“I am all for an investigation by the authorities. However, to ostracise me, suspend and terminate my services from my forthcoming films even before any sort of investigation, is shocking. I have no words to express”
Last week, actor Vijay Raaz was accused of molestation by a female crew member of their upcoming film Sherni. The shoot of the film starring Vidya Balan had resumed a few days back in Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh) after the long break owing to the pandemic. The cast and crew of the film was staying at a hotel in Gondia, a few kilometres away from the shooting location. Vijay Raaz was arrested by the Gondia police late night on November 2 and was released on conditional bail by a local court the next afternoon. Right after the incident, the actor returned to Mumbai as he received an email dated Nov 3, 2020, from the film’s makers Abundantia Entertainment Pvt Ltd, stating his temporary suspension from the film due to the complaint received. The producers have even set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to probe the molestation allegations against Raaz.
So far, Raaz hasn’t commented on the matter, but when Bombay Times reached out to him, after much deliberation, he opened up on the allegations against him. He said, “Women’s safety is of prime concern. I have a 21-year-old daughter, so I understand the gravity of the situation. I am all for an investigation by the authorities. However, to ostracise me, suspend and terminate my services from my forthcoming films even before any sort of investigation, is shocking. I have no words to express. It’s a very dangerous place to be in. I have been working in the film industry for 23 years!
Bohot mehnat se maine apna career banaya hai. Tinka tinka jodke maine apna ghar banaya hai. Anybody can sabotage anyone’s career?
Kisine bol diya aur aapne maan liya that I am a harasser? People are bound to make judgements without hearing the other side of the story. No matter what the outcome of this case, aap pe ek thappa lag jaata hai. I have been pronounced guilty even before the investigation. My right to earn a livelihood is badly affected. Am I not the victim here? My old father who lives in Delhi, also has to face the society and so does my young daughter.”
Bombay Times reached out to a unit member who was apparently present during the shoot at all times, but she refused to divulge details saying that the matter was sub judice. She briefly said, “We have said what we had to say. Everything has been told to the police. Law will take its course and people should get justice irrespective of their gender.”
According to sources, the complainant has reported in her FIR that she felt uncomfortable on various occasions between October 25 and 29. The source also added that Raaz putting his hand around her shoulder and touching her hair didn’t go down well with her and when he was informed of her discomfort, he immediately apologised.
Raaz added, “I have been working with the same crew for over a year. We play cricket on set. It’s how we are with each other. Yet, when I was told she felt uncomfortable, I apologised. This was in front of the entire crew. My apology meant I respect your feelings. But it didn’t mean that I acknowledged the claims made later at the police station. Saying sorry doesn’t always mean that you are wrong. It means you respect someone’s feelings more. I also have responsibilities and I need a job.
Mere itney saalon ki mehnat can go down the drain if people jump to conclusions without verifying the claims. This should not be one-sided. Truth prevails but the damage is done.”
Vijay Raaz’s lawyer Advocate Saveena Bedi Sachar told Bombay Times, “It has become essential to clarify Mr. Vijay Raaz’s stand on the allegations levied on him, as being an actor and a public figure he has suffered in an unprecedented manner with implications and consequences which is irreversible and all this for an alleged offense which he strongly believes he has not committed.
Mr. Vijay Raaz has not been accused of any non-bailable offence and his right to claim bail was absolute and in such cases even the Hon’ble Court ensures bail, as was rightly granted to our client. He is also surprised that a courteous apology which he may have given in the heat of the moment without batting an eyelid or giving it a second thought, as he never had any malice or bad intentions towards the complainant, could be used against him. The Hon’ble Court has the right to decide, but unfortunately, in these times, employers often fear outrage on social media and act impulsively, by terminating contracts, and while social media outrage has its place in society, our client has no such antecedents against him.
It is sad that some big companies fail to understand the importance of having a balanced enquiry and impose sanctions on the accused under the pretext of ‘zero tolerance’ even before the investigation starts. POSH should not be used as a cover to deny men their right to justice. Indian law recognizes ‘presumption of innocence’ and as a presumably innocent person my client is entitled to earn his livelihood and that cannot be taken away from him on the basis of a pending investigation. Mr Vijay Raaz maintains that he never had any wrong intentions towards anyone on the set or anyone associated with the film. The matter is pending investigation and Mr. Raaz will provide applicable proofs in the Hon’ble Court and that he fully trusts and believes that the judicial system of our country will ensure justice for him.”