Director Jami Mahmood has been vocal in his defense of victims of sexual harassment for the past year, ever since singer Meesha Shafi accused fellow artist Ali Zafar of harassment in April 2018.
Now Jami has taken another step: in a post on social media he vowed that his production company Azad Film will no longer work with any individual who supports those accused of sexual misconduct. He said: "Azad film company decides not to hire any actor for TVC or Film who supports sexual predators..."
He joins the likes of model Eman Suleman who called out members of the entertainment industry for turning a blind eye to sexual harassment accusations concerning their peers.
The move comes after Jami read aloud a letter by an anonymous victim of sexual assault at the Lahooti Melo earlier this month. The letter, which accused an unnamed person in the entertainment industry of assault, was widely shared on social media. The victim has yet to come forward.
Jami has also called out his peers from the industry for being complicit with harassment and having an issue with his sharing a survivor's story.
Recently, he called out Teefa in Trouble filmmaker for his response to Jami's stance.
Team Images spoke to Jami about his progressive move and what prompted him to institute a zero-tolerance policy at his company.
Images: What prompted you to issue this statement?
Jami: It's very simple. If you notice in history, or just the past year's history, with what happened to Meesha, and how nothing happened. Teefa is playing again in cinemas, and the women are the ones suffering and being insulted. It's a male dominated society. For us, we're saying, let us take the charge then. And we're getting a lot of flak from people, accusing of us being the judge and the executioner, but that's not the point. The point is that no one is doing anything about it.
Those accusing us of being extreme have taken no action of their own and have no plans to do so. Why didn't they help anyone when they could've? Why didn't they find out what the story was? Now, when we are standing up, and keeping the victim anonymous and safe, why are they so upset at this?
They should know by now that a victim of assault, whether male or female, cannot come forward without fearing for their safety and the victim-shaming that ensues. The bashing of a victim is so intense and that person has just gone through something so traumatic this could be life-threatening.
Watching all this happen for a year now, watching the protests and everything go down, we're trying to be slightly active in the industry because enough is enough and its time to take the next step ourselves.
Images: Why do you think prominent players in the industry have not yet taken a similar decision?
Jami: This is the lethargy of the desi society.
I don't know why we haven't helped victims all this time and haven't taken any steps. We have this mindset that this is how the entertainment industry is supposed to be, this is how people behave and women who do this are deemed as having bad character. It's not like that at all, you have made it into that.
This is a dangerous prevailing idea that the industry is a non-stop party with every immoral behaviour permitted, which is why no one bothers [to take action against harassment]. How will victims come forward with their stories in this society? It's more damaging for them than anyone.
People in other industries came forward and started a movement which aimed to make changes. Here it barely started and was brutally shut down.
All the predators are safe. It's a toxic brotherhood. They all consciously or even subconsciously support each other, saying things like "I know him, I know he'd never do this," and I question how do you really truly know so well he isn't capable of something like this? You have to stand for the principles.
Images: Will this decision impact your work in any way?
Jami: Of course it will affect our work. I have a post-production company, a camera company and we've refused to work with such clients. This is a price we have to pay, there's a global movement and it's taking out the trash, so we also need to do a clean-up.
Images: What would you say to people who continue to work with known predators?
Jami: This is the sad part, a few women are also working with known predators. I don't understand this, how, why? Why do you support this? Why do you stay quiet and promote these people? People don't know when to say no, they're spineless. All their lives they've remained in their comfort zone and even now don't call out this stuff when they see it.