Bollywood's Rajkumar Hirani denies sex assault allegations

Rajkumar Hirani Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hirani is one of India's most successful filmmakers

Bollywood director Rajkumar Hirani has denied allegations that he sexually assaulted a colleague over a period of six months.

He is the most high-profile Bollywood figure to be named so far in India's #Metoo movement.

Prominent comedians, journalists, authors, actors, filmmakers and artists have been accused in recent months.

The woman, who remains anonymous, said she had worked as an assistant on Mr Hirani's last film, Sanju.

Her allegations against Hirani were published by HuffPost India on 13 January.

She told the news website that he first assaulted her at his home on 9 April and on a number of other occasions during the post-production work for Sanju, between then and September 2018.

Mr Hirani has denied the allegations in a statement released by his lawyer.

"I was completely shocked when these allegations were brought to my notice about two months ago. I had suggested immediately that it is essential to take this matter to any committee or legal body. The complainant has chosen to go to the media instead. I want to very strongly state that this is a false, malicious and mischievous story being spread with the sole intention of destroying my reputation," his lawyer told Huff Post India.

In a November 2018 email quoted by HuffPost India, the accuser wrote in reference to the alleged April 9 assault: "My mind, body and heart were grossly violated that night and for the next 6 months."

She sent the email to Hirani's business partner and Bollywood producer, Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Mr Chopra's wife, Anupama, a film critic, and the scriptwriter for Sanju, Abhijat Joshi, were also reportedly copied in the email.

The woman said she did not take any immediate action against Mr Hirani as she feared losing her job. Her father was terminally ill at the time, she said, so she could not afford to quit.

Mr Hirani, one of India's most successful filmmakers, is known for a string of blockbusters, from Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. to 3 Idiots. He has worked with some of Bollywood's biggest stars, including Sanjay Dutt and Aamir Khan.

Image copyright Vinod Chopra Films/Alamy
Image caption The alleged assault took place during the making of Hirani's last film, Sanju

India's #MeToo movement was sparked in September 2018 when a 10-year-old allegation by actress Tanushree Dutta against veteran actor Nana Patekar once again made headlines. But this time it drew the attention of several actors and actresses who publicly supported Dutta. Mr Patekar has always denied the allegations.

Since then several actors, directors and artists have faced accusations of improper behaviour.

The highest-profile figure to be named was MJ Akbar, an influential journalist and former editor. In October, he resigned from his post as a junior foreign minister after numerous women accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Mr Akbar has denied the allegations.

Veteran actor Alok Nath, and film directors Vikas Bahl, Subhash Ghai and Sajid Khan are among the other well-known Bollywood figures to be accused of sexual assault. They have all denied the allegations.

But in November, police registered a case against Mr Nath for alleged rape.

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