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A wave of new allegations against a litany of film industry players has hit Bollywood, as India’s own #MeToo movement continues to gather steam and impact future film projects.
Aamir Khan, one of India’s biggest stars, and his wife, producer Kiran Rao, have pulled out of a film that their production company was set to make over allegations of sexual misconduct against an unnamed filmmaker on the project. Similarly, actor Akshay Kumar on Friday said that the shooting of his upcoming film Housefull 4 would be canceled following sexual misconduct allegations against the film’s director, Sajid Khan. Produced by Sajid Nadiadwala, the film was to be distributed by Fox Star Studios India.
While they did not name the person accused of sexual misconduct since the matter was still being legally contested, Khan and Rao said in a joint statement that Aamir Khan Productions “had a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual misconduct and predatory behavior of any kind. We strongly condemn any act of sexual harassment, and equally, we condemn any and all false accusations in such cases.”
The statement added that “two weeks ago, when traumatic #MeToo stories began emerging, it was brought to our attention that someone we were about to begin work with has been accused of sexual misconduct. Upon enquiry, we found that this particular case is sub judice, and that the legal process is in motion. 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. 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.”
Local media reports speculated that the project in question was to be directed by Subhash Kapoor, who was accused of molestation by actress Geetika Tyagi in 2014. The case is currently being contested in court. Kapoor was set to direct Mogul, a biopic on the late Gulshan Kumar, founder of one of India’s biggest music companies and film banner T-Series, which was to co-produce the film with Khan’s company.
Kapoor was quoted by the Indian Express as saying, “I understand and respect Aamir Khan’s and Kiran Rao’s decision. Since the matter is sub judice, I intend to prove my innocence in the court of law.”
Tyagi posted a tweet thanking Khan and Rao for their statement. “This is COMMENDABLE and this is the kind of support we want so that more and more women can come out,” she tweeted.
Kumar was to begin shooting Housefull 4, the latest installment of the hit comedy franchise directed by Sajid Khan. But sexual misconduct allegations against Khan surfaced Thursday when actresses Saloni Chopra and Rachel White and journalist Karishma Upadhyay shared their experiences of being sexually harassed by the director.
In a Twitter post, Upadhyay shared how Khan exposed himself to her and then “forced his tongue down my mouth.”
In a statement Friday, Kumar said, “I’ve requested the producers of Housefull 4 to cancel the shoot until further investigation. This is something that requires stringent action. I will not work with any proven offenders and all those who have been subjugated to harassment should be heard and given the justice they deserve.”
Khan also tweeted a message stating, “In the wake of the allegations against me & the pressure being put on my family, my producer and the stars of my film Housefull 4, I must take the moral responsibility of stepping down from my directorial post, till the time I can allay the allegations and prove the truth.”
Bollywood’s #MeToo movement was sparked when 34-year-old former actress Tanushree Dutta accused veteran actor Nana Patekar of harassment on the sets of the 2008 film Horn OK Pleasss.
After she first shared her ordeal on social media two weeks ago which went viral, Dutta filed a police complaint this week alleging that Patekar grabbed her arm and pushed her on the pretext of teaching her dance moves and touched her “indecently and unnecessarily.”
Following Dutta’s accusations, a wave of allegations of sexual misconduct against various industry personalities has hit social media.
Director Vikas Bahl was accused of sexual assault by a former female employee of his production company Phantom Films following a wrap party in Goa in 2015. Just before the allegations were reported by the Huffington Post, Phantom’s co-founders, directors Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and producer Madhu Mantena issued a statement saying they were dissolving the company.
Phantom’s upcoming projects include the second season of Netflix’s debut Indian series Sacred Games. It’s not yet clear how the project will move forward and when contacted earlier by THR, Netflix said: “At this time we are evaluating options on the path forward.”
Accusations against actor-director Rajat Kapoor and comedy collective All India Bakchod led to their respective films Kadakh and Chintu Ka Birthday being removed from the program of the upcoming Mumbai Film Festival.
Meanwhile, one of the latest accusations that hit social media came Thursday when an unnamed woman shared her ordeal via Twitter, alleging that veteran Bollywood director Subhash Ghai “drugged and raped” her.
Ghai is known for major hits from the seventies and eighties such as Kalicharan and Ram Lakhan and is also the founder of the Whistling Woods film school in Mumbai. At Cannes this year, Ghai announced that he would be producing a project on the Indian mystic Osho (the late Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who was the subject of the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country).
Ghai denied the allegations and dismissed the #MeToo movement as a “fashion.” “It is sad that it is becoming a fashion to malign anyone known, bringing some stories from past without any truth or blown up false allegations if all,” Ghai told news agency PTI, adding, “I deny strictly and firmly all false allegations like these.”
And it isn’t just the entertainment industry in India that has been touched by #MeToo. At least six women have accused well-known politician M.J. Akbar of harassment when he was a journalist and newspaper editor. The accusations against Akbar snowballed when journalist Priya Ramani tweeted the link to a 2017 column she penned for Vogue India, “To The Harvey Weinsteins of the World.”
Referring to the column, Ramani tweeted, “I began this piece with my M. J. Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator — maybe they’ll share.”
The ensuing controversy has led to demands for the resignation of Akbar, who is currently the junior foreign minister. While India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has yet to comment on the matter, another minister, Smriti Irani, has said that it is up to Akbar to “issue a statement.”
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