Arjun, hailed as ‘Action King’, has caught in a controversy after actress Shruti Hariharan alleged that he had sexually harassed her on the sets of ‘Nibunan’.
She said in a Facebook post: “Honestly, I have been lucky as I have managed to escape physically and mentally scarring situations. However, in late 2016, there was one incident that left me startled and took a while for me to recover.
I was shooting for a bilingual film which starred Arjun Sarja. A man whose movies I have grown up watching. I was excited about the opportunity. 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. 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. Scenes are rehearsed before we roll camera and begin shooting. It helps understand staging, body language, actor dynamics etc. That’s the ideal process. You talk, enact, and finally find the balance in a given scene.
As an actor, I am entitled to know/be consulted with, about the details of a scene especially when it involves something intimate. I’d also like to share with you that every actor I worked with before and after him, have never resorted to this kind of “improv”.
The director sensed my discomfort too. I made sure I let the direction department know that I was not interested to be a part of rehearsals and will come directly for takes. I also shared the incident with my make up team right after. The incident happened in front of at least 50 people on a shooting set- it happened at my workplace. I wanted nothing but to stay away from him rather than be tolerant and put up with his lewd and complete unprofessional behavior.
As a professional, I had to finish the work and hence, continued shooting for the film. I didn’t want to go back, but as a professional, I had to finish what I had signed for. I continued shooting. 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.Looking back I remember attempting to normalise his behaviour and ignore his comments- lest there be issues in the production of the film in entirety. I maintained a cordial distance. All the while knowing he was wrong and wondering why he never stopped.I choose to come out now, ‘cos henceforth I think Mr. Arjun Sarja needs to make sure he doesn’t cross the thin line between two actors and use his position of power to cause another person discomfort or hurt.I choose to do this publicly – cos this movement is more than you and me and our individual experiences.
It is a collective voice to question an existing system of power play and to call a spade for what it is. The point is to be part of a larger battle against years of female oppression and abuse. It is a movement to make sure no man ever takes a woman’s personal space for granted, whoever she is to him.
Women have been taught that sexual harassment or anything abusive, is only a part of being woman. It’s time we come together and lift each other than push each other down. It’s time we change the future for younger women where she can say with conviction “Wait, he can not speak to me this way” or “ He can not touch me that way”.
It’s time we as women understood that sexual harassment is not comparative but subjective. Each case is different, each individual reacts differently. It’s time individuals who hold themselves in power, and conduct sexual impropriety, are brought down. It’s time we give courage to the survivors, to take their perpetrator’s name. It’s time we create history for the future men and women. It’s time we become more powerful than ever.It’s time.”
Refuting her allegations, Arjun said that he was shocked to hear Shruti accusing him of sexual harassment. He also said he would file a case against her.