Trigger warning: This article contains details about sexual assault and harassment which may be triggering to survivors.
New Delhi: As the #MeToo movement in India gains strength, more and more women are coming forward to tell stories of harassment that they have faced. The Hindi film industry, where the movement began with Tanushree Datta’s allegations against Nana Patekar, has seen accounts by several women against several men from the industry over the last few days.
On October 11, Saloni Chopra, an actress, recounted several instances of sexual and psychological harassment that she faced during the time she worked as an assistant director with director Sajid Khan. On a post that she wrote on Medium, Chopra told a detailed account.
“One night, it got really ugly. I was so tired of the calls and the constant harassment, I asked him what he wanted from me. I told him that if this was just about sex then fine, I’d come over right now and fuck him but provided he backed off afterwards and stopped calling me every day. I was so tired of his behaviour that even my fear of him wasn’t enough to shut me up. He started yelling at me and claimed that I was so naive and stupid if I thought this was just about sex. This wasn’t about sex, it was about me being his little bitch and doing everything he told me to do. He’d name directors that keep actresses at their homes for months and thats just how this works. He then said ‘you think I want to fuck you? I have such a hot girlfriend, why would I fuck a girl like you thats not even sexy?’”, Chopra wrote describing one of many instances of harassment that she faced.
Two other women have come forward with their own stories of harassment that they faced with Sajid Khan being the perpetrator. Rachel White, an actress, in a series of tweets detailed how Khan’s gaze made her feel uncomfortable during a meeting.
I was in a white vest and blue denims and still felt I was standing nude with that gaze. What happens next is that he finishes his cardio and walks up to me asking me about my boobs and making that kind of conversation. I didn’t bother to answer to anything.
— Rachel White (@whitespeaking) October 11, 2018
A journalist, Karishma Upadhyay has also levelled allegations against Sajid Khan. “The first time I interviewed Sajid Khan in the early 2000s, he called me to the house he shared with his sister. Through the interview he talked about how large his penis was, and (that) he knew how to satisfy a woman,” Upadhyay wrote on Twitter.
— YellowGlassDragon (@karishmau) October 11, 2018
Khan has issued a statement after the allegations surfaced. “In the wake of the allegations against me and 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… Request my friends in the media to kindly not pass judgment till the truth is out,” he said.
Actor Akshay Kumar, who is a part of Khan’s latest directorial venture, Housefull 4, announced that he has requested the producers of the film to cancel the shoot till investigations into Khan’s alleged misconduct are completed.
Director Farah Khan, Sajid Khan’s sister, has also issued a statement on the allegations that have surfaced.
This is a heartbreaking time for my family.We have to work through some very difficult issues. If my brother has behaved in this manner he has a lot to atone for.I don’t in any way endorse this behavior and Stand in solidarity with any woman who has been hurt.
— Farah Khan (@TheFarahKhan) October 12, 2018
The allegations against Kailash Kher
Singer Sona Mohapatra has accused singer Kailash Kher of sexual misconduct. Writing on Twitter she detailed how Kher touched her inappropriately at a meeting. “I met Kailash for coffee in Prithvi Cafe to discuss a forthcoming concert where both our bands were playing and after the usual, a hand on my thigh with lines likes, you’re so beautiful, feel so good that a ‘musician got you’ (Ram) not an actor. I left soon after,” she wrote.
A photojournalist, Natasha Hemrajani has also accused Kher of sexually harassing her in 2006. “I was sent with my colleague, a woman journalist, to take pictures of Kailesh Kher at his home for an interview. During the interview, this creep sat between us as close to us as he could. He also kept putting his hands on our thighs (on the skin above our skirts),” she wrote.
We were appalled & left as soon as possible. I discussed with my colleague the idea of writing the interview from the point of view of unwelcome sexual molestation but she said the paper would never publish it because it would be libel (even if we were both witnesses)
— Natasha Hemrajani (@radiantbear) October 6, 2018
Another survivor, Simran Soni, has accused Kher of sending ‘creepy’ text messages. “What followed completely destroyed the ideal KK. He is a predator. He write things poetically. things like – “tum meri pagli ho. Drown in my love. Tum meri jogi ho. Mirror me dekho mai dikhunga tumhe. Touching every part of your soul.” It was here when I realised what he is,” she wrote.
(1) Here I write my #MeToo story- and I name Kailash Kher. Guess what his profile bio says- Adiyal bairagi hu, ziddi anuragi hu. How poetic right? I will show you what it means- “I am a stubborn recluse, a stubborn lover” I wish I knew what this meant much earlier! pic.twitter.com/6ItkX2bPCi
— Simran Soni (@chicksim) October 8, 2018
Kher is yet to respond to the allegations.
Over the last few days, allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and rape have been levelled against several other men from the Hindi film industry.
Responding to the allegations of rape made by an anonymous survivor, Subhash Ghai, said, “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. I deny strictly and firmly all false allegations like these.”
Actor Alok Nath has also been accused of rape while Nana Patekar, Rajat Kapoor and Vikas Bahl have been accused of sexual harassment.
Rajat Kapoor has issued an apology. While the others have denied that the events detailed in the allegations against them even took place.
All my life I have tried to be a decent man, to do the right thing.
If however, I have slipped and through my actions or words
caused pain or hurt or trauma to absolutely anybody, please accept my
— Rajat Kapoor (@mrrajatkapoor) October 7, 2018
Read The Wire’s extensive coverage of the Indian media’s #MeToo movement here.