Guilty until proven innocent? Aamir Khan’s U-turn on #MeToo accused director sparks debate

‘Perhaps some people will be critical of my decision,’ the actor told one newspaper. ‘But I’ve to live with my own conscience.’

Soon after the MeToo movement hit India in October last year, actor Aamir Khan and filmmaker Kiran Rao issued a statement on Twitter distancing themselves from Mogul, the Gulshan Kumar biopic they were producing. Khan was supposed to act in the film, portraying the man who founded the T-Series music label before going on to produce films. Mogul was being directed by Subhash Kapoor.

In 2012, actress Geetika Tyagi had accused Kapoor of attempting to molest her. After the incident, Tyagi confronted Kapoor about the incident and recorded a video of that encounter. In 2014, Tyagi filed a case against him, which resulted in director being arrested. He was later released on bail.

In their statement last year, Khan and Rao said, “We are not an investigative agency, nor are we in any position to pass judgement on anyone – that is for the police and judiciary to do. So, without casting any aspersions on anyone involved in this case, and without coming to any conclusions about these specific allegations, we have decided to step away from this film.”

However, in an interview to the Hindustan Times on Monday, Khan announced that he was back on board for Mogul. “I’m just doing what my heart says is right, and what my conscience tells me is right,” he said. “At that time I felt that was the right step to take, so I took that. Today, I feel differently. I’m going with my heart. Perhaps some people will be critical of my decision. But I’ve to live with my own conscience. So, I’ve done what my heart and conscience feels is right.”

In an interview with Mid-Day, Tyagi said that she had commended Rao and Khan last year because their gesture had encouraged more women to speak up about their own experiences of sexual harassment. She said she had not solicited their support. “Now that Subhash has been hired back, it’s not like someone [from their end] reached out to me,” she said. “It would have been a fair game had they considered both sides of the story.”

She added: “I have never said that Subhash shouldn’t get work. But after I complained, I did not get work for a long time. The industry is patriarchal. Only women face the repercussions of complaining against sexual harassment, whether in the workplace or otherwise. They are ostracised when they complain.”

Actress Tanushree Dutta, who had accused actor Nana Patekar of inappropriate behaviour last year, criticised Khan’s decision to work with Kapoor on Mogul.

“How come nobody in Bollywood has sleepless nights when a woman becomes a victim of abuse and is not able to work due to the trauma and ostracisation,” Dutta told Mid-Day. “If he has agreed to hire this guy, why not hire the woman who suffered the consequences of his actions? Why do only the creepy men of Bollywood get compassion?”

The incident has started a debate on social media about whether Khan should work with someone accused of sexual harassment.

Is Khan’s decision justified? After all, according to the law, Kapoor is innocent until proven otherwise. Is Khan being criticized unnecessarily? Or will Aamir Khan’s decision to work with Kapoor be a setback to the #MeToo movement in Bollywood?

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