Aamir Khan Slammed for Decision to Work With Director Facing Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Aamir Khan attends the press conference of Dhoom 3 -2014- Getty-H 2019
Jun Sato/WireImage

Geetika Tyagi, the actress who accused director Subhash Kapoor of assault, was highly critical of Khan's decision and the lack of consequences for men in Bollywood: "The industry is patriarchal. Only women face the repercussions of complaining against sexual harassment, whether in the workplace or otherwise."

Aamir Khan's decision to work with director Subhash Kapoor, who is currently facing allegations of sexual misconduct, has sparked a fierce debate in Bollywood and criticism from several prominent women working in the film industry. 

When the #MeToo wave hit the Indian industry last year, a 2014 case of sexual misconduct against Kapoor also resurfaced, prompting Khan to distance himself from the director. Khan was attached to a biopic, to be directed by Kapoor, about the late music mogul Gulshan Kumar, who founded Bollywood giant T-Series, the company behind the most subscribed channel on YouTube. Starring Khan in the lead role, the biopic was to be co-produced by his wife, Kiran Rao, along with T-Series.

Kapoor was accused of sexually harassing actress Geetika Tyagi in 2014, with the allegations resurfacing in 2018, prompting Khan and Rao to issue a statement which said, "We are not an investigative agency, nor are we in any position to pass judgement on anyone — that is for the policy and judiciary to do." It added: "So, without casting any aspersions on anyone involved in this case, and without coming to any conclusions about these specific allegations, we have decided to step away from the film."

However, Khan reversed his decision, giving multiple justifications in an interview with the Hindustan Times on Tuesday including that the legal case against Kapoor was still in court. "Laws of natural justice consider a person innocent until he/she is proven guilty," Khan said. He added: "Until such time that the courts reach a conclusion, is it that he/she should not be allowed to work? Is he to just sit at home and not earn?"

In an interview Wednesday with the Mid-Day newspaper, Tyagi slammed Khan's decision, stating, "The industry is patriarchal. Only women face the repercussions of complaining against sexual harassment, whether in the workplace or otherwise." She added that "it's a sensitive decision on Aamir's part that Subhash shouldn't be treated badly until proven guilty. But what about my livelihood that has stopped since 2014? Criminal cases take time [to be served justice] and that's a reality."

She further reiterated, "I have never said that Subhash shouldn't get work. But after I complained, I did not get work for a long time."

Khan was also heavily criticized by actress Tanushree Dutta, who is considered the forerunner of the #MeToo movement when she shared an incident of alleged harassment by veteran actor Nana Patekar during the filming of the film Horn Ok Pleassss in 2008.

In a separate interview with Mid-Day on Wednesday, Dutta said, "How come nobody in Bollywood has sleepless nights when a woman becomes a victim of abuse and is not able to work due to the trauma and ostracization ..." She questioned Khan's change of heart to work with Kapoor stating, "If he [Khan] has agreed to hire this guy [Kapoor], why not hire the woman who suffered the consequences of his actions? Why do only the creepy men of Bollywood get compassion? Let the girls also see some of that saintly do-goodery."

Explaining why he reversed his decision, Khan had said in the Hindustan Times interview that to "allay our discomfort we decided to meet a lot of women who had worked with Mr. Kapoor. This was to just get an idea and verify it for ourselves, that are other women also uncomfortable with him?"
After speaking with "around 10-12 women who had worked with him" Khan said that "what we found is that, without exception, all of them spoke very highly of him ... Mind you, both Kiran and I are fully aware that these particular women may have had a very good experience working with Mr. Kapoor, but that does not mean that he could not have misbehaved with some other woman. However, I cannot deny that this interaction with women who had worked with him, did give us comfort."

However, Dutta blasted Khan's decision stating, "Compassion should be universal. If it's so selective as is being displayed by the Bollywood's bigwigs, then it's not compassion. It's convenience and ignorance. Nobody bothered to ask me how I was doing when my livelihood was snatched away after the Horn Ok Pleassss harassment episode. No compassion for me, Aamir?"

Khan is currently working on the official remake of Forrest Gump titled Lal Singh Chadha, which is co-produced by Viacom18 Motion Pictures. A start date for the Gulshan Kumar biopic is still to be confirmed.