Filmmaker Kabir Khan says the Hindi film industry has been complicit in shielding the alleged perpetrators, who have been named and shamed over the last few weeks, by not acting upon the knowledge it had of these people’s wrongdoings.
Kabir was supposed to collaborate with Phantoms Films on 83, but after Vikas Bahl was accused of sexual harassment by a former Phantom employee, the director announced Vikas wouldn’t be credited in the film.
Kabir was represented by Kwan’s Anirban Blah, who is facing multiple sexual harassment allegations. Mukesh Chabbra, who has also been accused of sexual harassment, was the casting director on 83.
At the session titled ‘MeToo at MAMI’, Kabir Khan spoke about complicity on the part of Bollywood, which remained silent despite hearing about these accused men.
“In a certain sense, honestly, we all have been complicit. I have seen people all around me fall left right and centre. These are people I’ve worked with, represented me, people who were doing for casting me, they were my actors. There were hushed whispers about most of them.
“There was a general consensus that most of the people whose names have come up are people who we seemed to have known about, but we all did keep quiet,” Kabir said.
The director added during his six-year-old association with Yash Raj Films, he had heard about “one person” but he, along with others, ignored it.
“I came here 10-12 years ago as a documentary filmmaker. I got into the system. I was with Yash Raj Films for six years. There would be so many occasions where one would hear about a certain behaviour from this person. But we all in a certain way ignored,” Kabir Khan said.
The director said the MeToo movement has forced people to introspect and not ignore even the hushed whispers.
“The biggest change coming out because of MeToo movement is that we aren’t going to do that anymore. The moment I hear even a murmur that something like this (happened), I am going to come down like a ton of bricks. I didn’t earlier.
“The biggest learning in what has happened in the last few weeks is that I don’t think we should ever ignore hushed whispers or murmurs. The moment we hear something like this, it’s our responsibility to find out what’s happening,” he said.
Citing an example of his own set for his upcoming Amazon original, Kabir Khan said that one of his assistant directors last week informed him of two instances where she felt uncomfortable while shooting.
“On my last web series, one of my ADs did come to me just last week. She was with us for a very brief while, one international schedule, and she told me about two incidents when she felt uncomfortable.
“I told her she should’ve told me. We are very accessible, but she said she thought I would be busy, and this happened on the last day. Fortunately, they were not very serious in nature. But apart from those two incidents, it hasn’t really happened on my set,” he said.
During the Q&A after the session, a reporter asked Kabir Khan if he believes his past associations with Salman Khan, who has been accused by a female actor of harassment, would be viewed problematic today in the post-MeToo era.
The director said he would not go into individual cases because he didn’t know the details.
“We all need to be sensatised towards what’s happening around us. That’s one of the main changes which will take place. We have to be more aware of the people we are working with.
“I don’t want to get into individual cases because I don’t know the details, but definitely we need to be more responsible about the people around us and those we associate with. If we focus on individual cases, then we trivialise the issue,” he said.