Bol Ke Lab Azad Hai Tere: Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Rendition Rang True for Women in 2018 India

New Delhi: “We’ll get you all one day,” wrote journalist Priya Ramani without naming MJ Akbar. Days after Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta named her predator, the #MeToo storm hit the country. And along with, the freedom for women to finally speak up.

Several women came out to accuse Akbar, who allegedly preyed on women reporters in his days of journalism. They accused him of calling them to hotel rooms, singing songs, making them uncomfortable and sexually abusing them.

And the day came! Supported by a sea of solidarity around women and their testimonies, Ramani finally named the then minister of state external affairs ministry. How did it start? Well, after a hiatus of 10 years, Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta was heard in 2018 when she accused actor Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. What fell on deaf ears in 2008 was received with full empathy and support and it started a #Metoo campaign. Several women joined Dutta about falling prey to harassers and shook the foundations of patriarchal mindset that bred on impunity for harassing women in workplaces.
News does a recap– here are the voices that were the loudest and made workplaces perhaps a little safer for women.

Tanushree Dutta

At the time of shooting for ‘Horn OK Please’ in the year 2008, actor Tanushree Dutta raised her voice when veteran actor Nana Patekar allegedly misbehaved with her during the shoot. It was a special dance number for the film – ‘Horn OK Please’ – that traumatized Tanushree and jeopardized her film career. With no support from any corner, Tanushree chose to leave the country.

She spoke out it again in 2018. This time too, she found very little support. But soon enough old videos emerged on social media where some unidentified men attacked her vehicle for not compromising with the situation that erupted at the time of the shoot.

Vinita Nanda, Sandhya Mridul

Television producer Vinita Nanda spoke against the alleged abuse she faced at the hand of veteran actor Alok Nath. Nath, who enjoyed a certain kind of image of that of ‘sanskaari babuji’, immediately went in defense.  Nanda’s elaborate account revealed that she was harassed and allegedly raped by Nath. Seeing the sea of solidarity around her, she told the media that after years of being silence she felt relieved to have spoken up. Nanda was joined by Sandhya Mridul, TV actor who accused Nath of ‘creepy behavior’ before he lunged at her in the hotel room.

Mahim Kukreja

All hell broke loose for the All India Bakchod enterprise when Mahim Kukreja tweeted, “I want everyone to know @Wootsaw is a piece of shit. He sent me a dick pic, was creepy, then cried saying I’ll ruin his career if I tell others. I told two of the most influential men in comedy in India. Nothing happened. Let me tell you what else he has done with others.” The charges against Chakraborty were that he sent explicit images to several women, including minors on social media and also demanded ‘nudes’ from minors.

The accusations grew in gravity and AIB issued a statement – which didn’t hold much water. In the following days, the one accused of misconduct, co-founders Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba were accused of mental harassment by an anonymous woman, who knew them on a personal level. This lead to the dissolution of AIB.

Anonymous crew member

Bringing down the mighty production house dominated by men was an anonymous crew member who accused Vikas Bahl of ‘masturbating on her’ when he crashed in her room after the shoot. The Phantom Films, co-founded by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena, soon headed for dissolution. Coming out in support of the woman were other industry names – Kashyap himself confirmed that Bahl was a perpetrator and repented to not take an action against him.

Kangana Ranaut shared her story as well – and said that Bahl behaved inappropriately while working for ‘Queen’. Ranaut said, “But still every time we met, socially greeted and hugged each other, he’d bury his face in my neck, hold me really tight and breathe in the smell of my hair. It took me great amount of strength and effort to pull myself out of his embrace. He’d say ‘I love how you smell K.’ I could tell something is wrong with him.”

Sandhya Menon

The Times of India’s Hyderabad Resident Editor KR Sreenivas was accused of sexual misconduct and was later terminated from his services, in a stern action. Journalist Sandhya Menon was the first one to slam Sreenivas, her petition said, “In the case of Sandhya Menon, once she complained and he was informally informed of it (a violation of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act, and/or Vishakha guidelines, 1997 – as applicable) he did everything he could – in use of his power and authority as superior – to indirectly intimidate and traumatize her, till she refused to come back to work after her maternity leave.”

This was followed by another woman from the Goa bureau of Times of India, where she interned under Sreenivas and complained that he would constantly ask her out or make plans with her.

Menon also spoke in support of women who spoke the ‘Kapoor & Sons’ actor Rajat Kapoor accused of misconduct. Kapoor allegedly misbehaved with a woman journalist and asked her ‘are you as sexy as you sound?’

MJ Akbar

The power corridors were shaken, when the name of MJ Akbar the former Minister of State External Affairs Ministry cropped up in cases of sexual misconduct. India’s #MeToo chorus is being heard from every corner of the country. Akbar was first accused by journalist Priya Ramani, and other women journalists Ghazala Wahab, Sutapa Paul, Saba Naqvi, Harinder Baweja, joined the chorus.

Ramani had first written about Akbar’ misconduct for Vogue a year ago, she didn’t mention his name then, and only after the #Metoo Campaign gained momentum she accused him of sexually harassing her. The women ministers, Smriti Irani, Maneka Gandhi believed the stories against Akbar and demanded a probe.

Akbar has been accused of rape by chief business editor of NPR Pallavi Gogoi. After defending himself against these accusations, he resigned.

Natasha Hemrajani

Accusing folk and Bollywood singer Kailash Kher of sexual misconduct female photo journalist Natasha Hemrajani narrated an incident when Kher, while on assignment, inappropriately touched the women.

Nishtha Jain

Bringing out the incident that happened in 1989, a filmmaker Nishtha Jain wrote a Facebook post accusing veteran journalist Vinod Dua of sexual harassment. In the post she wrote that it was June 1989 and on her birthday, when she left wearing her favorite saree for a job interview. The interview was with a famous TV personality who had had a very popular show called Janvani – he was Vinod Dua.

She wrote: “Before I could settle down he began telling a lewd sexual joke in that soft voice, barely opening his mouth. I don’t remember the joke but it wasn’t worth a laugh, just dirty. I felt hot in my face and I sat there most probably with an angry look.”

He also questioned her capabilities by saying, “Tumhari aukat kya hai?” She bagged the job, and the nightmare resumed as he stalked her through keeping a tab on her office timing and allegedly sexually harassed her. The woman called him a “potential rapist.”

Updated: December 28, 2018 — 5:04 am