Following an anonymous allegation of sexual assault against Ere Gowda, the director of critically acclaimed Kannada film Balekempa and the screenwriter of Thithi, the Dharmashala International Film Festival (DIFF) has issued a statement saying that the director’s movie will not be showcased at the film festival.
Ere Gowda’s film Balekempa, which highlights the struggles of a bangle-seller and his wife in a patriarchal society, is a critically acclaimed film and was to be screened at DIFF this year. However, after the allegation surfaced on Tuesday, DIFF announced that Ere Gowda’s film would not be screened.
“Dharmashala International Film Festival is committed to creating a safer, welcoming and inclusive space. The festival has a zero-tolerance policy towards abuse, harassment, assault and intimidation. The film, Balekempa, directed by Ere Gowda, was announced as DIFF’s closing night film. Following the allegation of sexual harassment against Ere Gowda, DIFF will not screen Balekempa and Ere Gowda will not be participating in the festival in any capacity,” DIFF’s statement reads.
On Tuesday evening, a woman posted an anonymous account of her friend’s alleged horrifying experience with Ere Gowda on Facebook.
The woman was allegedly sexually assaulted by Ere Gowda at the director’s friend’s home. The woman allegedly met Ere Gowda after she moved to Bengaluru with hopes of becoming a screenwriter.
“He came near me and tried to kiss. I told him that I am not interested and pushed him away. That was the start of it. He would put his hand on my chest. I would push it away. The hand would come back. When I look back now, I know that if I had texted my friend and asked him to come, he would have come. But at that moment, I was petrified. Ere was tall and much stronger than me. I did not want to piss him off for I knew that I wouldn’t be able to fight him,” the Facebook post reads.
This did not allegedly end here and the woman was subjected to several other horrors at the hands of Ere Gowda. The woman reportedly came back to Bengaluru after the chilling experience and never contacted the director again. However, Ere Gowda allegedly tried to contacted her on multiple occasions and even told her that no one would believe her if she spoke up.
“Ere started contacting me feverishly. I thought that if I don’t pick his calls for a few days, he would get the message. But then he tried to contact my family. That was it. I picked up his call. He started apologizing profusely… He kept apologizing. In my head this did not make sense. This guy was getting a film out from one of the best production houses in our country… I told him that if he is worried that I will talk about this incident then he needn’t sweat. His tone changed completely. He told me that nobody would believe me even if I spoke out. I understood that I had hit a nerve. I cut the call and blocked him everywhere,” the post reads.
Several allegations against prominent personalities in the film world have been made over the past few weeks as part of the #MeToo movement which has taken the country by storm. In the Kannada film industry, actor Sanjjanaa Galrani accused director Ravi Shrivatsa of introducing kissing scenes in a film without her consent. Actor Sruthi Hariharan alleged that her co-star Arjun Sarja had sexually harassed her during the shoot of the Tamil film Nibunan, which released in Kannada as Vismaya. Many stars from the Kannada industry, including Prakash Raj, Ragini Dwivedi, Shradda Srinath, and others have come out in support of the women who've been speaking out.