HI­RANI CALLS #METOO CHARGE MA­LI­CIOUS

Noted film­maker has vo­cif­er­ously de­nied the claims & termed #MeToo story ‘ma­li­cious’

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Ra­jku­mar Hi­rani has been ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault by a woman who worked with him on his 2018 film Sanju and the film­maker has de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, terming them false and ma­li­cious and aimed at de­stroy­ing his rep­u­ta­tion. In an ar­ti­cle, the woman, who calls her­self an as­sis­tant, al­leged that Hi­rani sex­u­ally abused her more than once be­tween March and Septem­ber 2018.

She de­tailed her al­le­ga­tions in an email dated Novem­ber 3, 2018, to Hi­rani’s fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor and Sanju co-pro­ducer Vidhu Vinod Cho­pra. Af­ter the ar­ti­cle went vi­ral on the In­ter­net, the film­maker re­leased a state­ment in which he said he was shocked when the claims were brought to his no­tice two months ago. He said he sug­gested the case be re­ferred to a com­mit­tee or a le­gal body but the com­plainant chose to go the me­dia in­stead. “I was com­pletely shocked when these al­le­ga­tions were brought to my no­tice about two months back. I had sug­gested im­me­di­ately that it is es­sen­tial to take this mat­ter to any com­mit­tee or any le­gal body. The com­plainant has cho­sen to go to the me­dia in­stead. I want to very strongly state that this is a false ma­li­cious and mis­chievous story be­ing spread with the sole in­ten­tion of de­stroy­ing my rep­u­ta­tion”, Hi­rani said in a state­ment. In the ar­ti­cle, Hi­rani’s lawyer Anand De­sai called the al­le­ga­tions false, mis­chievous, scan­dalous, mo­ti­vated and defam­a­tory. The woman said that on April 9, 2018, the di­rec­tor first passed a sex­u­ally sug­ges­tive re­mark to her and later sex­u­ally as­saulted her at his home-of­fice. “I re­mem­ber form­ing these words on my lips - “Sir, This is wrong. Be­cause of this power struc­ture. You be­ing the ab­so­lute power and me be­ing a mere as­sis­tant, a no­body - I will never be able to ex­press my­self to you”, she wrote of the April 9 in­ci­dent in the email to Cho­pra, as quoted by the pub­li­ca­tion.

The woman said Hi­rani was a fa­ther fig­ure for her. “My mind, body and heart were grossly vi­o­lated that night and for the next 6 months”, the email read. Cho­pra’s wife, film critic Anu­pama Cho­pra, who is a di­rec­tor at Vinod Cho­pra Films Pvt Ltd, Sanju scriptwriter Ab­hi­jat Joshi, and Vidhu Vinod’s sis­ter Shelly Cho­pra were also marked on the email. The com­plainant later spoke to the pub­li­ca­tion that she was in­tim­i­dated by Hi­rani, who was her re­port­ing per­son at the time. She said she main­tained a fa­cade of nor­malcy re­gard­ing Hi­rani’s be­hav­iour as she needed to hold on to her job as her fa­ther was suf­fer­ing from a ter­mi­nal ill­ness.

“I had no choice but to be po­lite to him. It was un­bear­able but the rea­son I en­dured it all, un­til I couldn’t, was be­cause I didn't want my job to be taken away from me, and work to be ques­tioned. Ever. I was wor­ried that if I left mid­way, it would be im­pos­si­ble to find an­other job in this in­dus­try if he were to speak badly about my work. Be­cause if Hi­rani said I wasn’t good, ev­ery­body would lis­ten. My fu­ture would be in jeop­ardy”, she said.

Anu­pama Cho­pra had con­firmed that the woman had shared an ac­count with her, and that Vinod Cho­pra Films (VCF) has since set up a com­mit­tee to ad­dress com­plaints of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. “I have of­fered my full sup­port and rec­om­mended that she take the com­plaint to a le­gal body or a neu­tral party since we can­not be ar­bi­tra­tors or judges on this. We also of­fered to set up an ICC at VCF (which we have set up since then) even though a VCF ICC could not have taken up the case since she was an RHF (Ra­jku­mar Hi­rani Films) em­ployee at the time”.

I was com­pletely shocked when these al­le­ga­tions were brought to my no­tice about two months back. I had sug­gested im­me­di­ately that it is es­sen­tial to take this mat­ter to any le­gal body. I want to state that this is a false ma­li­cious and mis­chievous story be­ing spread with the sole in­ten­tion of de­stroy­ing my rep­u­ta­tion. I had no choice but to be po­lite to him. It was un­bear­able but the rea­son I en­dured it all, un­til I couldn’t, was be­cause I didn’t want my job to be taken away from me. — COM­PLAINANT

Ra­jku­mar Hi­rani, film­maker.

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