Mumbai: Bonfire of the vanities: #metoo flame spreads

Mumbai: As the Indian entertainment industry continues to grapple with the #MeToo storm, actor Nana Patekar on Monday cancelled a press conference where he was due to address the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him by actress Tanushree Dutta; stand-up comedians Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba of AIB “stepped away” from their positions; and Hrithik Roshan — the star of Vikas Bahl’s “Super 30” — said “all proven offenders must be punished.”

All this happened amidst a wave of fresh sexual harassment allegations and the prominent among those to be outed on Monday were actor Rajat Kapoor. The Media, too, threw up its first casualty with a senior journalist in Hindustan Times resigning from his position.
AIB co-founder and CEO Tanmay Bhat was called out for not acting against complaints regarding Utsav Chakraborty — a YouTuber who was once associated with the outfit.

The matter cropped up after a woman Twitter user wrote Chakraborty had sent unsolicited pictures of private parts to women and harassed girls, including minors, through social media platforms.Comedian Gursimran was accused of sexual misconduct, and has been sent “on a temporary leave until we have more clarity on the matter”, AIB said. A woman claimed that Gursimran had “hooked up two-three times, consensually and continued being friends”, but things escalated when on two separate occasions, Gursimran tried “repeatedly to make out with me while we were hanging out”.

He has denied it saying he was “not forceful”. “I am sorry for my bad behaviour and all the hurt it caused her but I categorically deny any violation of consent,” he said. The future of AIB seems to be uncertain with the two key persons being driven out. This comes after the disbanding of Phantom Films, which comprised filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Bahl.Bahl, director of “Queen”, was last year named for allegedly sexually harassing a woman in 2015. With the #MeToo wave on high tide, he is now once again in the centre of controversy.

After Kangana Ranaut, another actress has accused filmmaker Bahl of sexual harassment. In her explosive revelations, the actress stated that Vikas uses “pretending to be drunk” ploy to inflict himself on ladies. The actress, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “One day he was having a party where a lot of people I knew were going, so I felt safe. But he got really drunk (or pretended to be) and he forcibly tried to kiss me on the lips, I pushed him and left immediately and he pretended not to see me leaving,” she said, adding, “At least 20 other people were at this party. I left in a rush and went to my boyfriend’s house because I was so disgusted but he kept sending me texts,’’

She also revealed that the director’s ex-wife knew of the happenings. “His ex-wife knew about his shenanigans too. He’s basically ruined her life… He got fired from some places he worked at before on similar grounds. My question is, ‘Why start a company with a repeat offender, when you know?’ ” Hrithik Roshan, who stars in Bahl’s upcoming “Super 30”, on Monday urged the movie’s producers to take a “hard stand,” if need be.”It is impossible for me to work with any person if he/she is guilty of such grave misconduct…. I have requested the producers of ‘Super 30’ to take stock of the apparent facts and take a hard stand, if need be.

All proven offenders must be punished and all exploited people must be empowered and given strength to speak up,” Hrithik tweeted.His statement came a day after filmmaker Hansal Mehta took an indirect dig at Hrithik, questioning who is empowered — “the victim or the creep” — when a “major star” has acted in Bahl’s film.Singer-composer Kailash Kher, who has been accused by a female journalist of harassment, denied the allegation which has left him “extremely disappointed”.

Nana had been avoiding the media since actress Tanushree Dutta last month renewed a 10-year-old allegation, claiming he sexually harassed her during the shoot of a 2008 film. On Monday he cancelled his press conference and took the plea: “I have no problems (in talking to the media), but when my lawyer has said so (not to talk to media), I will have to follow that.”

On being coaxed to say a bit more, Nana said: “What I said 10 years ago, I would say that only. What was the truth yesterday is the truth today, and it will remain the truth tomorrow.”All this has given much-needed spark to India’s very own #MeToo movement, as part of which actors Rajat Kapoor, Zulfi Syed, writer Chetan Bhagat and a string of newspaper editors have been named and shamed.Leading celebrities are now speaking up against the harassment that goes on behind the gloss and glamour, and how the industry protects the “creeps” by letting complaints go unanswered or unaddressed.




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