Farhan Akhtar says #MeToo has brought fear and respect to Bollywood

Farhan Akhtar says #MeToo has brought fear and respect to Bollywood

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A wave of #MeToo revelations in India has created fear among sex pests and more respect for women in one of the world’s largest film industries, Bollywood star Farhan Akhtar said on Wednesday.

Farhan Akhtar speaks during a news conference at the Berlinale International Film Festival February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Files

The #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment, which began in the U.S. entertainment industry, gained traction in India after Bollywood’s Tanushree Dutta in September accused veteran actor Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her on a movie set a decade ago.

The movement found resonance in Bollywood, where the vast majority of producers and film-makers are men, most of whom are from prominent families in the film industry, which is notorious for its exploitation of women.

“Being in the film industry, the power structure allows you to easily get away with something like this,” the actor-director-singer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview from Mumbai, the centre of the Bollywood industry.

“I do feel that (#MeToo) would have put fear into people’s minds and that it will compel people to be a little more respectful, to be more aware of what a person entering a room, looking for a job … is feeling and that you can’t exploit them.”

Akhtar, 44, is a United Nations goodwill ambassador for women’s empowerment and has long been a vocal advocate for gender equality in India, where he founded in 2013 the Men Against Rape and Discrimination campaign.

He was one of the few Bollywood celebrities to support Dutta, who felt so shamed by those questioning her story and by the way the Indian media treated her that she left Bollywood and went to live in the United States.

Akhtar also called for his cousin, Bollywood filmmaker Sajid Khan who was accused of sexual harassment, to “atone for his alleged actions” in October on Twitter.

The #MeToo campaign has spread across India,…

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