Facing the Music

How Only Much Louder failed the women in its ranks

01 November 2018

MID-AFTERNOON, ON 4 OCTOBER 2018, Mahima Kukreja, a writer and comic, posted a revelation on Twitter.

I want everyone to know @Wootsaw is a piece of shit. He sent me a dick pic, was creepy, then cried saying I’ll ruin his career if I tell others. I told two of the most influential men in comedy in India. Nothing happened. Let me tell you what else he has done with others.

@Wootsaw is the Twitter handle of Utsav Chakravarty, a well-known comedian in India’s growing comedy circuit. Kukreja said that her encounter with Chakravarty took place in 2016, and put up a thread of tweets that day with testimonies from other women alleging harassment by Chakravarty. One of the “influential men” she had alerted was Tanmay Bhat—a founder of All India Bakchod, arguably India’s most successful comedy collective. Chakravarty was once employed by AIB and the collective had continued to collaborate with him even after Kukreja informed Bhat of the incident.

Kukreja added to a wave of Indian women’s accounts of sexual harassment that was then just starting to swell on social media. As the courage of women speaking out emboldened others, more and more survivors of harassment started coming forward. Within 24 hours of her first tweet, Kukreja posted another woman’s account to her series, with screenshots of testimonies sent to her.

In 2014, the woman, then aged 17 and legally a minor, was interning at Only Much Louder—a juggernaut of a company in India’s comedy and independent-music scenes. OML manages AIB and various other prominent acts, and runs NH7 Weekender, one of the largest music festivals in the country. The woman met Chakravarty at an OML event where he was performing, and he asked for her number. Chakravarty messaged her repeatedly, asking for pictures of her cleavage. The woman said she notified OML of this. “They just ask you to stop making a scene,” she said. “At least that’s what my boss did.” The experience led her to leave OML without completing her internship.

Outrage mounted against Chakravarty and AIB, while OML also faced fire for doing nothing to stop the comedian. A current OML employee recounted to us that the company’s senior management spent the day after Kukreja began tweeting huddled together in a meeting room, evidently scrambling to contain the fallout. Late in the afternoon of 5 October, around seventy employees at its Mumbai headquarters shuffled into a conference room, where the management was waiting in stiff silence. The company’s director and chief executive officer, Ajay Nair—the brother of the company’s high-profile co-founder Vijay Nair—took the lead.

Surabhi Kanga is the web editor at The Caravan.

Bhanuj Kappal is a journalist who has been covering the independent music scene for the past 12 years.

Arnav Das Sharma is a writer and journalist based in Delhi.

Keywords: metoo movement india timesup Only Much Louder (OML) metoo Vijay Nair AIB All India Bakchod OML workplace sexual harassment