Balekempa, the directorial debut of Thithi co-writer Ere Gowda, has been withdrawn from the Mumbai Film Festival after Gowda was accused of sexually harassing an uni woman. The allegation was made by the woman’s friend though a Facebook post.
The producer of Balekempa, Zoo Entertainment, released a statement on Wednesday expressing support for the MeToo movement in India that has resulted in sexual harassment allegations against several personalities across media, entertainment and politics. The Kannada-language film will be withdrawn from all other festivals too, the producers said.
“We, Zoo Entertainment, would like to offer our fullest support to the Me Too movement,” the statement said. “We strongly believe in the equality of all people, and wish to express our solidarity with the Me Too movement towards making our society a safer and better place. We note that the concerned person has chosen to remain anonymous. We understand that Gowda is yet to give his statement regarding the allegation. We find the allegation shocking, and are deeply disturbed and saddened. As the producers of Balekempa, directed by Ere Gowda, we feel a need to take decisive action regarding how we wish to take things forward with the film. As of now, we are withdrawing the film from all its festival commitments until we have further clarity on the facts.”
Gowda did not respond to requests for an interview.
On Tuesday, the organisers of the 2018 Dharamshala International Film Festival dropped Balekempa from the festival line-up. “Following the allegation of sexual harassment against Ere Gowda, DIFF will not screen Balekempa and Ere Gowda will not be participating in DIFF in any way,” the festival said in a statement.
Gowda had previously co-written the acclaimed Kannada film Thithi with director Raam Reddy. Balekempa, set in Dodda Byadarahalli village in Karnataka’s Mandya district, explores the intersecting lives of a bangle seller, his frustrated wife, his teenage neighbour, and his farmer friend. Balekempa was programmed in the competitive India Gold section at the 20th edition of the festival. Balekempa was also among the nine titles competing for the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality Award at the 20th Mumbai Film Festival this year.