Veteran screenwriter Javed Akhtar is the latest from Bollywood to come out in defence of filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, calling him the "most decent" person in the industry. Hirani is the latest name to be called out for sexual harassment. She detailed her allegations in an email dated November 3, 2018, to Hirani's frequent collaborator and "Sanju" co-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Akhtar took to Twitter to offer his support to the embattled director, who has categorically denied the allegations.
"I had come to the film industry in 1965. After the many years, if I am asked who the most decent people are in this industry over almost, perhaps the first name that will come to my mind is RAJU HIRANI. GB Shaw has said. 'It is too dangerous to be too good,'" the screenwriter wrote.
Hirani, known for his message-driven dramas such as "Munnabhai" series, "3 Idiots" and "PK", has been accused of sexual assault by a woman who worked with him on his 2018 film "Sanju". In an article on HuffPost India, the woman, who calls herself "an assistant", alleged that Hirani sexually abused her more than once between March and September 2018. She detailed her allegations in an email dated November 3, 2018, to Hirani's frequent collaborator and "Sanju" co-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
The filmmaker, in a statement, called the allegation false, malicious and mischievous, which has the sole intention of destroying his reputation. While the industry has largely been silent on the latest #MeToo case, Hirani's previous collaborators Arshad Warsi, Dia Mirza and Sharman Joshi have batted for the filmmaker. Arshad, who found critical acclaim and love for his portrayal of Circuit in Hirani's "Munna Bhai" series, described the filmmaker as a "polite, nice and correct" person.
"I find it wrong to condemn somebody without proper proof or investigation. I would like to know the credibility of the accusation. Till all that is clear, I feel it is not right to accuse someone. I believe in innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Unfortunately, we just jump to conclusions," Warsi told PTI.
Dia, who worked with Hirani on films "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" and "Sanju", said she was "deeply distressed" by the allegations as the director was someone she respects a lot. The actor said she hopes a due official enquiry is conducted in the matter. "I am deeply distressed by this news. As someone who has known and respects Raju Sir for 15 years, I can only hope that a due official enquiry is conducted. He is one of the most decent human beings I have ever worked with and I think it would be grossly unjust on my part to speak on this as I do not know the details. "As for the #MeToo movement, it rightfully encourages women to speak up and seek due process," Dia told PTI.
Sharman, whose portrayal of Raju Rastogi in Hirani's blockbuster "3 idiots" became immensely popular, hoped the phase the director is going through currently will pass. "Raju Sir is a man of immense integrity, character, honour, compassion and truthfulness, all the virtues one would imagine are non-existent in people today, someone I am absolutely inspired by and have learnt from and because of whom I believe I have gone onto being a better person. "All I want to say is that this too shall pass and I can imagine how demeaning it might be to even stand up for yourself in a situation such as this," the actor told PTI.
Sharman had also offered support to the filmmaker on Twitter, using the #IStandForRajuHirani. India's #MeToo storm has engulfed many a stalwart such as Nana Patekar, Alok Nath, Vikas Bahl, Sajid Khan and former Union minister M J Akbar.
(With inputs from agencies.)