Spotlight on safety

Women in cinema

Spotlight on safety

Another women’s day is upon us and as usual, rhetoric and sloganeering is being seen in plenty everywhere, from television screens to social media.

While there certainly is occasion to cheer and celebrate the achievements of women in every sphere of life, certain incidents serve as unpleasant reminders of the patriarchy and misogyny that remain entrenched in societal psyche. The recent abduction of a female actor in Kochi served as a wake up call for many and elicited questions on the safety of women working in the field of cinema.

“Security is a concern for everyone — whether it is an actor or a girl coming back after a late night party,” says director Kavitha Lankesh. “During late night schedules and shoots in remote places, you just get into the cab you are given, which is arranged by the production house. It is physically impossible to do a background check about the person driving the vehicle.”

Ironically, Kavitha says that maybe the smaller artistes have it better when it comes to safety. “The top actors get personal vehicles while the others have to share vehicles. This is probably safer and something that the leading ladies might want to do. It’s true that sometimes the people you are clubbed with might be too chatty and over- friendly, which the senior actors will find annoying, but at the end of the day, it seems like the best thing to do,” she elucidates.

“I have not personally faced any disturbing incidents in this field, in which I started as a child artiste,” says actor Shreya Gupta. “Having said that, it is true that being a celebrity, you get a lot of attention; sometimes unwanted. There are a lot of people involved in a film, apart from the main crew, and it is not possible to keep a tab on everyone. Increased security seems to be the only answer to the concerns that are being voiced now. As actors, we are provided with security but there are others who need it too. For example, child artistes.”

But there are also some who say that it was a one-off occurrence and should not be seen as a reflection of the ground reality in the film industry. “It was a crime against a woman, not an actor,” says director Sumana Kittur.

“Cinema is a workplace where different people come together for a common objective. There are many people who come to this field, we can’t filter everybody. And I feel the incident was an aberration. I have been in this field for many years and I have never faced something like this. I have had to deal with ego and discrimination but not any harassment like this,” she says emphatically.

Says filmmaker Vijayalakshmi Singh, “It is a shocking incident and I really respect the girl for coming out. But I can’t even fathom how something like this happened. I have been in this field for 35 years and haven’t had to face even a single adverse event. I drive alone to work, take late-night trains, hail cabs after 11 pm and so on. But even after one incident like this, you don’t feel safe and start suspecting everyone.”

Vijayalakshmi goes on to add that such incidents show where we are heading towards as a society. “Women are not safe anywhere. Sometimes you feel so helpless. I have three daughters and I tell them to stay aware and alert all the time. Beyond that, what can we do?”

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