Mumbai Festival Drops Two Films Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Filmmakers

All India Bakchod - Screengrab - H 2018
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Actor-director Rajat Kapoor's 'Kadakh' and the comedy collective All India Bakchod's 'Chintu Ka Birthday' have been removed from the event's lineup in light of sexual misconduct allegations against the filmmakers.

As Bollywood grapples with the fallout from sexual assault allegations against director Vikas Bahl, the Mumbai Film Festival announced late Monday that it was dropping two films from the upcoming festival's lineup over allegations of sexual misconduct against the filmmakers.

Rajat Kapoor's Kadakh and Chintu Ka Birthday, produced by the comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB), have been removed from the lineup by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images, the fest's organizers. The event is set to run Oct. 25-Nov. 1.

"We as an Academy (MAMI) strongly support the #MeToo movement," the festival organizers said in a statement explaining why the films were dropped from the lineup. "We want to use this opportunity to open up the conversation and find solutions to harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace. Starting with this edition of the festival, we would like to unite the community to find positive and constructive ways to deal with it." 

Allegations against Kapoor surfaced Monday when two unnamed women shared their experiences with journalist Sandhya Menon on Twitter, explaining how the 57-year-old actor-director behaved inappropriately with them. One of the women, a journalist, detailed a telephone interview in which Kapoor allegedly asked her if she was "as sexy as (she) sounds" and "tell me your vital stats." The second woman, an assistant director, revealed that the actor allegedly asked her to shoot with him in an empty house and would call her incessantly from fellow actor Saurabh Shukla's phone.

Kapoor tweeted apologies on his Twitter account saying, "I am sorry from the bottom of my heart - and sad that I was the cause of this hurt to another human being. If there is one thing more important to me than even my work, it is to be a good human being. And I have tried to be that person. And now, I will try harder."

Kapoor's numerous acting credits include Mira Nair's acclaimed hit Monsoon Wedding, in which he played a child-abusing uncle whose truth is revealed by one of his nieces at a family wedding.

Allegations against AIB surfaced last week when writer Mahima Kukreja shared on her Twitter account how Utsav Chakraborty, an associate of the comedy collective, "sent me a dick pic, was creepy, then cried saying I’ll ruin his career if I tell others."

AIB issued an apology and said that "the fact of the matter is that we messed up," explaining that the group's CEO and co-founder, Tanmay Bhat, had received detailed allegations against Chakraborty and confronted him, which led to "further harassment" against the victim.

The controversy snowballed even further when allegations against another AIB co-founder, Gursimran Khamba, were shared anonymously via Twitter. The unnamed victim said that following the end of a consensual relationship with Khamba, he harassed her with "drunk calls, threats to ruin friendships, emotional blackmail and emotional abuse that went on for five months."

The allegations led AIB to issue a statement declaring that Bhat and Khamba would be relieved of their positions pending further investigations.

As one of India's edgiest comedy groups, AIB has produced shows for Amazon Prime Video and Fox's Star India-network owned digital platform Hotstar. Following the allegations, Hotstar tweeted a statement saying it was canceling the third season of the On Air With AIB comedy show.

Bollywood's #MeToo movement has gathered speed in recent days after The Huffington Post published allegations against Bahl by an unnamed female former employee of the production company Phantom Films that he had co-founded with well-known directors Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane and producer Madhu Mantena. The woman alleged that Bahl had sexually assaulted her in 2015 following a wrap party in Goa and that no action was taken against him for two years until she quit the company.

A day before the allegations surfaced, Kashyap, Motwane and Mantena issued statements saying they were dissolving Phantom.

Bahl's upcoming project is the biopic Super30 starring top actor Hrithik Roshan, which is slated for release next year. The film is a co-production between Phantom and Bollywood producer Sajid Nadiadwala.

Following the allegations against Bahl, Roshan on Monday posted a tweet: "It is impossible for me to work with any person if he/she is guilty of such grave misconduct. I have requested the producers of Super30 to take stock of the apparent facts and take a harsh stand if need be. This is not to be hushed or brushed under the carpet. All proven offenders must be punished and all exploited people must be empowered and given strength to speak up."