It looks like Sajid Khan’s troubles aren’t going to end anytime soon. The ex-video jockey cum filmmaker, who was accused of sexual harassment by journalist Karishma Upadhyay, actress Rachel White, and assistant director cum social activist Saloni Chopra, has now been officially suspended for a year by the IFTDA [i.e. Indian Film and Television Directors’ Association]
To quote the statement of IFTDA on this issue, as released by IFTDA president and filmmaker Ashoke Pandit, “The committee investigated the complaints in the spirit of POSH Act and in compliance of principles of sexual harassment, unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, unwarranted contact by poking and advances, demands for sexual favours and abuse of power by Sajid Khan.”
The statement continued further as “Mr Sajid Khan was given an opportunity to put forth his defence. He did not give any explanation, response or defence to the allegations of sexual harassment, unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, poking at the girls and asking the girls to seduce or strip or to show cleavage and other sexual misconduct and thereby traumatised them mentally and emotionally.”
For those unaware, Sajid Khan is a filmmaker associated with films like ‘Heyy Babyy’, ‘Housefull’, ‘Humshakals’, ‘Himmatwala’. He has been accused of behaving rudely with his associates, as well as his star cast. However, when Saloni Chopra accused him of sexual harassment, it opened a can of worms that took Bollywood by storm.
Encouraged by the bold stance of the victims, even actresses like Dia Mirza, Bipasha Basu, Lara Dutta, who had worked with him, opened up on Sajid Khan, accusing him of behaving in a rude and vulgar manner with them. Shocked by the allegations, Sajid’s sister and filmmaker cum choreographer Farah Khan denounced him, apologizing to the victims for the injustice caused.
As a consequence of the allegations, the IFTDA issued a show cause notice to Sajid Khan in November, accusing him of sexual misconduct. In response, Sajid Khan denied the allegations, saying that those allegations have harmed his personal and professional life.
To quote his response, “In the wake of the allegations against me and the pressure being put on my family, my producer and the stars of the film Housefull 4, I must take the moral responsibility of stepping down from my directorial post, till the time I can allay the allegations and prove the truth. I request my friends in the media to kindly not pass judgment till the truth is out.”
To be honest, the suspension of Sajid Khan was long due. Even when he wasn’t accused of such allegations, Sajid Khan wasn’t scot-free. His films had a vulgar undertone, which infuriated both social activists as well as cinemagoers alike. When he was accused of sexual harassment and assault, it only confirmed to the farce that was allowed in elite Bollywood under the garb of women empowerment, since very few people from elite Bollywood actually denounced him for his actions.
Ironically, filmmaker Farhan Akhtar, who is not only Sajid’s sister but also a women’s rights activist, not only kept silent for most of the time. We only wonder as to how long such hypocrisy will be tolerated as normal in Bollywood.