A woman who worked with Rajkumar Hirani in 2018 film 'Sanju', alleged that the director had sexually abused her between March and September 2018.

Me Too Filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani accused of sexual assault denies allegations
news Me Too Monday, January 14, 2019 - 11:23

Filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani has been accused of sexual assault by a woman who worked with him in his 2018 film Sanju. According to a HuffPost India report by Ankur Pathak on Sunday, the woman alleged that Hirani sexually abused over a six-month period between March and September 2018. 

The 56-year-old filmmaker has denied the allegations. A statement issued by his lawyer Anand Desai dubbed the allegations “false, mischievous, scandalous, motivated and defamatory.” 

The woman revealed the incident in an email dated November 3, 2018 to Hirani's Sanju co-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra. She also marked the mail to Vidhu's wife and film journalist Anupama Chopra as well as to Hirani's co-writer Abhijat Joshi, HuffPost India reported.

IANS tried reaching out to Hirani, Anupama Chopra and Abhijat Joshi but got no response.

The woman claimed that Hirani first made a sexually suggestive remark to her on April 9, 2018 and then sexually assaulted her at his home-cum-office. She wrote: "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."

The complainant said that until the alleged crime, she used to see Hirani as a father figure.

When contacted by HuffPost India, she said she was maintaining a facade of normalcy regarding Hirani's behaviour during work because her father was terminally ill and she needed to hold on to her job. She said that she had no choice but to be polite to him. She added that she put up with it, until she could not, because she did not want to love her job and her 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,” she said.

The publication also spoke to three of her friends, all of whom confirmed that the complainant had confided in them of the sexual abuse on separate occasions.

Huffpost also met Hirani on two occasions where he shares printouts of digital communication between him and the complainant to substantiate his claim of having a purely professional relationship with her.

In an email seen by Huffpost, written by Hirani to Anupama Chopra, he said that his relationship with her husband was “crumbling under pressure” and he was open to being investigated by an independent body.

While Vidhu Vinod Chopra did not respond to the complainant's allegations, his wife Anupama confirmed to HuffPost India that the woman had shared an account with her, that Vinod Chopra Films (VCF) has since set up a committee to address complaints of sexual harassment. However, the allegation was against Rajkumar Hirani, and hence the VCF ICC could not take up the case as Rajkumar Hirani Films is a separate company.

Incidentally, news reports had pointed out that Rajkumar Hirani’s name had been dropped from the posters of Sonam and Anil Kapoor starrer Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. While the teaser released in June 2018 said “Vinod Chopra Films and Rajkumar Hirani Films in association with Fox Star Studios present”, the teaser released in December last year only said, “produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra”.

Meanwhile, scriptwriter Abhijat Joshi, who has also worked with Hirani in his films, PK and 3 Idiots, said that he was aware of the complaint and would support her.

Due to these allegations, Rajkumar Hirani’s Munna Bhai 3 has been put on hold as well. According to a report in Mid-Day, Fox Star India, which has a three-film deal with VCK Films, conveyed to the company that it will not be part of the agreement if VCK Films continues to work with Rajkumar Hirani films. "In a meeting in late December, it was decided that Fox would pull the plug on Munna Bhai 3 if Hirani was found guilty. The studio stands in solidarity with the survivor,” a Fox Star India source said.

Rajkumar Hirani has denied these allegations. In a statement issued to the media, he said, “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.”

The allegations against the director are the latest in the Me Too movement which saw several notable personalities in film and media being accused of sexual crimes.

(with IANS inputs)

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