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Interview Hindi

ASHIFT aims to create safer work environments in entertainment industry: Founders

Tess Joseph, a well-known casting director; Janani Ravichandran, a producer; and Arpita Chatterjee, a former journalist and screenwriter, have joined hands to form the Anti-Sexual Harassment in Film & Television committee.

Keyur Seta

The number of women calling out prominent names from the Hindi film industry for sexual harassment is increasing by the day. The movement has also created a worrisome situation for women not only already working in the entertainment industry, but also for those who aspire to join it in the future. 

In order to improve the situation, Tess Joseph, a well-known casting director; Janani Ravichandran, a producer; and Arpita Chatterjee, a former journalist and screenwriter, have joined hands and formed a committee called the Anti-Sexual Harassment in Film & Television (ASHIFT). The independent committee will ensure safer workspaces across the film and TV industry in Mumbai and also work in unison with all the associated unions and guilds.

Cinestaan.com interviewed the three founders of the committee via e-mail to know more details. 

The committee, they said, has been formed to address a 'system that is broken, especially for women' by establishing preventive measures. "ASHIFT was born out of a feeling of helplessness and rage that the film and television industry in which we work has a system that’s broken, especially for women. The stories that were coming out on Twitter deeply shocked and disturbed everybody. It brought the three of us together and we realized that something had to be done to put preventive measures in place to create safer work environments. ASHIFT was born from that discussion and is an attempt to put preventive measures in place.”  

The means of achieving this goal, the founders believe, is first by sensitizing men on not only drawing lines, but also on the correct ways of addressing such issues when raised. “We realized that men need to be sensitized and that we need to create awareness on what constitutes sexual harassment and that there has to be redressal systems in place for victims. Women have waited for 20 years to speak up. That’s so disturbing. We must create a system where they can speak up immediately," they said, adding, “ASHIFT plans to be a resource body to create awareness, enable companies and unions to put a grievance policy in place, reduce the cases of sexual harassment in the workplace and provide a safe environment for victims to speak up. We want to create safer work places in the film and TV industry and this is ASHIFT in that direction.” 

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They believe that it is imperative for more people to come forward and contribute, as this needs to be a collective effort. “Many have come forward to offer help and support. Everyone wants things to change and to use this ‘time to make a better tomorrow'. We plan to be an independent body with elected representatives from all fields of filmmaking. At ASHIFT we plan to work with all associations; to be a catalyst and enabler,” they shared. 

The trio is happy with the support and encouragement they are recieving from all quarters. “It is very promising that two associations have already started putting systems in place. ASHIFT can only work when it is embraced by the people who are this industry — starting from a spot-boy, a make-up artiste to an actor and director. Everyone should feel safe and that is the goal. Many lawyers who will help with understanding the legalities and counselors who can conduct sensitization workshops have come on board. 

“Several established men and women from the industry have reached out and offered their support. We are currently collecting data to enable us to put a policy in place. The entire eco-system needs to work together to achieve such an ambitious goal,” they said. 

However, even with the growing support, the founders are aware of the challenges lying ahead. “Any proposal for a change in the status quo comes with difficulties and challenges. We cannot let that overwhelm us. The immense support and encouragement we have got over the last four days since we started ASHIFT has given us the confidence to move forward with full force,” they said.

Related topics

Sexual harassment