The #MeToo movement has unearthed another shocking name in its wake. This time, it’s Rajkumar Hirani, who has been accused of sexually harassing a woman, during the making of Sanju. The assault allegedly took place over six months, between March and September 2018.
In a statement, the filmmaker rubbished the allegations and 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 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.”
However, the allegations have had an adverse affect on Hirani’s work. According to a report in a daily, Munna Bhai 3 has been put on hold, till he gets a clean cheat. A source told the tabloid, “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. VVC Films too has taken the matter seriously, and dropped Hirani’s name from the promotional material of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.”
“An ICC set up by VVC Films will investigate the matter. Munna Bhai 3, however, by default, is on hold till Hirani gets a clean chit,” the source added.
The woman reported Hirani’s alleged misbehaviour in an email dated November 3, 2018, addressed to Hirani’s frequent collaborator Vidhu Vinod Chopra and his wife Anupama Chopra, who is also a director of Vinod Chopra Films Pvt Ltd. Scriptwriter Abhijat Joshi and Shelly Chopra Dhar, Vidhu’s sister and director of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, were also marked on the mail.
Hirani allegedly made a suggestive comment to the woman on April 9, 2018, and then proceeded to sexually assault 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 in her email about the alleged incident.
“My mind, body and heart were grossly violated that night and for the next 6 months,” she wrote, adding that she used to view Hirani as a father figure before he misbehaved with her.
Hirani, responding through his lawyer Anand Desai, has slammed the claims “At the outset, our client states that the allegations made against him are false, mischievous, scandalous, motivated and defamatory,” Desai said.
The woman told the publication that though she was rattled by Hirani’s behaviour, she could not let go of the job as her father was suffering from a terminal illness. She also feared that the filmmaker could ruin her reputation in the industry.
“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,” she said.
“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 added.
When the publication reached out to Hirani for response, he shared copies of his message and email correspondence with the victim over the six-month period to prove that their relationship was purely professional.
The Sanju director also was upset at the fact that his relationship with Chopra was “crumbling under pressure.” Things have been rather strained between them since. With the allegations coming to the fore, Hirani’s name has been taken off the credits of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, which he was co-producing under his banner Rajkumar Hirani Films.