Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s next directorial could be made without Rajkumar Hirani after the Sanju director has been accused of sexual assault.
As an editor, Hirani last worked on Vinod’s directorial oeuvre Mission Kashmir and has not edited his films after that.
But Hirani did work as a creative producer on Vinod’s last Hindi directorial offering Ekalavya: The Royal Guard way back in 2007.
Recently, a spokesperson had informed the media that:
“Fox Star Studios, Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra have gotten into a three-film deal which includes the Dutt biopic and Vidhu’s directorial.”
“But that means Vinod will need to wait till the allegations are nullified if he needs to get Hirani on board for that film as well.
The second film in the deal was Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga apart from Sanju.
So, if Vinod needs to move his film quickly, he will have to do away with Hirani’s name from the project as a producer,” says a well-informed trade source.
It is to be noted that a few Bollywood voices have stood by Hirani in the case.
Incidentally, the first casualty from that #MeToo allegation list was director Soumik Sen whose film Why Cheat India released this week with his name in the credits, but he was kept away from promoting the film.
There have also been reports that Munnabhai 3 could be in trouble because of the #MeToo allegations against Rajkumar Hirani by an associate in the making of the film Sanju.
A unit member accused Hirani of sexually assaulting her on multiple occasions during the making of Sanju, reports a leading publication.
The assault allegedly took place over six months, between March and September 2018.
The woman reported the misconduct in an email dated November 3, 2018, addressed to Hirani’s frequent collaborator Vidhu Vinod Chopra and his wife Anupama Chopra, who is also a director of Vinod Chopra Films Pvt Ltd.
Scriptwriter Abhijat Joshi and Shelly Chopra Dhar, Vidhu’s sister and director of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, were also marked on the mail.
Hirani allegedly made a suggestive comment to the woman on April 9, 2018, and then proceeded to sexually assault her at his home office.
“I remember forming these words on my lips – ‘Sir. This is wrong…Because of this power structure.
You being the absolute power and me being a mere assistant, a nobody – I will never be able to express myself to you,'” she wrote in her email about the alleged incident.
“My mind, body and heart were grossly violated that night and for the next 6 months,” she wrote, adding that she used to view Hirani as a father figure before he misbehaved with her.
Hirani, responding through his lawyer Anand Desai, has vociferously denied the claims.
“At the outset, our client states that the allegations made against him are false, mischievous, scandalous, motivated and defamatory,” Desai said.
The woman told the publication that though she was shaken up by Hirani’s behaviour, she could not let go of the job as her father was suffering from a terminal illness.
She also feared that the filmmaker could ruin her reputation in the industry.
“I had no choice but to be polite to him. It was unbearable but the reason I endured it all until I couldn’t, was because I didn’t want my job to be taken away from me, and work to be questioned. Ever,” she said.
“I was worried that if I left midway, it would be impossible to find another job in this industry if he were to speak badly about my work.
Because if Hirani said I wasn’t good, everybody would listen. My future would be in jeopardy,” she added.
When the publication reached out to Hirani for a response, he shared copies of his message and email correspondence with the victim over the six-month period to prove that their relationship was purely professional.
“These communications establish that the allegations made against our client to you, that have given rise to your queries, are false and completely unjustified,” Hirani’s lawyer Desai told the publication.
Hirani also showed the publication a copy of an email to Vidhu Chopra, dated November 22, 2018.
In the email, he strongly denied all allegations and said he was open to being investigated by an independent body.
The Sanju director also mentioned his distress at the fact that his relationship with Chopra was “crumbling under pressure.”
Things have been rather strained between them since.