India’s #MeToo moment: Editor-turned minister, Bollywood personalities in the dock – All you need to know

About one year after the Me Too movement doused the Harvey Weinstein empire, the fire is raging in India, burning reputations as women come out narrating their experiences of alleged sexual misconduct across fields spanning from Bollywood, entertainment to the media.

The movement which started with Tanushree Dutta's allegations against veteran actor Nana Patekar and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, soon mentioned Rajat Kapoor, Alok Nath and AIB. (Source: PTI/IE)

About one year after the Me Too movement doused the Harvey Weinstein empire, the fire is raging in India, burning reputations as women come out narrating their experiences of alleged sexual misconduct spanning across television, cinema and the media industries. The movement which began with Tanushree Dutta’s allegations against veteran actor Nana Patekar and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, soon enveloped Rajat Kapoor, Alok Nath and All India Backchod (AIB). The most stunning revelation, however, came in the form of former Editor and current Minister of State (External Affairs) MJ Akbar who has been alleged of sexual harassment by multiple female journalists during his tenure as a journalist.

Phantom Films, a major production house, which was active for seven years, was suddenly dissolved on Saturday with two of the four partners apologising for mishandling an employee’s complaint that she was sexually assaulted in 2015 by a third partner, Vikas Bahl.

Big names from the entertainment industry like Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan have also come out and taken a strong stand against such incidents. While Amitabh Bachchan demanded that no woman should ever be subjected to any kind of misbehaviour or disorderly conduct, especially at her workplace, his Thugs of Hindostan co-star Aamir decided to quit Gulshan Kumar’s upcoming biopic with its director Subhash Kapoor accused of molestation by an actress.

READ | #MeToo movement: Birthday boy Amitabh Bachchan speaks up, says ‘no woman should ever be subjected to misbehaviour’

As the movement gathers more steam on social media, prominent names continue to figure in allegations, many containing screenshots of the conversations with the accused or plainly narrating their ordeal. Here is a look at some eminent personalities who has been named in the Me Too movement so far.

1. MJ Akbar, Minister of State, Ministry of External Affairs

The biggest name to appear so far, MJ Akbar was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour by journalist Priya Ramani, formerly of India Today, The Indian Express and Mint. In a piece she wrote in October 2017 for Vogue India, Ramani had penned down an experience she had “with an editor” when she was 23 years old and he was 43. On Monday, she tweeted the link of the story saying, “I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator – maybe they’ll share.”

READ | #MeToo: Sexual harrassment charges against MJ Akbar put Modi government in a spot, final call likely soon

Since then, as many as six women journalists have come on record to accuse Minister of State of External Affairs, MJ Akbar of inappropriate behaviour, when he worked as a newspaper editor, reported The Indian Express. While Akbar is yet to react to these allegations, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday ducked questions on the allegations against her junior minister.

2. Alok Nath, Actor

In a Facebook post on Monday night, veteran writer-producer of the 1990s’ show “Tara” fame, Vinta Nanda put down a detailed account of the alleged assaults. Nanda accused actor Alok Nath – she did not name him in the post but confirmed to IANS on Tuesday – of sexually violating her almost two decades ago. “He was an alcoholic, shameless and obnoxious but he was also the television star of that decade, so not only was he forgiven for all his bad behaviour but many of the guys would egg him on to be his worst. My lead female actor was being harassed by him. He would mess with her on the sets and everyone would be silent. When she complained to us, we decided to let him go,” she wrote in the post.

Alok Nath and Navneet Nisha in popular show ‘Tara’. (Source: Twitter)

Reacting to the allegations, Nath told ABP News, “Neither I am denying this nor do I agree with it. It (rape) must have happened, but someone else would have done it. Well, I do not want to talk much about it as for the matter if it has come out, it will be stretched.”

However, Tara star Navneet Nishan supported Nanda’s allegations and confirmed that she too faced harassment at the hands of the actor. “I empathise with Vinta for the terrible pain she has gone through; it is unimaginable. I dealt with the four year harassment by slapping the man in question and it is done and dusted,” she told PTI.

READ | Alok Nath’s reputation as alcoholic, harasser was known by all in industry, says ‘Sonu Ke Titu ki Sweety’ actor Deepika Amin

Popular actress Sandhya Mridul also came out in solidarity with Vinta and narrated an experience of her own when she was shooting a telefilm in Kodaikanal at the start of her career in which Alok Nath was her on-screen father and Reema Lagoo her mother. In a tweet, Mridul recalled that the cast of the show had gone for a dinner one day when Nath got progressively drunk and started insisting that she sit with him. As the actress became uncomfortable, she went to the hotel without having dinner.

“Few minutes after he left there was a knock on my door I opened the door thinking it was him again. It was an inebriated Alok Nath I instinctively tried to shut the door but he pushed it and lunged at me, I stepped aside he went flying past me into the room. I fell back toward the bathroom door he lunged at me again screaming I want you you’re mine. I dodged again he went into the bathroom and I think I latched the loo door and ran out of my room down the corridor into the lobby,” she recalled.

3. Nana Patekar and Vivek Agnihotri

The entire movement started with actress Tanushree Dutta talking about actor Nana Patekar’s inappropriate behaviour on the film set of Horn Ok Pleasss, 10 years ago. Dutta claimed that during the shooting of a song sequence for the film, she was inappropriately touched by Nana Patekar. The actress said that she had clearly mentioned that she will not enact or perform any lewd, vulgar or uncomfortable steps. She claimed that she had also complained to Ganesh Acharya but was forced to do scenes which were intimate and included Patekar touching her inappropriately.

Dutta alleged that after she had decided to walk out of the film, her car was vandalised by goons, which she alleged were from the Raj Thackeray-led MNS. After silence on the matter for days, Nana Patekar called a press conference on Sunday, which was later cancelled. The media was informed about the cancellation by Nana’s son Malhar. However, the actor has consistently denied the accusation.

Days after her allegations against Nana Patekar, in an interview with DNA, Dutta alleged that filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri behaved inappropriately towards her while shooting ‘Chocolate: Deep Dark Secrets in 2005’. Agnihotri’s lawyer denied the claims and sent a legal notice to the actress.

4. Vikas Bahl, Director

Filmmaker Vikas Bahl was accused of sexual misconduct by a crew member of Phantom films. An article published in Huffington Post said that a woman member claimed that the filmmaker had insisted on dropping her to her hotel room on the early hours of May 5, 2015 and pretended to ‘pass out drunk on her bed, only to awaken soon after and masturbate on her’. The allegations were backed by Queen actress Kangana Ranaut who accused Bahl of sexual misconduct on the sets of Queen.

After Kangana Ranaut, actress Nayani Dixit, who co-starred with her in Queen, also opened up about her unpleasant experience of working with Bahl. In an interview with Bollywood Hungama, Dixit alleged that the filmmaker made unwelcome advances at her. “Whatever the girl has accused Vikas Bahl is not at all wrong because he also tried his hand on me. I literally told him that ‘main tumhe maarungi if you do this again’. So I am sure he did the same with the girl in question as well,” Bollywood Hungama quoted Nayani as saying.

Kangana Ranaut and Vikas Bahl during an event. (Source: PTI)

Reacting to these allegations, Hrithik Roshan plays the lead in Bahl’s next ‘Super 30′, said that a “harsh stand” will be taken against the director. Bahl has also been dropped from Kabir Khan’s next ’83’. “Yes, Vikas Bahl will not have any credit on ’83’,” Khan told PTI.

Over the weekend, Phantom films – helmed by Vikas Bahl, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena – was also dissolved. However, Bahl has denied these allegations and has sent legal notices to Kashyap and Motwane, calling them ‘opportunists’.

5. Rajat Kapoor, Actor-Director

Actor and filmmaker Rajat Kapoor has also been accused of inappropriate behaviour by two women on Twitter. One of them – a journalist – shared details of her telephonic interview in which Kapoor allegedly asked her if she was “as sexy as she sounds” and asked her for her “vital stats.”

The actor has issued an apology on the micro-blogging website. “All my life I have tried to be a decent man, to do the right thing. If however, I have slipped and through my actions or words caused pain or hurt or trauma to absolutely anybody, please accept my apology. I am sorry from the bottom of my heart – and sad that I was the cause of this hurt to another human being. If there is one thing more important to me than even my work, it is to be a good human being. And I have tried to be that person. And now, I will try harder,” he tweeted.

6. Varun Grover, Comic, Writer

The writer of ‘Masaan’ and Netflix’s ‘Sacred Games’, Varun Grover has been accused of misbehaving by a former student of Banaras Hindu University. The woman claimed that the incident took place in 2001 when Varun allegedly misbehaved with her on the pretext of working on a play.

READ | Sacred Games season 2 faces uncertain future after sexual harassment allegations against writer Varun Grover

The award-winning lyricist, however, has denied these allegations. “I completely, totally, categorically deny all the allegations being made. The screenshot in question is untrue, misleading, and defamatory to say the least. Issuing a detailed statement soon,” he tweeted.

Varun’s longtime friend and Sacred Games colleague, Anurag Kashyap also came out in his support. “This man I have known so closely and so so long that I refuse to believe any allegations about him. #believethevictim and investigate the claims and also be careful to not let vested interests sabotage a long pending genuine movement,” he said in a statement.

7. Gaurav Doshi

Actress Flora Saini who played the role of the ghost in Rajkummar Rao and Shraddha Kapoor starrer ‘Stree’, shared her story of assault and harassment at the hands of producer Gaurang Doshi. In a Facebook post, Flora claimed that she had suffered abuse at the hands of Doshi when she was dating the producer but called it quits when she fractured a jaw in an assault in 2007.

“I realised me talking about it ,that time, just went against me, cos he was the powerful one n nobody wanted to believe some girl who was relatively new in the industry, it was his word against mine, and of course, his word mattered,” Siani said, explaining why she didn’t complain earlier.

8. AIB and Utsav Chakraborty

Mumbai based comedian Utsav Chakraborty who has been associated with All India Backchod (AIB) in the past, was accused on Twitter of sending lewd messages to women and young girls such as requesting topless photos. After initial dismissal, Chakraborty tweeted accepted these allegations and tweeted he has “been the exact monster I’ve been trying to fight all my life”.

READ | First woman accused in #MeToo movement Aditi Mittal apologises to AIB comedian Kaneez Surka – Here’s what she says

Meanwhile, AIB founders Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba have also found themselves in controversy. While Bhat has come under attack for his inaction in the complaints against Chakraborty, Khamba has been directly accused of sexual misconduct. Both have stepped away from the group for now.

Tanmay Bhat, Gursimran Khamba, Ashish Shakya and Rohan Joshi had co-founded AIB. (Source: IE)

A woman, who requested anonymity, posted her statement through the Twitter handle of a journalist, accusing Khamba of misconduct. She said she and the comedian had “hooked up two-three times, consensually and continued being friends” but things escalated when on two separate occasions, Khamba tried “repeatedly to make out with me while we were hanging out”.

The comedian has denied these allegations saying he never violated her consent. “I am aware of the person who’s stated the incident… in 2015 we had hooked up consensually multiple times. But I categorically deny the incident mentioned in October and December. I was not forceful,” he said, according to PTI.


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My statement on the recent allegations against me

A post shared by Khamba (@gursimrankhamba) on

However, these allegations have left the group with an uncertain future. Video streaming service Hotstar announced Monday that it was cancelling the production of third season of ‘On Air with AIB’ in light of the allegations while, Vidhi Jotwani, HR head at AIB told PTI that the group faces an uncertain future. “Truthfully, we don’t know what this means for the future of AIB or whether there is one. In the interim, Ashish Shakya, Rohan Joshi and other senior team members will work towards being able to answer that question over the next several months,” she said in a statement.

9. Kailash Kher, Singer, Musician

Singer Kailash Kher has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women including a photojournalist and singer Sona Mohapatra. In a series of tweets, Mohapatra revealed that when she had met Kher to collaborate for a song, the singer kept his hand on her thigh telling her how beautiful she is and how she is lucky to have been found by a singer, not an actor.

The singer has denied these allegations and apologised if someone had ‘taken or thought something differently about anything’. “For all those who know me and have come across me, will know how much I respect humanity, especially women, even more for the ones who work in media since their work is difficult,” he told IANS.

10. Chetan Bhagat, Author

Journalist Sheena shared an alleged conversation between Chetan Bhagat and an anonymous woman on Friday. Confirming that the screenshots were genuine, Chetan Bhagat wrote a post on his Facebook page apologising to the woman and his wife, Anusha. “I am really sorry to person concerned. The screenshots are of course real, and I am sorry if you felt they were wrong I hope you will accept my apology,” he wrote.

The author added that the conversation is ‘several years old’ and added that he had felt a connection with the woman. “As I also say in the screenshots, I realized I was married and this was not about looking for any action. I just had not felt that kind of connection in a while,” he added.

The Cine and TV Artists Association has come out in support of Nanda and others. On Tuesday, it said that a show-cause notice would be sent to Alok Nath. “Dear @vintananda I am so so sorry… Unfortunately we’ve to follow the due process. I urge you to file a complaint against this vile creature, we extend you full support,” CINTAA general secretary Sushant Singh wrote to Nanda.

The Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association has also taken note of the spurt in the number of cases and have issued Bahl a show cause notice. It said it has set up a Women’s Grievances Redressal Cell to safeguard the interest of women artists.

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