Sruthi Hariharan says no compromise with Arjun Sarja, will fight legal battles ahead

The meeting called by the KFCC ended with Arjun declaring that he would emerge victorious in the fight.
Sruthi Hariharan says no compromise with Arjun Sarja, will fight legal battles ahead
Sruthi Hariharan says no compromise with Arjun Sarja, will fight legal battles ahead
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The air was tense with anticipation at the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce in Bengaluru on Thursday evening. The members of the Film Chamber were walking in and out of the conference room, waiting for the “elders” in Sandalwood to address the giant elephant in the room.

President of the Karnataka Artists Association and veteran Sandalwood actor Ambareesh was called in to “broker peace” between actors Sruthi Hariharan and Arjun Sarja. The meeting was held after Arjun’s father-in-law, Rajesh filed a complaint with the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, alleging that Sruthi Hariharan’s allegations of sexual harassment against Arjun were false. 

The meeting began at around 5 pm. Ambareesh held talks with Sruthi and Arjun individually after several members of the KFCC debated about the issue. 

Also present at the meeting was director Kavita Lankesh, actor Pooja Gandhi, President of KFCC Chinne Gowda, producer Rockline Venkatesh and Congress MLA and producer Munirathna. 

Soon after the meeting, Ambareesh announced that the meeting was held in order to arrive at a compromise between Sruthi and Arjun. “We have listened to them. A decision will be taken soon. Sruthi is saying she is the one who has been wronged and Arjun claims to be innocent. How are we to judge what is right and wrong?” Ambareesh said. 

Emerging out of the meeting, Arjun Sarja declared that he would come out “victorious in the battle” and this would be a “lesson to all those who plan to malign the reputation of actors”.

“This will be a lesson. To all those who want to malign the name of innocent people. There is no question of a compromise. I will fight this to the end and come out victorious. The 'Me Too' movement is being maligned. If the actors wanted to talk about sexual harassment, they could have approached me and I would have gladly supported it. But this is no way of doing things,” Arjun said.

Sruthi Hariharan too made it clear that she would never compromise with Arjun. The actor had opened up about the sexual harassment she faced at the hands of Arjun Sarja while filming the Kannada movie Vismaya and Tamil’s Nibunan last week. 

“I am the one who has been wronged. I respect KFCC and since they have asked me to hold off filing a complaint till Friday, I will respect that. I will announce my decision once the meeting is over. I wanted to file a complaint when I came out with my story but since the Film Chamber members told me to hold off for a while, I respected that,” Sruthi added. 

Arjun has filed two cases against Sruthi- a defamation case for RS 5 crore and a plea for a restraint order on her. 

Insensitivity rules

The media waiting outside turned the whole episode into a “whose-side-are-you-on” game, while the issue of sexual harassment was sidelined. 

"Why are you trying to malign his name?” “Are you going to apologise to him?” “Don’t you think this issue should be settled quietly?” “Why did you not file a complaint?” “What are you waiting for?”

Thursday marked a new low for insensitive coverage of cases of sexual harassment. A large section of the Kannada media covering the sexual harassment case bombarded Sruthi Hariharan with these questions 

This was in stark contrast to how Arjun Sarja was treated by the same mediapersons.

Arjun Sarja was asked questions about how he was coping and whether his family members were holding up well 

“Sir, how is your family coping with this? Are you going to forgive her and arrive at a compromise?” 

While it was a small consolation to see a few women journalists roll their eyes at the insensitivity, the media has already set the tone for the Film Chamber's 'inquiry'.

An ignorant KFCC

The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, which still does not have an Internal Complaints Committee, decided to bring Sruthi Hariharan in direct contact with Arjun Sarja. 

It also became evident that the KFCC was unaware that it was mandatory for the chamber to set up an ICC.

“Why should we set up an ICC? You guys do it. Why should we do it? Let the women do it,” said actor Ambareesh.

When asked whether the Film Chamber would support such an ICC, if at all it was formed, Ambareesh dismissed it with a sexist joke.

“Why should we support it? We are a small industry and we have sorted out thing by ourselves. Why should we set it up?” Ambareesh added.

Ambareesh was then informed by the media that the setting up of the ICC was mandatory as per the Sexual Harassment Act 2013, to which the actor laughed, shrugged and said, “I have to study about Me Too. Please send print outs of lessons to me, I will read it. I don’t know what all this is. We will see about setting up the ICC.”

The attempted smear campaign

In what came as no surprise, Arjun Sarja’s media manager - Prashanth Sampargi, politicised the issue and called the Me Too movement anti-Hindu.

“The Me Too movement in India is an anti-Hindu campaign designed to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a run up to the 2019 election,” he said.

Sampargi made more bizarre allegations and claimed that Arjun was being targeted as he was planning to construct a Hanuman temple worth Rs 25 crores and Sruthi had connections to communists in Kerala. 

"The Christian missionaries in the US are trying to hurt Hindu sentiments and malign Arjun Sarja’s name,” Sampargi said.


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