Mumbai comics to get schooled on difference between flirting and sexual harassment

Dec 06, 2018, 08:24 IST | A Correspondent

So far, nine men and four women from the comedian fraternity have signed up for the January event, but major stars stay away

Mumbai comics to get schooled on difference between flirting and sexual harassment
Vandita Morarka, founder, One Future Collective

For once, stand-up comics will attend a workshop that doesn't teach them how to write a joke. To be held on January 12, 2019, at The Hive, in Bandra, a closed workshop for members of the comedy circuit in Mumbai will talk about the law around sexual harassment at workplaces. So far, nine men (such as comics Adhiraj Singh and Tushar Abhichandani) and four women have signed up for the event, though not one of the major headlining acts have.

The four-hour workshop was needed when stand-up comedy blew up on the scene. In the last few months, several people from the fraternity have been called out for inappropriate behaviour, including the likes of comic Utsav Chakraborty and the founder of Only Much Louder, Vijay Nair.

Vandita Morarka, founder and CEO of One Future Collective, who will be conducting the workshop, says it will focus "on gender sensitisation, legal redressal systems, inclusion and empathy at the workplace." As One Future does a lot of POSH (Prevention Of Sexual Harassment) and gender leadership training, every workshop is tailor-made.

Small but important things
"A lot of people in the comedy circuit are also freelancers and work out of different spaces," says Morarka, adding, "We work with them on how the law applies to them. We will also deal with how to build better workplace dynamics, I mean, what if you're dating someone from that sector? There's a difference between flirting and sexual harassment. We focus on a lot of small things that are very important in understanding the ecosystem in which sexual harassment is allowed to thrive. We do activities, role-playing, a lot of audio-visual content."

In the last few months, several people from the fraternity have been called out for inappropriate behaviour. Pic for representational/Getty Images
In the last few months, several people from the fraternity have been called out for inappropriate behaviour. Pic for representational/Getty Images

Of course, a four-hour seminar isn't the go-to solution. "Four hours is not going to undo what you've learnt over 20-30 years," says Morarka. "But, it tells you there is an option, it teaches you what redressal can be, it gives you legal solutions, it empowers you with knowledge, and it starts the conversation around these things in a more directional manner," she adds.

Time to take steps
Stand-up comic Shreemayee Das, among the first to sign up for the workshop, says, "We all know what's been happening in the comedy circuit in the last few months. I also organise comedy shows, so it was important for us, as producers, to be part of this workshop. So that we understand in case something happens at our venues, because we're not only dealing with comedians, but we're also dealing with audiences. We deal with 20-30 new people every week. We don't want to be in a position where something comes up and we don't know how to handle it."

Another comic Pavitra Shetty, says, "It's a new industry. Obviously, there's no formal structure, and we're all individual freelancers. Keeping in mind what has happened recently, it's time to take preventive steps. We're trying to do our bit." Some of the survivors would say it's time. As a Facebook user said recently, "We need a new show called Comedians in Cars getting Consent."

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