In October 2018, when multiple women accused director Soumik Sen of sexual misconduct, it was speculated that the makers of his directorial venture, Why Cheat India, will take a stand against him.
However, the accounts of as many as four women were met with collective silence from the film’s lead actor and one of the producers – Emraan Hashmi, and other producers – T-Series and Ellipsis Entertainment.
At the time, the shoot of Why Cheat India had been completed. So, indianexpress.com reached out to Ellipsis Entertainment’s Atul Kasbekar. He had said, “All partners need to chat and have a view before we take a collective call on that.”
Months later, when Emraan Hashmi sat down for an interview with indianexpress.com, he was asked what stopped the team of Why Cheat India from publicly distancing themselves from Soumik Sen especially when the director, himself, apologised on Twitter in October for “hurting anyone.”
Hashmi said all they decided was to keep Sen away from the film’s promotions.
“Soumik has gone on record and put out a tweet saying he is sorry if he has hurt someone unintentionally, and he has excused himself from the promotions. Now what is the step finally? Like people say don’t credit him for the film. But where does the buck stop? What are other guidelines, the rules, which we can abide by? It has become trial by Twitter,” said the actor.
Emraan Hashmi said it is not easy to validate the authenticity of the allegations made by women as there can be many who would jump on the MeToo bandwagon to “settle scores.”
He said, “It’s great that women are coming out and I am all for MeToo movement but right now it’s a very grey zone because there is no due process. A lot of these claims are authentic but there are some of them which would be for malicious intent. Men are like that. Can’t women be like that?”
The actor reiterated that discrediting Soumik from Why Cheat India would have been unfair, when he doesn’t know if the director “has done it.”
“To settle a score, you jump on the movement and you take down a man. Is that possible? It is possible. Am I defending Soumik completely? No. He has probably done it. But I can’t play the judge and throw him out just because someone has made an allegation without due process.
“I don’t know if Soumik has done it. So, I can’t sit on a throne and tell him, ‘Get out of my film. You won’t be credited for it.’ That would be unfair,” Emraan Hashmi said.
Hashmi said it’s the guidelines set by the government at workplace which should define sexual harassment rather than having a woman getting up and deciding for herself what sexual misconduct is.
“What amounts to sexual harassment? It’s a cultural thing. For some women, a lewd comment, a dirty joke would amount to sexual harassment. We don’t know what happens behind closed doors. It’s unfortunate that sometimes women are asked for proofs, when they don’t have any. The government has laid the guidelines and I spoke to my lawyer and he told me that there are guidelines followed by MNCs, which I will follow in my next films. Unfortunately, these aren’t followed in a lot of companies. These guidelines warn men on set and protect women. This is a set of guidelines that amounts to sexual harassment.
“It’s not about a girl getting up and saying this is sexual harassment. It should also protect men. Power runs both sides. If it corrupts someone, it could be a female boss exploiting a male colleague. So why is it only one way?” the actor said.
Emraan Hashmi was asked if he would work Soumik Sen in the future, to which the actor said he could not base his relationship with his director based on a tweet.
The actor-producer never reached out to the women, one of whose account was even validated by filmmaker Anubhav Sinha (he had produced Soumik’s Gulaab Gang).
“I don’t know what is the final thing, on how we put him in the dock and make him accountable for it. I don’t even know if he should be accountable. First, we have to check the seriousness of the allegations. ‘What has he done? Was it actually sexual harassment? Did those abide by the government guidelines?’ We don’t know. It was all out on Twitter in those minimalistic characters and we have to form a story out of it. I am not saying those allegations are true or untrue. I didn’t reach out to the girls. Soumik was at the receiving end of this and he did put out a tweet and said, ‘If something was lost in translation and if I’ve done something to hurt you, I apologise.’
“I will have to first check with the girls the seriousness of the allegations and if they are willing to go to the judicial system and find some final verdict on this. I can’t base my relationship with a director on a tweet. It might be right or wrong, but I can’t base anything on that. It’s social media. I don’t know the authenticity. I don’t know them,” the actor said.