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Casting couch: Farhan Akhtar says women should complain to HR

The Lucknow Central (2017) actor offered this strange reply when asked how workplaces in Hindi filmdom could be made more secure for women.

Mayur Lookhar

The unabated rise in sexual crimes is a matter of grave concern, one that is embarrassing India. Farhan Akhtar is among those who are deeply disturbed by this trend. The actor runs a social campaign called MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination) and has launched a new campaign called Ab Bas (Enough).

While rape is a disturbing reality, so too, sadly, is the menace of the casting couch in the country's prolific film industry. This point was brought out at the press conference today with the actor-filmmaker fielding some uncomfortable questions.

A freelance journalist who runs a YouTube channel asked Farhan Akhtar what was needed to make workplaces in Hindi filmdom more secure. The actor offered a vague reply.

Speaking later to Cinestaan.com, the journalist said, “The event was to launch a new campaign by MARD. I asked Farhan how to make women in Bollywood secure. He said, ‘They should go and complain to the HR [human resources] managers in the production houses!” 

Normally, actors and actresses looking for work get in touch with casting directors who mostly work independently. If they bag a project, they sign contracts with the production house concerned. At no stage do they become employees of the production house and they often have no access to the HR department. 

More importantly, victims keep their lips sealed about indecent proposals for fear of being marginalized by the industry, where most of the biggies are connected in some way even if they are not blood relations. Akhtar, however, does not think speaking up will jeopardize their chances. 

“If you are successful in your career, speaking the truth will not harm your chances, Farhan said," the journalist revealed. 

The seeking of sexual favours in exchange for acting assignments has long been an open secret in the Hindi film industry, but the recent Harvey Weinstein saga in Hollywood has reopened the debate here as well.

It may be recalled that earlier this year, Vikas Bahl, one of the founding members of Anurag Kashyap's Phantom Films, was mired in controversy with an employee accusing him of sexual harassment. There were murmurs of Bahl being asked to leave the company, but so far there has been no official confirmation. By contrast, Weinstein was dismissed from the company he had founded and which bears his name.

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Casting Couch