An unnamed woman had accused filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani of sexually assaulting her for six months when she worked with him on his 2018 film Sanju. Hirani has denied the charges as his lawyer Anand Desai termed the allegations ‘false, mischievous, scandalous, motivated and defamatory.’
The woman, who claimed to have worked on Sanju reportedly shared her ordeal with Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Sanju co-producer and Hirani’s close business associate Bollywood producer, in an email dated 3 November 2018. She also copied Chopra’s wife Anupama Chopra and his sister Shelly Chopra, who is currently directing the upcoming Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga. Anupama is also the director of the Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI) and a director of Vinod Chopra Films Pvt. Ltd.
The woman, according to Huffpost India, wrote in her email that Hirani had first passed sexually suggestive remarks to her on 9 April, last year. He, according to the woman, later sexually assaulted 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, according to Huffpost India.
The woman added, “My mind, body and heart were grossly violated that night and for the next 6 months.” She said that she was unable to quit her job and go public with her experience since her father was terminally ill and no one would have given her a job if Hirani spoke ill about her. The complainant also said that she was ‘intimidated by Hirani,’ who was her reporting person at the time adding that she had no option but to maintain a facade of normalcy.
“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.
“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.
Anupama Chopra confirmed receiving her email adding that Vinod Chopra Films has since set up a committee to address complaints of sexual harassment.
“I have offered my full support and recommended that she take the complaint to a legal body or a neutral party since we cannot be arbitrators or judges on this.
“We also offered to set up an ICC at VCF (which we have set up since then) even though a VCF ICC could not have taken up the case since she was an RHF (Rajkumar Hirani Films) employee at the time. These are two separate companies,” she said in an email dated December 5, 2018 to Huffpost India.
Anupama also said that the woman told her she needed time to think about how to take things forward. She added, “I did not want in any way to pressurise her or steer her in any direction. As Vinod and I told her then, she has our full support and we are fully respectful of whatever decision she has taken.”
Meanwhile, the makers of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga have dropped Hirani’s name from the film’s poster.
Hirani is the latest Bollywood name to face MeToo allegations that saw several big names being called out for their alleged sexual misconduct in the past. Notable among them were Alok Nath, Nana Patekar, Vivek Agnihotri, Anu Malik, Sajid Khan, Kailash Kher, former Union Minister MJ Akbar, Vinod Dua and Vikas Bahl