Director of Emraan Hashmi's debut production "Why Cheat India", Soumik Sen was accused of sexual misconduct by several women, but the actor says due process must be followed to investigate the validity of the allegations before taking any step. Among many people from the fraternity in the wake of India's #MeToo storm, Sen was named by three women of sexually inappropriate behaviour. When filmmakers Sajid Khan and Vikas Bahl were outed in the aftermath, they were asked to step down from the films they were associated with.
But Emraan says he cannot take a "high-handed" approach to oust someone from a film without being assured of the credibility of the accusations. "There should be a due process. I can't have this high-handed authority on a set and say 'You're out of my film and three women have accused you of this'. I don't know the validity of the accusations.
"I've not spoken to the women personally. They have not gone to the judicial system and had the due process. The producers spoke to him (Sen) and he excused himself from the promotions," Emraan told PTI in an interview.
Regarding claims against Sen, the actor said when the news broke, the film's team investigated the matter to check if any inappropriate behaviour took place on the sets but nothing of the kind was reported. "The next question to be asked was the authenticity of the allegations. When you have names thrown on social media, it could be malicious. Not that I am defending Soumik, but there's no due process here, no proof.
"Sometimes there could be malicious intent. We kept it to the point that he has excused himself from the film promotions. It's a step where we probably have done our bit," he added. The actor believes the question is what happens after someone takes a name on social media with regards to sexual misconduct. "What do we do? Just chuck the person out of a company or have an investigation, a due process in this? Unfortunately, the women didn't go to the judicial system or the police."
When pointed out that it could be because the legal process is both, exhausting and intimidating, Emraan agreed, adding "Sometimes women don't have proof but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. The entire thing is so grey, what are the steps to be taken?"
"We have not denied those allegations... If Soumik has done something, he should be taken to task. I can't play judge and decide on a verdict. The courts have to draw out a process, which has not been done so far. Twitter cannot be a courtroom," he said.
Filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani was named in the #MeToo by an anonymous woman, who worked as "an assistant" on "Sanju". The complainant accused the director of sexually abusing on more than one account between March and September 2018.
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When asked if someone as powerful as Hirani is being named in the #MeToo, will it change industry dynamics, the actor said he cannot "speak about this case". Emraan, however, adds that the #MeToo movement has his full support. "It's great that women are coming out and putting their stories forward but we have to have some process in place. Now that the allegations are out and men are forewarned that 'don't do this', we need to, like how I did with my company, set the laws the government has placed about sexual harassment.
"It's not a gender thing. It's a power thing. A woman in a position of power can harass a male colleague. The power dynamics are very lopsided and can swing both ways," he said. "Why Cheat India" is scheduled to release this Friday.
(With PTI inputs)