Anurag Kashyap Might Be Our Great Liberal Hope, But We Must Give Payal Ghosh a Fair Hearing

Bollywood

Anurag Kashyap Might Be Our Great Liberal Hope, But We Must Give Payal Ghosh a Fair Hearing

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

This weekend, another #MeToo allegation of sexual harassment in Bollywood emerged, this time from actress Payal Ghosh against director Anurag Kashyap. In a video interview to a news channel, and a tweet where she tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ghosh claimed that Kashyap had “forced himself” on her.

Kashyap was quick to deny the allegation, calling it “baseless” and releasing a statement through his lawyer. “It is sad that a social movement as important as the #metoo movement has been co-opted by vested interests and reduced to a mere tool for character assassination,” it read.

In addition to Kashyap’s lawyer releasing a statement, actress Richa Chadha also started legal proceedings, after Ghosh named Chadha in her video interview. Chadha’s lawyer issued a statement that said, “No woman should misuse their liberties to harass other women with unsubstantiated or non-existent, false and baseless allegations.”

The allegations against Kashyap will be investigated but meanwhile Ghosh has been called out for naming Chadha, Huma Qureshi and Mahie Gill.

Even as the people named in Ghosh’s account come forward to deny her version of events, many have also spoken up in support of Kashyap, including both his former wives. Kashyap’s first wife, Aarti Bajaj, wrote “Keep empowering women as you do and the safest place you create for all of them. I see it first hand with our daughter.”

Kalki Koechlin, whom Kashyap was married to after his divorce from Bajaj, also posted in his support. She wrote, “This strange time where everyone gets to abuse one another and make false claims is a dangerous and repulsive one. It is destroying family, friends and countries.”

While Kashyap’s ex-wives have vouched for his character in his personal life, those who have worked with him in a professional capacity have also come forward in his support. Radhika Apte said that she “always felt immensely secure” around Kashyap, and Taapsee Pannu said that he was “the biggest feminist I know”.

However, there are those who believe in Ghosh’s allegations against Kashyap. Kangana Ranaut, who spent much of last week trading barbs with him over Twitter, began using the hashtag #ArrestAnuragKashyap in support of Ghosh.

This is not Kashyap’s first brush with the #MeToo movement, as during 2018, allegations surfaced of sexual harassment against a director who worked with Phantom Films, where Kashyap was a partner. The company was dissolved after the allegations, as Kashyap distanced himself from the alleged harasser. However, he later confessed that he was aware about the harassment claims and apologised to the victim. “We didn’t handle it well and I cannot blame anybody but myself,” he had said.

Kashyap has always been outspoken and has consistently stood up for issues that haunt the nation. But his silence on harassment against a colleague in 2017 is why we should not award him a feminist badge already. As far as Ghosh’s accusations go, she must be given a fair hearing.

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