Actress Lara Dutta Bhupathi has turned down a work offer routed through the casting company of casting director Mukesh Chhabra, one of those accused of sexual harassment amid the #MeToo wave in India.
Dutta Bhupathi’s tennis star husband Mahesh Bhupathi made the revelation in an open letter posted to Twitter on Friday.
“Two days ago my wife, who’s shooting out of town, got an offer from a leading international digital platform through Mukesh Chabbra’s company. She forwarded it to me for my feedback. I asked if she really wanted to empower his company even after what’s been in the news,” he said.
“Her reaction was that the digital platform hadn’t really pulled back business from him either. Later, Lara got in touch with the digital platform and told them she wouldn’t accept work through this company specifically. I think she did the right thing. I’m not sure it’s enough, though.”
As women around the country continue to share their horrific stories, most people in a position of power have chosen to stay silent on the matter, pointed out the father of a six-year-old daughter.
“While these #MeToo revelations are upsetting my wife as much as they are me, maybe even more since she has seen a lot of this at close quarters and some of her friends are involved at both ends, the fact remains that the cream of the industry has refused to support the movement. Sajid Khan is not directing Housefull 4 anymore, but is that enough?” Bhupathi asked.
“A peek at Suhel Seth’s lnstagram account will reveal photos of him with every famous and powerful person in the country, yet not one has felt the need to say anything about his behaviour. People in the know tell me the reason for this is, ‘Everyone has skeletons in their closet’. I don’t buy that,” he added.
“Women who have been in toxic work spaces,and yet are staying quiet need to understand how hard it is for these stories to be shared. Similarly, the men must understand that even if you played your part by being a silent spectator to injustice, now is your chance to set things right.”
Bhupathi said he has heard stories — directly and indirectly — but he chose to ignore them since “business is business”. But not anymore.
“Personally or professionally, I have known and engaged with Suhel Seth, Vikas Bahl, Anirban Blah, Chetan Bhagat, Sajid Khan and Anu Malik. That ends today on all accounts.”
He also urged those who are in a position of influence through their massive social platforms, to stop engaging and start alienating “serial predators”.
“Show them that while the law and investigative agencies will take their course, society should — and will — reject them. The stance needs to be crystal clear — guilty unless proven innocent.”
Meanwhile, Fox Star Studios on Friday suspended Chhabra from his directorial debut Kizie Aur Manny.
“As a responsible organisation, Star India takes any allegation of sexual harassment of women at workplace very seriously. Hence, Fox Star Studios has suspended the services of Mukesh Chhabra, director of our film Kizie Aur Manny, which is under production, till the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of M/s Mukesh Chhabra Casting Company concludes its inquiry into the allegations against him,” said a post on the official Fox Star Hindi Twitter handle.
Chhabra has been known for casting films such as Gangs Of Wasseypur, Kai Po Che, D-Day and Highway.
Last week, when an accusation against him by an aspiring actress emerged in a daily, Chhabra called them “unsubstantiated wild anonymous allegations”. On its part, his company’s ICC reached out to the concerned newspaper to provide details of the complainant.
Chhabra was foraying as a director with Kizie Aur Manny, the Hindi remake of Hollywood movie The Fault in Our Stars.
The Hindi movie features Sushant Singh Rajput and newcomer Sanjana Sanghi.
Sanghi has also accused Rajput of behaving inappropriately with her and for making her feel uncomfortable. However, Rajput on Friday denied it and Chhabra supported him too.