Aseem Chhabra, author and director of the New York Indian Film Festival and programmer at the Malta India Film Festival, has called out the folks behind the Malaysia International Film Festival (MIFFest) for appointing filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani as jury president for the Malaysia Golden Global Awards, which will close the third edition of the festival on 20 July.
Rajkumar Hirani has been accused of sexual harassment by a colleague at Rajkumar Hirani Films, who said she was assaulted for over a period of six months, between March and September 2018.
This is so disturbing and upsetting! Not just Bollywood but festivals outside India are trying to normalize this man! https://t.co/as9iAJrFrt— Aseem Chhabra (@chhabs) May 13, 2019
By appointing Hirani to such a prestigious role, Chhabra argued that the festival was normalising the inclusion of him in important roles in the industry despite the gravity of the allegations levelled against them thereby trivialising them. The decision, he said, was especially jarring considering the festival was an international platform.
“This is so disturbing and upsetting! Not just Bollywood but festivals outside India are trying to normalize this man!” he tweeted.
According to a report by The Hollywood Reporter, Rajkumar Hirani will be joined by South Korean cinematographer Kim Hyung-Koo, Hong Kong actress Cecilia Yip, Indonesian director Joko Anwar and Malaysian helmer Ho Yuhang on the jury. The festival begins on 14 July and will run till 19 July.
Hirani has denied the allegations of sexual harassment saying, “I was completely shocked when these allegations were brought to my notice about two months back. I had suggested immediately that it is essential to take this matter to any committee or any 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.”
Several Bollywood celebrities, including Javed Akhtar, Boney Kapoor, Sharman Joshi, who featured in Hirani’s 3 Idiots, and Arshad Warsi who starred in his 2003 directorial Munnabhai MBBS, came out in support of the director.
Filmfare faced backlash earlier this year for including Rajkumar Hirani in its list of nominees for the 64th Filmfare Awards 2019. The director-producer was nominated under the category Best Director and his 2018 film Sanju was in the running for Best Film.
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