Aamir Khan to Work With Director Facing Sexual Misconduct Allegations

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

The actor had earlier said he would not work with Subhash Kapoor on a planned biopic of late music mogul Gulshan Kumar when 2014 allegations against the filmmaker resurfaced last year.

Bollywood star Aamir Khan has reversed his decision about working with Subhash Kapoor, despite the actor stating last year that he would not work with the director, who is currently facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

Khan is attached to star in a biopic, to be directed by Kapoor, about the late music mogul Gulshan Kumar, who founded the record label T-Series, the company behind the most subscribed channel on YouTube. The film would star Khan as Kumar and was set 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 as part of a wave of MeToo allegations against prominent men in Bollywood that racked the industry.

In an interview with the Hindustan Times Tuesday, Khan explained that he was reversing his decision because the legal case against Kapoor was still being contested. "Laws of natural justice consider a person innocent until he/she is proven guilty," he said, adding, "But 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?"

He also said that in May, he received a letter from industry body IFTDA (the Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association) asking Khan to reconsider his decision, since the case against Kapoor was subjudice, and that "I should wait for the courts to decide on his matter. And until such time, he [Kapoor] shouldn’t lose his right to earn a living.... When I read that letter, I felt even more guilty. Perhaps we’re doing the wrong thing."

"Last year, during the MeToo movement, mention of this case came up. That’s when we got to know about it, and we were most disturbed," said Khan. That led Khan and Rao to issue a joint statement that explained why they were stepping away from the project. "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," said the statement, adding. "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."

Expanding on his reasons to reconsider his decision, Khan said in the newspaper interview that Kapoor's case was not about sexual misconduct at the workplace, and that such cases are typically handled by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of any organization, which arrives at a decision within a stipulated amount of time.

Kapoor's case was being legally contested, and "courts of law are known to take longer," Khan said. He added: "Kiran and I have zero tolerance for any sexual misconduct. But without an ICC ruling, or a court ruling, how are we to decide whether the accused person is guilty or not?"

After Khan stepped away from the project in 2018, T-Series also terminated its contract with Kapoor. "Subsequently, we heard that whatever steps he [Kapoor] was taking to put together a film didn’t go through, because nobody wanted to work with him," Khan said. "That really troubled us, because we felt that our action had inadvertently cost a person — who is yet to be tried in a court of law — to lose his livelihood. And for how long? Is it for one year? Or ten years? We don’t know." 

In a bid to "allay our discomfort," Khan said, "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 Kapoor, 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."

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 Kumar biopic is still to be confirmed.