Bengaluru: The Film Industry for Rights and Equality (FIRE) which came into force to provide safe environment for workers in the film industry, especially women, has been witnessing a lot of action after actor Sruthi Hariharan accused her co-actor Arjun Sarja of sexual harassment. FIRE also faced criticism after actress Priyanka Upendra resigned as its president and quit the body citing 'ideological differences’. Later renowned filmmaker Kavitha Lankesh took over as its president. She speaks to Deccan Chronicle on the ongoing developments and the #me too revelations in the film industry.
What made you join FIRE?
We all got together with the sole intention to ensure safer working environment for all, including women, in the film industry. After Priyanka quit citing differences, I was the vice-president and now become its head by default. I was asked to chair the recently constituted Internal Complaints Complaint (ICC) as per the provisions of law. It is the first one to come in force in the entire Indian film industry.
What is about Sruthi's case and the FIRE?
Insofar as Sruthi's ‘me too’ case is concerned, it does not qualify to be taken up by FIRE or by the ICC. We have chosen to stand in solidarity with the actress, who also happens to be FIRE member.
How safe is the industry for women?
The film industry is dominated by men, and it is an open secret that there have been instances where female artistes/workers were accused of not being cooperative at work, amongst other issues. However, it is not that bad as in the case of other industries.
Why is FIRE facing so much of heat?
May be many expected issues like junior artistes complaining against another junior artiste, but when it got bigger questioning the patriarchal system, some were taken by surprise. Whatever the case may be, it is most important that a campaign such as 'me too’ should be used to make the right noise creating awareness and helping not just women, but everyone who feel victimized, to approach a platforms like FIRE. Even if cases do not fall under our purview, FIRE's purpose is to instill faith and hope in them. We will stand in solidarity like in the case of Sruthi.
How a film industry worker can approach FIRE?
Even now many are clueless on whom to approach in such circumstances, we have started to put up email addresses and other means so that they can reach us.
Has anyone approached ICC after its formation?
An anonymous girl, who had accused Ere Gowda, has approached FIRE. We are looking into it. If it is not within three to six months of time of the alleged incident, we will support her morally. Many are expressing displeasure that Sruthi used the FIRE platform. She is also a member, and she chose to address it, which we cannot question. We have not taken up her case. We are standing in support of all women, and not just Sruthi. We will extend similar support to all.