared about how a woman would react to things...
It's just ridiculous. That's just a hi, welcome to our world. We have lived scared all our lives being women so please! I don't understand now why men are scared that any girl can turn around and say whatever. Women are not stupid. I feel digusted that people would just disregard or discredit somebody's story or their account of what they are saying. They might say, 'allegations are allegations till they are proven.' That way you choose to believe this side of the story and I choose the other one. So for now, let's just listen.
I really hope that this keeps going. I hope it transcends from Twitter to other places and things. I am really happy that even the media is covering these stories. Otherwise, such movements just end up restricted to social media.
Well, It's not just the entertainment industry. There have been revelations made in the advertising and journalism world as well...
Oh yes. In fact many journalists have been called out. Even comedians and writers. I read the entire Chetan Bhagat account as well. I have been reading every single thing. It exists in all walks of life and right now, people are talking about sexual harassment at work. There are so many who go through this in their domestic lives as well. It's only when influencers and celebrities and people start talking about it that these guys would get the encouragement to be able to come out and talk.
Most of times, these survivors are hesistant about how their parents and people surrounding them would react to their stories. Do you believe the reason why some of them are chosing to remain anonymous is because they fear any repercussions of their relevations?
Exactly because that's what has happened all this while. Right now, for people who are speaking up, they are being questioned as to why are they opening up after so many years later. Who wants to be in that position and who wants to be engaged in legal battles all their lives? So, there are people who maybe chose to be anonymous. If that solves their purpose then it's fine. It's up to them. It's their personal prerogative.
Because we have normalize this kind of victim-shaming and this whole casual sexism and inppropriate behaviour. I think now is the time to normalize people talking about it and coming out and people opposing wrong behaviour. That needs to be normalize so that there's no more stigma and people can actually say their story.
But don't you think the impact is more when a Bollywood celebrity makes that point?
I know that, which is why we are now expecting our icons, actors to talk. We are expecting the A-listers to talk. That's why the conversation and I don't think that's a wrong expectation to have. In our country, we really worship our celebrities, we look up to them and I know that anything that they say automatically sets a tone and a trend. So, people need to be trendsetters beyond fashion and say these things. In fact, so many of them have. I watched Sonam Kapoor's talking about it and Ranveer Singh-Deepika Padukone's conclave...they have all spoken about it. They ain't shying away now.