Stand-up comedian Utsav Chakraborty was accused of sexual harassment by a Mumbai-based writer-comedian on Thursday.
The woman responded to a tweet posted by Chakraborty, where he was chastising Indian men for harassing women on an Australian cruise, that she found ironic. She said that many girls, including her, were approached by Chakraborty with “unsolicited and inappropriate photographs”.
In a series of tweets, she detailed how several women narrated similar stories about Chakraborty making unsolicited sexual advances towards them over social media. She also shared screenshots of chats, including that with a 17-year-old girl. She also mentioned that she told “famous feminist comic men” of the developments but no action was taken, and that Chakraborty continued to work with them.
Responding to the tweets, Mumbai Police stated that they would look into the matter immediately.
Among those who came out in her support was fellow comedian Aditi Mittal. She tweeted, “What’s up with this Utsav? Your behaviour has been consistently misogynist for a while and you keep pretending to be woke like your boyfriends at AIB who keep you employed as well. Women don’t feel safe around you. What are you doing about this?”
Comic-writer Varun Grover tweeted that it was time Indian comedy had its #TimesUp moment. “It’s a serious failure of the entire comedy community if things have come to this stage. We had a new industry that could have been easily taught the meaning of equality & respect. We blew that chance. Ashamed,” he said.
In a statement on social media, Chakraborty said, “I don’t know what to say here and fight back (or even if I should). Literally everyone I know has turned against me and I don’t blame them for that. But the whole thing is far more complicated than it appears. I am not discrediting anyone. It’s not my place to. But this whole thing needs a lot of patience. And an incredible amount of context. Which I will give. Hopefully sooner than later.”
Comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB), who have collaborated with Chakraborty in the past, released a statement saying they would take down videos featuring the accused comedian until an investigation into the allegations yields result. “The accusations describe a pattern of behaviour that is unacceptable, and we at AIB [All India Bakchod] condemn Utsav’s alleged behaviour,” the statement said.
Chakraborty is part of AIB’s video series ‘Honest Engineering Campus Placements’, and was part of the writing team of the comedy-talk show Son of Abish, hosted by AIB member Abish Mathew.
Responding to rumours online that Chakraborty was the head writer at AIB, the group clarified that he was not. “We are also aware that by extending safe working spaces and a collaborative environment to people like Utsav, we have contributed towards a toxic environment that can be scary and unsafe for women. And so we are sorry for any part we may have played in the tolerance or furthering of such behaviour,” AIB said in the statement.