Over the last couple of weeks, several big actors in Bollywood have been publicly named through the #MeToo movement. The first to break her silence from Sandalwood was Sangeetha Bhatt, who spoke of her many harrowing experiences, but without naming anyone. Stating that “the #MeToo movement has made many of us comfortable with sharing our uncomfortable realities. Now a new name has emerged from film fertility
In a Facebook post, actor Sruthi Hariharan accused popular pan-south India actor Arjun Sarja of sexually assaulting her during the shoot of the bilingual film ‘Vismaya’.
In a long Facebook post where she detailed the alleged harassment she faced, Sruthi said she was excited about working with Arjun Sarja as she grew up watching his films. She accused the actor of running his hands up and down her back and pulling her towards his body without her consent during the rehearsal of a romantic scene.
“The first few days seemed normal, I played his wife in the film and that day we were to do a romantic scene where we had to hug each other after a brief dialogue. During the rehearsal, we delivered our lines and Mr. Arjun hugs me. With no forewarning or permission, he runs his hands intimately up and down my back. He pulls me closer with my body taut against his and asks the director if we could use this idea of foreplay in the scene. I was aghast,” she wrote describing the incident.
She continued, “I am all for depicting realism in cinema, but this felt absolutely wrong. His intent seemed anything but professional. I hated that he did it and angry that I didn’t know what to say then.”
She also stated no other actor she has worked with suggested such improvisation.
However, this was not the only incident. She further alleged, “During the course of production, every smutty innuendo he made, created an unpalatable work environment for me. His salacious invitations to meet him after work appalled me.”
Without mentioning other names, she said that she had been sexually harassed many times like many other women. She said she is coming out now to stop him from crossing the line with other actors again.
On Thursday, actor Sanjjanaa Galrani accused director Ravi Shrivatsa of allegedly coercing her to act in scenes that she was not comfortable with in her debut film Ganda Hendathi in 2006.
This is not the first time Sruthi has spoken up about sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the film industry. At the India Today Conclave held in January earlier this year, Sruthi had spoken about how blatantly men in the film industry expect sexual favours from women.
“I have had a casting couch (harassment) experience when I was 18 and on my first Kannada film. It did leave me so scared and petrified that I remember me crying. When I told my dance choreographer about what happened, he told me that if I didn’t know how to handle this, I should leave,” she had said then while speaking at the ‘Sexism in Cinema’ session at the conclave.
She had then also revealed that she stopped receiving good offers from Tamil after she berated a top Tamil producer for abuse, four years after she was harassed first in Sandalwood.
“This was 4 years after my first experience. One of the leading producers in Tamil cinema bought the rights to my Kannada film and offered me the same role in the Tamil remake. He said – and I’m quoting him verbatim – ‘We are five producers and we will exchange you however we want.’ I retorted by saying that I carry a slipper with me in my hand,” she had stated.
The actor added that after this incident, rumours about her being a difficult person to work with had spread in the industry.