Renuka Shahane is one of the vocal artists of the industry and she has expressed her opinion on the Me Too Tsunami pretty well. The actor has however taken a pragmatic view on the entire situation and has also shared some tips for the aspiring actors. Here is what she said:
“With the #MeToo movement gathering steam in India one has seen a lot of known perpetrators being unmasked, from especially the fields of Film,Television & Journalism. And though one would think that sexual harassment is rampant only in these industries that is not the case. Just two days ago 36 school girls from Bihar who had resisted the lewd comments and harassment by some boys were thrashed by the boys and their parents for standing up to their aggressors. The girls were from the 6th & 7th grade. Can you believe that? This, unfortunately is the reality of a lot of girls in rural India. The environment has to be made safe for girls & women all across the World. I have completed 31 years in the Film and Television industry this September. Today many young girls and boys might feel afraid to come into this profession because there is an air of mistrust. But I would like to say, please do not hesitate to be a part of this wonderful industry. I have worked with so many good, cultured, respectful men. There are I’m sure many men & women who prefer to hold their silence about their own or the abuse of others. We must all be respectful of their choice. It is not always only fear that makes us keep quiet, it is the feeling that one has got over that terrible abuse & do not want to relive those painful memories.
I know a lot of men & women in the industry who have had consensual sex and have achieved great heights. That is not abuse, because they have looked at it as a mutually beneficial relationship.
There are many actresses who have got abused by their actor boyfriends, many had spoken up about this in the past but were unfortunately not taken seriously.
But Time’s Up now, for many. The brave women who have come out with their horrendous stories of molestation, harassment and rape, have paved the way for a safer working environment for all of us. The Producer’s Association, Director’s Association, Cine Artist’s Association & the Screenwriters Association have come out strongly and put their might behind the safety of women. So do not be afraid. As long as you know that there are many out there who will help you if you ever face harassment.
Here are a few tips to young strugglers, both girls and boys that I would like to put out:
1) No worthy casting agent asks for money to cast an actor. You have to pay the agent a commission after you get the job.
2) If any casting agent, director, producer asks for your nude pics online, do not send them.
3) If a director, producer asks you to audition in his hotel room please be accompanied by someone. It is mandatory even for Doctors to have a female assistant during a patient’s examination. If he asks you to disrobe because he wants to see your body and if you are comfortable then do it but with your companion in the room. Under no circumstances is it necessary for your companion to go out of the room. Do not allow him to take any video or pictures of you in that state. Please leave if you are uncomfortable. If he keeps insisting it is better to give up a project rather than get blackmailed & abused in the future.
4) Please be clear about what you DO NOT want to do!
5) Please do not trust strangers who promise to “make your career”. People who have not been able to make their own careers cannot make the careers of anyone else!
6) There are crores of people coming to Mumbai to make it as actors. It is extremely difficult to make ends meet. Please have enough money to survive in Mumbai and give yourself a cut off period till when you can struggle for roles with the available money. If things do not go according to your plan and you do not get any acting assignment, please have a back up plan ready even before you come to Mumbai. If you have not thought it through it leaves you vulnerable & a sitting duck for exploitation.
7) If anyone is sending you unwanted and creepy messages after a meeting be specific about being uncomfortable with those kinds of messages and please save those screenshots in case you want to file an FIR.
Good luck to all who are thinking of trying their luck in our industry.
And for all women who are outing their abusers, I will also add a caveat.
Please, please do not use this important movement to get revenge for failed relationships or trivialize the issue with false complaints.
A safer environment for women at work is a must. But like the misuse of the Dowry law (498 A) by some scheming women and their families, if this movement becomes diluted by a selfish settling of scores it will hamper the atmosphere and the genuine cases of assault that women have suffered over the years. And to all the very good men in our Industry, a huge thank you.”
The article has been penned by Renuka Shahane and very minor editing has been done.