Rajkumar Hirani was the latest to join Bollywood’s list of men who are accused of sexual harassment. An assistant on Sanju wrote out a detailed account of the filmmaker’s misbehaviour in an email complaint to Hirani’s partner Vidhu Vinod Chopra. The matter was reported in November last year when Rajkumar Hirani’s team member reported her boss’ misconduct. Apparently, the lady in question narrated her harrowing experience that took place during post-production for Sanju. Although the matter reached Vidhu Vinod Chopra in November, it did not come to light until Hirani’s name was dropped from the poster of Sonam Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao starrer Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.
It was said that the 3 Idiots helmer walked out of ELKDTAL following creative differences. Neither Vidhu Vinod Chopra nor Rajkumar Hirani opened up about this matter until Huffington Post India in its detailed report made this episode official. The report confirmed that this case caused strain in Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Hirani’s professional and personal relationship. In fact, Abhijat Joshi, who has worked with the Munna Bhai director too, in a brief statement did call for a fair judgement.
We spoke to actress Renuka Shahane, who has fearlessly talked about matters that Bollywood often shies away from and asked the Hum Aapke Hai Koun star what her reaction was to Rajkumar Hirani joining the list of accused in India's MeToo movement. The actress was in ‘utter shock’ when she learned of this episode. She said, “I was with him (Rajkumar Hirani) on the jury for MAMI. It was for the first time that I had met him and interacted with him. So, to hear something like this about him is totally shocking.”
The 3 Storeys actress continued, “But I think what Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Anupama have done is go the right route. They’ve been very receptive and helpful. They’ve not tried to sweep it under the carpet. And I think even Rajkumar Hirani is open to the fact that people should investigate the matter, that’s the way it should be. I mean nobody is kind of putting aspersions on her, definitely not from Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Anupama’s side. So, I think luckily, she has got the right kind of help from the people involved. Everybody wants to hear her side of the story and respects it as well. I think it is going in the right direction and whatever the truth is… whoever is investigating the matter will come up with the truth of the matter.”
Renuka Shahane was one amongst the few celebrities who opened up during the initial phase of MeToo movement in India. Speaking more on Rajkumar Hirani’s episode and the movement, in general, the actress also added, “Every person that comes out with his/her experience has to be treated with utmost respect. And in this case, that is what has happened. I think that is a great move forward for our movement. Because you know in all the victim shaming and everything that keeps happening along with that there are people in our industry who’re taking cognisance of sexual harassment cases. So, I think that is a great takeaway for us as an industry.”
While many feel that MeToo has lost steam and is slowly dying, Renuka believes that it is here to stay, grow and empower in the coming days, “I do believe that it is the tip of the iceberg as a country as a whole. What’s happening in the media or press or the Hindi film industry is happening everywhere in the corporate space, government industries but the stories are not coming out because people don’t have that kind of voice in other situations. It still has to percolate to the rural areas of our country where there’s rampant sexual harassment going on in homes and outside. But I think the movement has begun and the conversation has begun and I’m sure it’s just going to move forward from here.”
Coming back to Rajkumar Hirani’s case, the filmmaker’s next Munna Bhai 3 has been put in the backburner by the studio after these allegations against the filmmaker came to the forefront. The filmmaker has denied all allegations and called them ‘malicious’. In an official statement, Hirani’s lawyer stated, “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 any 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.”