The ace tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi has come forward to give his take on the sexual harassment allegations levelled against filmmaker Sajid Khan.
Bhupathi who was in conversation with journalist Barkha Dutt at ‘We The Women’ event on Sunday night, revealed that his actor wife Lara Dutta had complained to him that her co-star was being subjected to “rude, vulgar” behaviour on the sets of Housefull by director Sajid Khan.
Earlier, grave charges had surfaced against Sajid Khan, the director of sexually harassing women and preying on them. A freelance Bollywood journalist had taken to Twitter to narrate her ordeal. Actor Akshay Kumar had also announced on Twitter then that he was cancelling the shooting for the movie Housefull 4 after sexual harassment allegations surfaced against director Sajid Khan. Sajid’s sister, Farah Khan, actor-director Farhan Akhtar, had then castigated the director for his conduct.
Bhupathi, talking to the moderator said, “When we were dating she was shooting for ‘Housefull’ and we were in London at that time. She would come home and her closest friend was her hairdresser and they both would be complaining about how one of her co-stars was being treated by the director. Rude, vulgar. “I told her, ‘You guys are all complicit. All the four of you, who were in the film, were listening to what he was saying and not telling him it’s not ok. So, at some level you guys are complicit and she agreed.”
The romantic comedy directed by Sajid Khan, which released in 2010, featured Akshay Kumar, Riteish Deshmukh, Arjun Rampal, Deepika Padukone, Malaika Arora, Jiah Khan and along with Miss Universe 2000 and model turned actor Lara Dutta.
Bhupathi recalled how he had told Lara that at some level all the actors on set were complicit in enabling Sajid’s behaviour by keeping quiet and not voicing their displeasure. Lara had then agreed.
To which Barkha countered him by saying it would have been difficult to take on Sajid as people’s work depended on him and that is a coercive environment which makes it difficult for women, to speak up as they would lose work.
It is important to note here, that earlier we had reported how an ex-woman employee, Nikita Arora, working for NDTV, had voiced that how she had written about her sexual harassment experience to the then group editor of the channel, Barkha Dutt, who chose not to respond to her complaints.
Three days after, Dutt replied that Convergence department was not under her and since 2014 she has been a consultant with NDTV. She said she neither had any jurisdiction nor she knew who Nikita was talking about. Nikita then said that she had written to Dutt with confidence that she would be heard but she wasn’t.
However, Bhupathi responding to Barkha Dutt’s opinion said that he understands the film fraternity functions in a different way but it does not justify one brushing off something as serious as indecent behaviour.
“I come from the sports industry where we think differently. In sports, the cream always rises to the top. If you’re good at what you do, you are going to win matches and get results.
“Obviously the film industry is different. If the fraternity decides to ostracise you, you don’t get work. But I don’t think it’s good enough reason to let things like these slide,” he said.
Earlier too Mahesh Bhupathi had come out to support former Miss India and actor Niharika Singh, who had come forward with her own account of ‘Me Too’ and had documented the harassment and abuse she endured during her struggles in the film industry in a lengthy post on social media. The former Miss India’s account also mentions Sajid Khan who she claims told her that she should commit suicide.
Mahesh Bhupathi had then in his post urged people to stop engaging with #MeToo accused and had extended his support to Niharika Singh.
As the ‘MeToo Movement’ had caught momentum several prominent personalities like stand up comedians, journalists, cinema stars and politicians names surfaced. Union minister M J Akbar, actors like Alok Nath, Rajat Kapoor, Varun Grover and comedians like Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba, co-founders of All India Bakchod were all accused of sexual misconduct. Notable filmmakers like Vikas Bahl, Sajid Khan and Journalists like Vinod Dua and Sidharth Bhatia of The Wire, Prashant Jha of the Hindustan Times have been accused.
Journalist Vidya Krishnan has accused India Today Executive Editor and her former colleague Gaurav Sawant of having sexually harassed her in 2003. Sawant has refuted the claims and has sent a legal notice to the publication, the author as well as to Krishnan. The senior journalist who used to work at India Today, TS Sudhir was also amongst the long list of names that surfaced during the ‘#MeToo wave’.
The movie Housefull was released in the year 2000, which had four leading actresses, Lara Dutta, Deepika Padukone, Malaika Arora, Jiah Khan. Bhupathi did not mention which co-star of Lara Dutta was targetted by Sajid Khan. Housefull was the last movie of Jiah Khan before her mysterious suicide in 2013.