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.
I want everyone to know @Wootsaw is a piece of shit. He sent me a dick pic, was creepy, then cried saying I’ll ruin his career if I tell others. I told two of the most influential men in comedy in India. Nothing happened. Let me tell you what else he has done with others.— Mahima Kukreja 🌱🌈✊🏽 (@AGirlOfHerWords) 4 October 2018
He pretends to be woke but is a predator https://t.co/jBPt9oVMFI— Mahima Kukreja 🌱🌈✊🏽 (@AGirlOfHerWords) 4 October 2018
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.
He harassed a young girl. https://t.co/A86tD25FT7— Mahima Kukreja 🌱🌈✊🏽 (@AGirlOfHerWords) 4 October 2018
One of the girls was 17 when he was trying to slide into her DMs.
Hey Utsav. You give your number and slide into DMs of literal children. Like 17 year old girls? You’re a creep of another level. pic.twitter.com/sjdJ5uf8dg— Mahima Kukreja 🌱🌈✊🏽 (@AGirlOfHerWords) 4 October 2018
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.
this guy asked for nudes from a person I know, not once but twice because he even forgot he made the same demand to her once before. he's a serial predator who doesn't miss an opportunity to prey on women. pic.twitter.com/BO94RNX77X— my sou-ditious heart🐰🌱🌼🍁 (@soupykaur) 4 October 2018
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.
Please read this. Utsav kept asking a 17 year old girl, basically a child, to send pics of her breasts.
Also when she was interning at OML she told her bosses about Utsav and they did nothing. People knew.
She did not complete her internship.
My head is spinning. pic.twitter.com/qIA7MrnTX0— Mahima Kukreja 🌱🌈✊🏽 (@AGirlOfHerWords) 5 October 2018
He moved cities and asked a girl to show him around, then asked her if he could rub her belly.
So Utsav asks a women to show him around the city — strange woman — then asks her if he can touch her belly ew pic.twitter.com/Te3OTVwmD9— Mahima Kukreja 🌱🌈✊🏽 (@AGirlOfHerWords) 4 October 2018
A boy even came out and said that he had showcased inappropriate behaviour with his girlfriend and invaded her personal space.
1/2 Utsav Chakraborty's behaviour does not surprise me in the slightest. My girlfriend ran into him at a show once & was talking about her sketch show while telling him she likes his work. He made her feel very uncomfortable by rubbing his hand over her back feeling her bare back— Ashish Dash (@iAshishDash) 4 October 2018
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.
Statement pic.twitter.com/eLpthXifwf— All India Bakchod (@AllIndiaBakchod) 4 October 2018
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.
A statement ; We're sorry pic.twitter.com/Lpa9HKyORb— All India Bakchod (@AllIndiaBakchod) 5 October 2018
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.
It's a little too late now but I am sorry. I really am. The past 24 hours were a crucible. I faced a very scary personal truth. I can't think of myself as a victim anymore. Please tell me what to do now. How to make things right? I don't want anyone to be hurt anymore.— Utsav (@Wootsaw) 5 October 2018
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."
I called him out on the group immediately. This is July 2016. I said I won’t tell anyone yet. He called me immediately and said that she<insert victim blaming monologue of 15 mins with occasional yelling>. We kicked him out of the group and also distanced ourselves from him. pic.twitter.com/6dENRyz3CR— Abhishek Upmanyu (@AbhiUpmanyu) 4 October 2018
I was managing a venue called “The Habitat” where I was incharge of curating the lineup of comedians. He was banned from performing there. I told him several times that he’s a creep and should stay away from me, but he kept defending himself. Never accepted his fault. Never. Once— Abhishek Upmanyu (@AbhiUpmanyu) 4 October 2018
He has brought shame to the entire industry. This is one of the most privileged jobs in the country to the point that HE gets to exploit feminism and earn money from it, while sending dic pics. Humari industry ke woke log dic bhejte hain toh Bakio ka pata ni kya haal hoga.— Abhishek Upmanyu (@AbhiUpmanyu) 4 October 2018
After confronting Utsav, he said he sent the picture by accident, later called the victim crying, apologizing, hence harassing her further. I should've ended ties then, and I didn't, and it is my fault. I'm truly sorry. I should've acted stronger.— Tanmay Bhat (@thetanmay) 5 October 2018
There’s a billion men who send women sick pics and lewd messages on social media every single day. Including women as old as my mother. Utsav and Shamir Reuben are 2 out of an entire RACE. @MumbaiPolice @DelhiPolice is there some place we can reach out put an end to this?— Mallika Dua (@MallikaDua) 4 October 2018
I stand with @AGirlOfHerWords and all women who are coming out. If any of the comedians (including some of my closest friends) knew about this and did nothing, then I am hurt that you didn't think it was important enough to make our community a safe space for us.— Kaneez Surka (@kaneezsurka) 5 October 2018
Im very disturbed by all the msgs I’ve been seeing regarding Utsav. The behaviour shown in those msgs is absolutely unacceptable. As creators of BLF, we dont accept his behaviour. We hope that these allegations are properly investigated and extend any support needed. https://t.co/rN0Fczcv5Q— Naveen Richard (@NaveenRichard) 4 October 2018
Thank you @AGirlOfHerWords for coming forward & speaking out.— Kenny Sebastian (@knowkenny) 4 October 2018
I am sorry that anyone had to go through what Utsav put them through & this behavior is just not acceptable.
The burden is now on us men and I’m committed to learning and being better.
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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