By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Calling out Rajkumar Hirani in the #MeToo movement is a radical step-up in the naming and shaming endeavour. The creator of the “Munna Bhai” series has silenced all his fans and friends in the film industry, and the outspoken few have said the allegations against him are disturbing.
Writer Apurva Asrani is one of the rare voices that spoke up on being contacted.
He said: “I choose to believe the young lady as it takes much courage to speak up against such a powerful filmmaker and then risk being boycotted by the film industry. I think the producers did the right thing by removing Mr. Hirani’s name from the ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’ posters and promos.
“This is something the Phantom Films producers had failed to do after allegations against Vikas Bahl came to light.”
A HuffPost India article narrated the alleged ordeal of a woman who worked with Hirani on “Sanju”, and who has claimed the filmmaker sexually assaulted her. Hirani has denied it.
Actress Dia Mirza, a close friend of Hirani, reacted with stupefied confusion.
“I am deeply distressed by this news. As someone who has known and respects Raju sir for 15 years, I can only hope that a due official enquiry is conducted. He is one of the most decent human beings I have ever worked with and I think it would be grossly unjust on my part to speak on this as I do not know the details,” Dia said.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta said: “It is disturbing. I hope the truth prevails and due process is followed to ensure a quick and just resolution.”
Writer-director Vinta Nanda, who has named Alok Nath for sexual assault, is extremely vocal on the allegations again Hirani.
“Despite having faced what I have personally, it’s hard to believe it. That’s what’s strange about how we’re conditioned by our feudal cultures. However, it’s no secret that patriarchy after so many decades of industrialisation, which led to women having to join workforces across the world, is still too deeply entrenched in our social breeding.
“It’s no secret that multitudes of men and women in India lead dual lives, one what is required at home and within the family and the other that is required for them to be at work. Therefore, it’s very hard to understand what’s going on in a person’s head and it’s very easy to hide the negative manifestations of power behaviours within the binary.”
Commenting on the deathly silence in the film industry, Nanda said: “The industry is frightened. There are skeletons hoarded in many cupboards out here and there’s no land left for them to be buried. This silence is what we call ‘sanatta’ in Hindi. Everyone is speechless. They don’t know what to say. They don’t know who they should protect, the predators who are their dear friends or the survivors who need their support.”
She sees this as a moment of reckoning for the Indian entertainment industry.
“This is a huge calling for the industry. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee and do what is right because you can’t veil the truth any longer. It’s also a moment in which the industry needs to introspect. It needs to come out of it’s we are family mode, where anything that happens remains within the family.
“It’s time for the industry to use this opportunity to become professional across the board. I would be bold enough to add that we should protect all survivors and help them heal but we should forgive all predators and perpetrators who harassed, assaulted and violated them before the #MeToo movement happened. From here onwards we should be strict, unforgiving and punishing to anybody who dares to misbehave.”