ranveer singh, me too
Image Source: Facebook via Ranveer Singh

Actress Tanushree Dutta ignited the #MeToo movement in India, one that is barreling through the various industries as more and more women come out daily with stories of sexual harassment.

In fact, a few leading male stars have also spoken out, calling out their harassers and discussing the Indian film industry’s casting couch.

Award-winning singer Sonu Nigam was one of the earliest cases. In 2007, he called out journalist Subash K. Jha for sexual harassment. Allegedly, the journalist would send him uncomfortable text messages and calls while Nigam was a judge on “Indian Idol.”

“In 2001, he [Jha] proposed me and said that he loves me,” Nigam told Zee News. “He even misbehaved with me after getting drunk but later apologized in the morning. I even told him that you are Lataji’s friend and elder to me so please don’t talk such things with me as I’m not gay. But he still continued harassing me with his calls.”

Nigam expressed that many of his friends are gay and he has never been uncomfortable with homosexuality, but Jha constantly approached him with inappropriate lewd messages and constant calls. He also told Zee News that he was harassed so much, his family was affected by it. Nigam reports that he tried to ignore the calls and avoid Jha but in retaliation Jha printed defamatory articles about him.

Actor Ranveer Singh spoke about the casting couch in an interview with Zoom. He was approached by a “sleazy” casting director. Singh took the uncomfortable experiences as a learning experience, but unfortunately, not all get away with such a positive outlook.

Actor Ayushmann Khurrana also spoke out about the casting couch in 2016. Khurrana began his career as a television anchor on MTV India. He admits that in his early days he was approached directly by a casting director for sexual favors.

“So, I told him that if I was not straight, I might have given it a thought, but I can’t do it.” Khurrana told India Today. “So yeah, the casting couch exists, but eventually, it’s your talent or potential as an actor or performer which would last. You don’t need to give in to such stuff.”

In the India Today interview, Khurrana went on to say that he doesn’t judge those who have given in to the casting couch for work but obviously, it is a highly unethical move on the part of casting directors. In a more recent interview with Anaita Shroff Adajania on her chat show, Khurrana recounts another time in his career a male casting director wanted to “feel him” and asked directly to see his genitals.

Award-winning actor Irrfan Khan opened up in 2017 about being approached numerous times during his early days for sexual favors in order to obtain work. Khan never named anyone specifically but mentioned that offers came from both men and women, often times from people he respected.

“It has happened with me a lot of times,” Khan said during the music launch of his film, “Qarib Qarib Single.” “It won’t be good to take names but a lot of times it has been hinted to me and sometimes I have been told clearly that if I compromise I’ll get the job. But now it doesn’t happen.”

Though perhaps less common (and definitely less widely discussed) men have also experienced faced sexual harassment and assault. By speaking out, these celebrities are making ordinary people feel less alone and assuring them that their stories deserve to be heard as part of the #MeToo movement and beyond.

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