Weeks after expressing in public his disappointment in Sajid Khan’s alleged abusive behaviour towards multiple women, actor Farhan Akhtar says he, as a family member, is trying to make the filmmaker come to terms with his reported actions, even as his cousin continues to refute all allegations against him.
Actors Rachel White, Saloni Chopra, Simran Suri and journalist Karishma Upadhyay, last month, shared horrific accounts of alleged sexual harassment by Sajid. A few days later, Sajid announced his departure from his directorial venture Housefull 4, as various Bollywood personalities, including Farhan, slammed him on social media.
Sajid Khan, however, has denied the allegations in an official statement and reiterated his dismissal of the women’s accounts in his response to Indian Film and Television Directors Association (IFTDA), who asked him to react after the survivors filed complaints against him.
Today, during a session at We The Women initiative, Farhan Akhtar said besides disappointment, Sajid’s episode caused him guilt as he had known the director since childhood.
“Every time something like this has happened in the public domain, I have been very vocal with my opinion. When it came to someone within my family, I felt silence on that front would be very, very hypocritical. So pretty much on the first day when three women came out and spoke, I felt it was important for me to speak out,” Farhan said.
“Sajid being my brother, I need to now work with him, try to figure out how he can see this through and how it is that he can make the women, who have been affected by his actions, somehow feel better,” he added.
In his reaction on social media to the allegations against Sajid Khan, Farhan Akhtar had expressed shock, which was criticised by lot of people as they questioned how could the actor not know of his cousin’s behaviour when they work in the same industry.
“It was surprise, disappointment and strangely, because when it’s a member of your family, you also feel a certain level of guilt. It’s happened to all of us in the past when we hear something like this and say ‘But how come someone so close to him didn’t know?” Farhan said.
“The truth is I didn’t. If I did know, I would’ve spoken about it way before the story was broken. There was this certain guilt about that, how could this be going on and I had no idea. So there were conflicted emotions,” he added.
According to the actor, the course correction for Sajid Khan begins with an apology. When moderator, journalist Barkha Dutt pointed out that his alleged actions deserved more than an apology, Farhan said, “Whether stuff like this needs to go into the ambit of court is for them to decide. Those are the things he has to face. To start with apologising is a big step. To say, ‘I am sorry about what I did,’ is a big step, it can make a person feel a lot better.”
Farhan Akhtar also shared with the audience that two-three women, who he has known for years, confided in him after the stories against Sajid came out, saying they had similar experiences with the filmmaker.
“It did make me feel I wish I had known. When people spoke about it, there were two-three women who got in touch with me privately to say, ‘Listen you should know whatever is being said is true and he has behaved in a similar way with us as well’.”
“These are the people I have known for 12, 15, 20 years and meet them very often but nobody ever mentioned this to me. I asked them why didn’t you ever tell me? I have been doing something with MARD for the last five years. I wouldn’t have been on his side if you had brought it to my attention but somehow they weren’t comfortable to speak about it,” Farhan said.
As a part of his closing comment on MeToo movement in Bollywood, Farhan Akhtar said he disagreed with the view that it’s men’s responsibility to out a perpetrator if women have shared their experiences with them because it takes away the agency from the women to tell their stories to the world.
“There is a certain responsibility that lies on men. If someone has behaved badly with a woman and she has not spoken about it for ten, 20 or 30 years, it’s her prerogative when she wants to speak. Even if someone tells me privately, like these three women, I cannot take their names.
“Can I go to the public with that? I can’t because she will be answerable then for the rest of her life. It’s a woman’s agency,” he said.