A delegation from the Bombay film industry met Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week. A photo of the meeting was released soon after.
It was a nice image. The lighting was perfect. Almost everybody wore coats.
Had an extensive and fruitful interaction with a delegation from the film and entertainment industry.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) December 18, 2018
Modi even sat on a red couch and with Karan Johar on a chair nearby, one could wonder if this was only an elaborate setting for a Koffee with Karan show. Only with pink bottles of water instead of Koffee.
In hindsight, it would have probably worked better that way.
For a delegation that sought to represent the film industry, nobody thought to invite the women. There were eighteen men in the meeting. Zero women.
Even the paintings in the room were…wait for it…men. So no inclusion there.
Predictably, this meeting and the overwhelming pretentiousness that comes with calling the delegation a representation of the industry, has drawn a lot of flak.
More proof that reinforces we need affirmative action. Clearly women are not even on invite lists. Forget bottom of the lists. https://t.co/ZpvCSMbmjX
— Aparna Jain (@Aparna) December 18, 2018
Would be great to have female representation in these delegations. It is 2018. https://t.co/HoxGbptgwX
— Alankrita Shrivastava (@alankrita601) December 18, 2018
Looks like the womenfolk from the film and entertainment industry seem to have nothing worth sharing with the PM of the country. Maybe all the harassment, casting couch, pay gap, misrepresentation and sexism must have been addressed already? https://t.co/cea12BkMCN
— Calling Out Stalking (@CallOutStalking) December 18, 2018
18 men. zero women. https://t.co/Bm0Jx7IaG0
— Neha Sharma (@mmiinniii) December 18, 2018
— Samar (@Samar_Anarya) December 19, 2018
Barely months away from second wave of the #MeToo movement, in which prominent personalities of the film industry (a majority of them women) spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse, a meeting is held with a man in power, who can reasonably do something about it, with other men in power, who probably did not speak about it.
Modi confirms this in a tweet on his social media account. He says that the ‘delegation’ spoke to him about making Mumbai better. And a global hub for entertainment.
Guys, you had one job.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot be blamed, really. He had nothing to do with the guest list for the evening.
He had nothing to do with the meeting agenda. He listened. They spoke.
Modi cannot be blamed.
Johar can. Johar speaks about girl power in the first episode of the latest season of Koffee With Karan. He talks glowingly of actors Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and their dominance over the industry.
But neither of these actors were present at the meeting.
Akshay Kumar can be blamed. His wife is a self confessed feminist. She is a recent entrant into film production. Surely, she could have been a worthy inclusion.
Ajay Devgn, Riteish Sidhwani, Prasoon Joshi, Ronnie Screwvala…surely these people knew that something was wrong in the picture.
The list of women, who could have had a dialogue with the PM on things other than Mumbai, the lowering of GST for the entertainment industry are endless.
The state to which sexual harassment and abuse is entrenched in the industry surely warrants a conversation.
But no, dear Mr Modi. We want Mumbai to be the global hub.
We want to pay lesser GST for our films.
We want to help you realise your dream of making India a five trillion dollar economy in the future. We want to help you by showing you the things we can do.
We want to tell you about the power of the media and entertainment sector and the way it can make a significant contribution to your goal.
If you lower our GST, we will make more profitable movies, Mr Modi.
Those movies will likely be commercial potboilers in which men sexualise women, but who cares.
Those movies may have directors, producers, people in position of power who prey on others. Those movies might have an actor or two or three or four who are sexually harassed, but who cares.
We will give you that five trillion dollar economy.
Aamir Khan, director Anand L Rai had paid a visit to PM Modi in October. At the time, it was heavily speculated that the meeting was organised to talk about the #MeToo movement. A group of men holding forth on #MeToo doesn’t seem like a great scenario and is certainly not ideal.
Later, reports emerged that Khan and co. wanted the same things this new delegation asked for.
Modi is an important man. A busy man. Does he really need to hear the same things from two different groups of people?
This is just a clear sign that the film industry, operated as it is by men, values money above anything else.
You got hurt? Well, boo hoo.
Controversies are not new to these men or Mr Modi. In the years since he took oath to become the PM, he has met a lot of people he didn’t have to. He has also not met a lot of people he had to. This new meeting belongs to the former.
He should have met the women.
Just like he should have met the farmers who marched all over New Delhi.
Just like the time he should have gone to the weddings of Virat Kohli, India’s bad boy captain and Anushka Sharma. And that of global star Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. They invited him after all!
Oh wait, he did.
But who cares?
As long as Mumbai is the global hub.
And India is a five trillion dollar economy.
Pesky issues like #MeToo and loan waivers can just wait.