Interview Hindi

Unorganised nature of film industry makes it difficult to deal with sexual abuse: CINTAA's Sushant Singh

The general secretary of CINTAA speaks about the challenges victims and the association face, adding that more participation will be needed to bring about change.

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Shriram Iyengar

The press release by Cine and Television Artists' Association (CINTAA) expressing 'regret' for the poor handling of Tanushree Dutta's complaints back in 2008 is being cited by many as a step in the right direction. The actress has accused Nana Patekar of misbehaving with her on the sets of the film Horn Ok Pleassss (2009), as well as accusing director Rakesh Sarang, producer Sami Siddiqui, and choreographer Ganesh Acharya of abetting the emotional abuse. 

Speaking on phone with, CINTAA's general secretary Sushant Singh shed some light on the nature and extent of the problem in the film industry. Clarifying on the process how a victim of sexual harassment can avail of help, Singh said, "We have an online complaints department, where individuals can make a complaint if needed. They can also walk into the office at any time and file a complaint. In case of an emergency, CINTAA does intervene on location." 

The Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017) actor added, "However, we do ask the complainant to file a police complaint. In case the victim is unwilling to go to the police, we often turn to the producer's body and work with them to sort out the issues." 

While the government of India instituted the Vishakha guidelines back in 1997 and the POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplaces) guidelines in 2013, the laws are applicable for the private and public sector. However, the film industry, owing to its disorganised nature still struggles to maintain a uniform practice for women. 

Singh admitted as much when he said, "The unorganised nature of the film industry also makes it difficult for people to come out. Many of them fear losing their jobs, or finding other opportunities. This makes them take back their complaints." 

He also added that there were several occassions when victims were unwilling to file a complaint as they wanted to keep their jobs at the production. This makes it difficult for CINTAA to intervene. 

"CINTAA is currently working towards getting the government of India to declare the film industry as an 'organised' sector, which would then make it subject to several laws that offer security and safety to people working in it," Singh assured. 

These laws do not just apply to sexual harassment. There are also issues of safety and health requirements offered to female members of the industry on sets require an upgrade. Singh revealed, "Sexual harassment is just one part of the issue. There are also problems of requisite facilities on sets. For instance, many women on sets have to work for over 12-14 hours with only a common toilet facility. Several of them choose to go without water for the day to avoid going to the bathrooom. These are issues that also need to be addressed, and the voice of prominent female members in the industry will help bring it to attention." 

There is a precedent in the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) established in 2016 in the Malayalam film industry. The association was one of the key voices against actor Dileep Pillai when he was accused of conspiring and ordering the abduction of an actress last year. Singh believed that an active participation of more female voices in the association will help address such issues better. 

He said, "It would help. The film industry has a large and growing number of female members from directors, writers, actresses, to production designers, make-up experts and hair-dressers. If they could come together, it would prove very helpful and enable CINTAA to work better towards these issues." 

Related topics

Sexual harassment