India's #MeToo: Comedian Utsav Chakraborty Sexually Harassed Women Online

India's #MeToo: Comedian Utsav Chakraborty Sexually Harassed Women Online

Women all over the world are naming and shaming predators. It started with the #MeToo movement in the US, exactly a year ago, when The New York Times and The New Yorker did an expose on Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein. The powerful producer of hit movies has harassed several women, including popular actresses, and made unsolicited advances and asked for sexual favours in exchange for roles in his movies. Once women started speaking up, they realised that it was a whispered secret in the industry, but now the accused has been stamped with charges of rape and assault and banned from the industry.

A year later, India is having its #TimesUp Movement. For years, sexual solicitation of women on the internet has been deemed normal - it happens. Inappropriate messages and pictures have been thought to be a part of our online identity, but women are finally talking about this harassment that has become an everyday reality. 

Writer Mahima Kukreja accused writer-actor and comedian Utsav Chakraborty, who has been known to have worked closely with all-male comedy collective called All India Bakchod. He sent sexually explicit messages to her and several others, even allegedly sent unsolicited photos of his genitalia. Later, he asked her not to 'out him' as his career would take a major setback. 


The thread went viral on Twitter with thousands of users retweeting it, and it lead to other women also opening up and sharing their stories about him. Apparently, it is a recurring behaviour. 

One of the girls was 17 when he was trying to slide into her DMs.

He used his fame and name to somehow feel entitled to women's nudes.

Utsav asked for nudes not once, but twice from the same girl. 

Another story of a 17-year-old girl came out. She was interning at OML (which manages many comedy collectives including AIB at the time) and she had a conversation with him and exchanged numbers. He then went on to ask her to send photos of her cleavage and thanks to the internalised misogyny, she blamed herself saying that in some way she called for it. She even tried telling her bosses at the company, but everyone tried to hush up the incident. The incident triggers her till today.

He moved cities and asked a girl to show him around, then asked her if he could rub her belly. 

A boy even came out and said that he had showcased inappropriate behaviour with his girlfriend and invaded her personal space.

After the hoard of accusations came to light, All India Bakchod issued a statement and decided to pull down all the videos that featured Utsav. 

The issued another statement yesterday, saying that they knew all along but spoke to him in a personal capacity. He had left the company, but continued working in as a freelancer. This was after one of the founders of the group, Tanmay Bhatt had been informed about his predatory behaviour. They apologised for not cutting all ties with him and for normalising a culture that needs to be called out.

Utsav also took to Twitter to issue his own statement and it was confusing. He started talking about how the messages had been taken out of context and tried to tell his side of the story. 






He later posted another apology accepting his guilt because of the backlash he received from fellow comedians and twitterati for his actions as well as how he dealt with the issue afterward.

Fellow comedians like Mallika Dua, Kaneez Surka, Abhishek Upmanyu also spoke in support of the women. Abhishek even shared screenshots of a time that he tried to out Utsav on a Facebook group chat years ago to stop his creepy behaviour, but obviously he didn't learn his lesson. And the worst part, it was an open secret in the comedy space but people still continued to give him work because "he's VERY funny."

Earlier too AIB had been put under the radar for being selectively feminist. The group talks about important issues of women being treated as lesser citizens in Bollywood, victim shaming, deep-rooted misogyny in movie songs, and even female sexuality, but two comedians pointed out in a video that they are also a part of the problem.

Comedian Aayushi Jagad and Sumedh Natu posted a video proving that there are several gender-less characters in AIB videos (they can be played by either men or women), but the comedy collective chooses to cast men. Most videos (except the female-oriented ones) don't even pass the Bechdel test which is a method for evaluating the portrayal of women in fiction. It asks whether a work of fiction features a minimum of two women talking to each other about something other than a man.

Every industry needs to understand that #TimesUp for powerful men to misuse their position. Men need to understand the concept of consent; they need to know that their privilege doesn't let them see women as human beings; they needs to be sensitised about what harassment is. They also need to stop covering up for each other, stop making excuses for predatory behaviour, and listen to women when they're trying to tell their stories.

Sending our love to all the women who spoke up and shared their stories, we're with you. 

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