I had a couple of other blog posts lined up, but keeping in mind the recent turn of events. I couldn’t help but first get this out of my system. Now, you need to understand that the Arunabh Kumar and sexual harassment revelations is a very sensitive issue to comment about. Especially, for me and other members of the comedy community. Here’s why:
1.) TVF is one of the biggies in a small fraternity. Nobody wants to come out too strongly and spoil current and future prospects of collaboration. (Keep reading, don’t rile up just yet.)
2.) I personally know him and many other folks at TVF. In all honesty, they’re some of the sweetest and smartest people in the industry. The respect and help I’ve received from them is rare to find. Plus I have always admired Arunabh and his journey. So, when a news like this breaks, your first reaction is of disbelief. However, with facts getting more concrete, you start looking back and questioning everything.
That said. There’s one simple question we need to ask ourselves as comedians. As people who are not clowns for entertainment, but the voice of reasoning and social change. As people who are the first ones to jump on any viral bandwagon and criticise others humorously. As people who are known to say things that others are too afraid to call out or glorify.
The question is: Would we not comment if it was NOT someone from our fraternity?
I mean it’s sexual harassment we’re talking about. Even if it’s not proven. It’s the fucking possible breach of consent and respect. What’s the worth of making women empowerment videos, or coming up with anti-misogyny sketches? It has to be more than virality right? It has to be something you truly believe in.
Now, here’s where the American stand up scene comes into play. Remember Cosby? No, I’m not comparing Arunabh to him. Not at least until anything is proven. I just want to use the Cosby case as an example of how the American comedians were the first ones to criticise the living day lights out of him. At least four legendary comics I know have honest bits talking about Bill. The point is, you started doing stand up for a reason. Which was portraying the truth. Not making Gujarati jokes. And, the art demands equality. If we are going to be the ones who have opinions on everything, we can’t make exceptions. Not especially, when the world is looking at us.
So, here’s what I think we should do. Just come out and speak up. A handful comics have started tweeting about it, but the majority are silent. The deal is you can pick a side or even not. If you think that this is all hoax, say it. The TVF guys are defending the case. And they have the right to do so. If you think there’s some gravitas to the accusations, support that side. Or if you think, you’re too perplexed to form an opinion right now, not because of the two points I mentioned earlier, but because you don’t want to end up criticising someone who’s not at fault, say that. But, say something. And don’t be scared of saying it. TVF is a company that has built an empire out of being opinionated about sensitive issues. They hopefully won’t misunderstand your right to express.
I’m sure many of you are wondering, where do I really stand on this. I’ll be very sincere here. It takes a lot for a woman in India to speak up against harassment. And for many more to come out after the first confession, it’s hard to believe this as a mere one-time incident. At the same time, having known the company up close, it makes this a huge shocker. The need of the hour is a clear and concrete statement from Arunabh and the team. Tweeting isn’t going to be the way out of such a strong accusation that is slowly turning the tide against them.
Yeah, that’s that. I’ll continue with my New York comedy escapades from the next blog onwards, but I could not hold myself back from telling people the one fundamental thing I’ve learnt in my time here i.e., stand up is more about voicing your opinions, when you’re not actually on stage.