“I didn’t regret it but I cried about it because I felt so upset that this was true and this is how girls are treated,” says Aditi Rao Hydari.

Was out of work for 8 months after I stood up to sexual harassment Aditi Rao HydariAditi Rao Hydari/Facebook
Flix Sexual harassment Tuesday, July 31, 2018 - 12:07

Sexual harassment of women in the film industry has been an open secret for years. Over time, several women actors have spoken about their experiences of being sexually harassed at the workplace, especially in the wake of last year’s ‘Me Too’ movement in Hollywood.

Joining the short list of Indian film actors who have spoken about sexual harassment at work like Radhika Apte, Swara Bhaskar and Kalki Koechlin is Aditi Rao Hydari. In an interview to Latha Srinivasan for Sunday Guardian, the Sammohanam actor revealed that standing up to the harassment she faced caused her to be out of work for eight months.

Asked about the time she began speaking about “casting couch” (a euphemism for sexual harassment in the film industry) five years ago, Aditi said that she had been in that situation but was able to “stand up to it” and moved away.

“I did lose work and I cried about it. I didn’t regret it but I cried about it because I felt so upset that this was true and this is how girls are treated. I was like, how dare someone speak to me like that!” she said.

This cost her employment opportunities for a good part of the year. The fact that she did not get work for eight months was compounded by the fact that her father passed away the same year. However, Aditi maintained that the decision to stand up to the sexual harassment she faced only cemented her intent about the sort of work she wanted to do.

Fortunately, things looked up for her from 2014 onwards. Thanking her family for the support they gave her, Aditi said she had no regrets about taking the decision that she did.

“Sometimes you need to see a situation, deal with it, get out and be very comfortable with it, and that’s how I felt. You need to be comfortable with the consequences and have no regrets,” Aditi said.

She also assured that she would continue to speak about misuse of power. While she was able to make an “empowered decision” Aditi added that for those who are unable to do so for whatever reason, she did not have judge them.

She also spoke against the normalisation of such practices in the film industry. Maintaining that no one should be compelled into doing something they do not want to, she argued that this is not “a rite of passage or a barter”.

Stressing on the need for women to empower themselves and become decision makers, Aditi said that if someone has been “misused” and are unhappy, they have every right to speak out. “If they don’t, it’s because of the fear of losing work. It’s about power play in the industry, and you should nip it in the bud,” she said.

Aditi added that despite the fear, it should be remembered that if someone is talented and loves cinema, they will get a call for work in the film industry. And while that is a privileged position to take, Aditi admitted that it is her “naïve belief” and her own experience is an example of the same.