Theatre artiste Sudipto Chatterjee resigned as faculty member of a college in Kolkata after a student accused him of sexual harassment.
A protest was held at the college — The Heritage Academy — on Thursday demanding strong action against Chatterjee, who taught film and theatre to media science students. The college has set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to probe the matter.
Chatterjee called the allegation “a case of distortion and misrepresentation of facts”.
He said, “I am completely innocent. It was completely educational and consensual. There was nothing sexual about it. It was about training and allowing her to get deeper in the role she was portraying in a play. It was geared towards the success and improvement of the play.”
In a Facebook post on Thursday, the woman alleged that Chatterjee called her to his place to help her with her acting in a play, but then touched her inappropriately. She said that many others were sexually harassed by him, and she had to speak out. “I have not filed an FIR as of now. The institute has constituted an ICC and I am cooperating with it. I will also raise the matter with the women’s commission,” she added.
The college said that since the ICC is working on it, no police complaint has been lodged.
Chatterjee said he first heard of the allegations when he was summoned by the HR of The Heritage Academy. “It was like I was guilty by suspicion and, under the circumstances, the only thing I could have done was resign. I needed to protect my self-esteem and dignity,” he said, adding that he would take action.
After the woman’s post was published, some other performers shared their alleged encounters with Chatterjee. A woman said he invited her to his home for voice exercises after sending a message that physical touch would be part of the process. The experience at his home left her blank, she wrote. A third woman said she stopped working in Bengali theatre “as I was terribly distressed with everything I have faced”.
Chatterjee, who has a group called Spectators in Kolkata, captured the story of Lalon Fakir in a critically acclaimed play, Man of the Heart. He has taught at JNU in Delhi and Centre for Studies in Social Sciences in Kolkata, and lectured at the National School of Drama in Delhi. He has also taught at Tufts University and University of California in the US.