HBO network recently announced that the presence of intimacy coordinators is now mandatory on every set filming sexually intimate scenes. According to The Independent, this decision has been made to ensure the shooting of sexually intimate scenes are safer and more comfortable for the actors involved. It is a welcome move by such a prominent network. With shows like Game of Thrones in the pipeline, HBO’s move does make sense in a post #MeToo climate.
Closer home, the Indian film industry can take a leaf out of their book and work on making filming sexually intimate content easier and the sets safer for the actors. This is important under the current circumstances because both Indian film industry and Hollywood’s history is rife with examples where women got violated during the filming of such scenes.
The move will not only protect women but will also ensure that the boundaries of conduct remain clear on the sets.
The industry cares little about female exploitation
It is a known fact that filmmaking operates on the culture of bro-code in Bollywood. If one ever sees a peer abusing his power to sexually oppress women, then one is expected to look the other way. Since in Bollywood, everyone knows everyone, and everyone is related to everyone, calling out sexual misconduct is difficult. Many such incidences often occur while filming where one party deliberately crosses the line and violates the other party’s personal space without their consent.
- HBO network has decided to appoint intimacy coordinators to ensure the shooting of sexually intimate scenes are safer and more comfortable for the actors.
- The Indian film industry should follow suit, given its history.
- Men who care can act as monitors for themselves and those around them as well.
Also, it is not uncommon for filmmakers to get so carried away with their craft, that a woman’s dignity becomes obscure to them. Who can forget the now infamous rape scene in Marlon Brando starrer ‘Last Tango In Paris’. There was such an outrage in 2016, when the film’s director Bernardo Bertolucci commented that he had conspired with Brando to film the notorious “butter rape” scene without taking consent from the then 19-year-old Maria Schneider. The same year, another controversy surrounding violation of consent of a female artist came to light in Bollywood.
In his book, Rekha:The Untold Story, writer Yasser Usman revealed how director Raja Nawathe allegedly convinced actor Biswajeet to forcibly kiss newbie Rekha without her knowledge or consent.
Rekha was only 15 then and this was supposed to be her big Bollywood debut. She was left in tears after Biswajeet pulled her into his arms pressed his lips against hers for full five minutes. All this, just to capture an expression of surprise on her face. What happened to Tanushree Dutta on the sets of ‘Horn Ok Please’ is also on the similar lines. And these are just a few incidences that we know of.
While filmmaking may be subjective to bro-code, the money behind cinema mostly comes from the corporate sector today. These are multinational companies, for whom professionalism is a key part of their brand image. It is thus now in their hands to straighten out the entitled brigade in our film world. To use their money to regulate the flow of power and make policies that make workplaces safer. Men who care can act as monitors for themselves and those around them as well.
Bollywood veteran Dalip Tahil recently mentioned how he has recorded a female actor’s consent before filming a rape scene for a web series.
In an interview to The Hindustan Times, he made a shocking revelation on how 25 years ago, a film director tried to coerce him into violating a female actor’s consent. He said, “Twenty-five years ago, I was doing a similar scene. It was one of those movies that had a rape scene. The director, whose name I won’t take, actually told me, ‘When you’re doing the scene, tear the girl’s clothes apart, do this and that, but we won’t tell her.’ I flatly refused! I said, ‘This is such an immoral thing to do.’ The girl was new, and she had to make a living. I went in the opposite direction: I called the girl and said, ‘Do you know this is what they’re planning to do?’ The director was aghast and almost ran away. The girl was so upset, she burst into tears and ran into a room.”
This proves how precariously our film industry treats the consent of women. How filmmakers do not think twice before exploiting them. Which is why we need more men like Tahil to stand up for women as well as themselves. Had Tahil agreed, the blame of misconduct would have fallen exclusively on his shoulders.
In light of recent revelations, though, we sincerely hope that organisations like CINTAA and Producers Guild of India will give the appointment of intimacy coordinators a serious thought and try to bring as many producers and filmmakers on board with this concept as possible. This may sound like a very insignificant intervention to many, considering the size of the problem at hand. But if it manages to shield even a handful of women from exploitation on the film sets, then it is certainly worth it.
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.