South Indian actress Sruthi Hariharan has accused 54-year-old actor Arjun Sarja of sexually harassing her during a rehearsal in the past. In a long Facebook post, Sruthi narrated her own MeToo story against Sarja, accusing the latter of sexual misconduct.
She wrote, “I was shooting for a bilingual film which starred Arjun Sarja. A man whose movies I have grown up watching. I was excited about the opportunity. The first few days seemed normal, I played his wife in the film and that day we were to do a romantic scene where we had to hug each other after a brief dialogue. During the rehearsal, we delivered our lines and Mr. Arjun hugs me.
“With no forewarning or permission, he runs his hands intimately up and down my back. He pulls me closer with my body taut against his and asks the director if we could use this idea of foreplay in the scene. I was aghast. I am all for depicting realism in cinema, but this felt absolutely wrong. His intent seemed anything but professional. I hated that he did it and angry that I didn’t know what to say then.”
She said that she was shocked that this incident had taken place in front of at least 50 of the film’s crew.
“The incident happened in front of at least 50 people on a shooting set- it happened at my workplace. I wanted nothing but to stay away from him rather than be tolerant and put up with his lewd and complete un professional behavior.
“I didn’t want to go back, but as a professional, I had to finish what I had signed for. I continued shooting. During the course of production, every smutty innuendo he made, created an unpalatable work environment for me. His salacious invitations to meet him after work appalled me,” she wrote.
She continued, “I am all for depicting realism in cinema, but this felt absolutely wrong. His (Arjun) intent seemed anything but professional. I hated that he did it and angry that I didn’t know what to say then.”
The actress said that the film’s director had ‘sensed her discomfort’ and that she had shared the incident with her make-up team and informed the direction department that she was not interested to be part of rehearsals.
Sruthi Hariharan, who featured in the critically acclaimed Kannada film Lucia in 2013 added, “During the course of production, every smutty innuendo he (Arjun) made created an unpalatable work environment for me. His salacious invitations to meet him after work appalled me.”
The actress said the MeToo movement was to make sure ‘no man ever takes a woman’s personal space for granted, whoever she is to him.’