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#MeToo storm: Two AIB executives 'step away', Hrithik says punish offenders

Mumbai, Oct 8 (IANS) As the Indian entertainment industry continues to grapple with the #MeToo storm, actor Nana Patekar on Monday maintained that “truth will remain the truth”, Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba of comedy collective AIB “stepped away” from their positions, and Hrithik Roshan — the star of Vikas Bahl’s “Super 30” — said “all proven offenders must be punished” — amidst a wave of sexual harassment allegations.

Nana had been avoiding the media since actress Tanushree Dutta last month renewed a 10-year-old allegation, claiming he sexually harassed her during the shoot of a 2008 film. Last week, she also filed a complaint on the same at the Oshiwara police station here.

“I have no problems (in talking to the media), but when my lawyer has said so (not to talk to media), I will have to follow that,” Nana said, without taking questions from the press.

On being coaxed to say a bit more, Nana said: “What I said 10 years ago, I would say that only. What was the truth yesterday is the truth today, and it will remain the truth tomorrow.”

In an interview in September, in the context of her opinion on the #MeToo Movement and sexual harassment of women in Bollywood, Tanushree spoke about her personal experience of facing it at the hands of Nana on the set of “Horn ‘OK’ Pleassss” in 2008.

This gave a much-needed spark to India’s very own #MeToo movement, as part of which actors Rajat Kapoor, Zulfi Syed, writer Chetan Bhagat and a string of editors have been named and shamed.

Trouble for All India Bakchod (AIB) arose when a volley of allegations against Chakraborty — a YouTuber who was once associated with AIB — cropped up after a woman Twitter user wrote Chakraborty had sent unsolicited pictures of private parts to women and harassed girls, including minors, through social media platforms.

AIB co-founder and CEO Tanmay Bhat was called out for not acting against complaints regarding Chakraborty.

On Monday, AIB in a statement said Tanmay and Gursimran have “stepped away” from the collective.

“We cannot overlook Tanmay’s role and in light of this he will be stepping away from his association with AIB until further notice,” read a statement from Vidhi Jotwani, AIB’s Head of Human Resources. Tanmay will not be involved with AIB’s day-to-day functioning or in any other matter.

Gursimran was accused of sexual misconduct, and has been sent “on a temporary leave until we have more clarity on the matter”, AIB said.

A woman claimed that Gursimran had “hooked up two-three times, consensually and continued being friends”, but things escalated when on two separate occasions, Gursimran tried “repeatedly to make out with me while we were hanging out”.

He has denied it saying he was “not forceful”.

“I am sorry for my bad behaviour and all the hurt it caused her but I categorically deny any violation of consent,” he said.

The future of AIB seems to be uncertain with the two key persons being driven out.

This comes after the disbanding of Phantom Films, which comprised filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Bahl.

Bahl, director of “Queen”, was last year named for allegedly sexually harassing a woman in 2015. With the #MeToo wave on high tide, he is now once again in the centre of controversy. Leading celebrities have spoken up against the harassment that goes behind the gloss and glamour, and how the industry protects the “creeps” by letting complaints go unanswered or unaddressed.

Hrithik Roshan, who stars in Bahl’s upcoming “Super 30”, on Monday urged the movie’s producers to take a “hard stand” if need be.

“It is impossible for me to work with any person if he/she is guilty of such grave misconduct…. I have requested the producers of ‘Super 30’ to take stock of the apparent facts and take a hard stand if need be. All proven offenders must be punished and all exploited people must be empowered and given strength to speak up,” Hrithik tweeted.

His statement came a day after filmmaker Hansal Mehta took an indirect dig at Hrithik, questioning who is empowered — “the victim of the creep” — when a “major star” has acted in Bahl’s film.

Singer-composer Kailash Kher, who has been accused by a female journalist of harassment, denied the allegation which left him “extremely disappointed”.

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