By Prarthana Mitra
It is ironic how toxic the stand-up comedy scene is, both worldwide and in India. While there is a lot that is problematic about the narcissistic self-deprecatory humour synonymous with comedy today, what is truly dangerous is the apologia and “bro code solidarity” that finds a comfortable place in the industry.
With 2018 truly becoming the year of women mass-reporting objectification, harassment, assault and discrimination, India too is not far behind. Just weeks after actor Tanushree Datta’s brave account of her unfortunate experiences with Nana Patekar and Vivek Agnihotri back in 2008 hit the roof, a group of women levied allegations of sexual misconduct against comedian Utsav Chakraborty.
Here’s what happened
Earlier this week, multiple women came forward with accounts of being on the receiving end of numerous lewd text messages and unsolicited d**k pics from the AIB comedian over the last year. He has even been accused of soliciting nudes from these women, and sending d**k pics to at least one minor over Twitter.
The immediate reaction to this revelation ranged from a response from standup collective AIB on Instagram, to a thread of 26 tweets from Chakraborty himself “apologising” for his misdemeanour. AIB which had featured Utsav on some of their videos, issued a rote statement, claiming to de-list all their work where he was prominently involved.
Soon, some Twitter users accused AIB of knowing about Chakraborty’s exploits long before this mass reportage, which is when the plot thickened. AIB released a fresh statement, claiming they were regretful of continuing their work with him even after AIB’s Tanmay Bhat received specific, detailed allegations against Chakraborty, in the following tweet.
Chakraborty’s tweets, on the other hand, try hard but convey none of the unconditional admission of guilt nor a genuine plea for forgiveness that the occasion calls for. Instead, he rants over 26 tweets, trying to justify his acts with flimsy excuses, such as the d**k pic he sent to one of the women wasn’t his but was downloaded off the internet.
In a way, his response sums up all the problems with rape culture, apologia, and predatory men who have little to no idea of consent. Their natural response is always to blame the victim, and play the victim themselves. Chakraborty also played into the same pattern, using his illness as an excuse for sexual misconduct. At one point, he also blamed Snapchat for emboldening him to strike up lewd conversations with women online, and later mused that the concept of consent is quite blurry.
Comedian Aditi Mittal hit back at Chakraborty over Twitter, asking, “What’s up with this Utsav? Your behaviour has been consistently misogynist for a while and you keep pretending to be woke like your boyfriends at AIB who keep you employed as well. Women don’t feel safe around you. What are you doing about this?”
Nothing, as his half-baked apology clearly suggests.
At such a time, it becomes the duty of patrons and fans to boycott such figures from their circle, collective, industry and watchlist, instead of enabling them by turning a blind eye to how men in power continue to abuse against women. To curb the advent of another Louis CK, we have to start believing women who report, treat their accounts as a wakeup call, and call “woke” men out instead of letting them off the hook so easily.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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