'It smells like a case to silence my voice at this important time in the #metoo movement but in the larger context it could be a ploy to muddy the waters and sabotage the entire movement altogether.'
Writer-lyricist Varun Grover has categorically denied the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him by an anonymous person who referred herself as his junior at the Banaras Hindu University, BHU.
In a screenshot of the post, that has been doing the rounds on social media, the woman said the incident occurred in 2001 while they were working on a play for the annual festival.
The Sacred Games writer said the screenshot was 'untrue' and 'misleading'. He said he would soon issue a detailed statement.
'I completely, totally, categorically deny all the allegations being made. The screenshot in question is untrue, misleading, and defamatory to say the least,' Grover posted on Twitter.
Grover then issued a detailed statement:
'Really unfortunate that these completely fabricated and defamatory allegations have been made on me. NONE of the sequence of events described in that anonymous screenshot happened ever and I deny all of it with all the conviction I have in my bones.'
'At the least it smells like a case to silence my voice at this important time in the #metoo movement but in the larger context it could be a ploy to muddy the waters and sabotage the entire movement altogether.'
'The movement that stands with getting closure & bringing voice to non cis-het males is being used to get vindictive in this case.'
'I know it is hard to reconcile the two - 'Believe Women' and 'Don't put any allegations on me'. I have been thrown this curve ball and I will find a way - but at the end of the day, a complete lie can't be allowed to roam free while truth sits cornered in a dungeon.'
'I have complete faith in my own innocence and integrity and will be happy to face any inquiry (legal or independent) and present my case, if the person in question decides to go ahead.'
'The account shared is rife with inconsistencies, blatant lies, and details that can be cross-checked very easily with any of the 100 or more students who were performing or keenly watching theatre in my college at that time.'
Now to the details in the account:
1. I was in IT-BHU (and not 'BHU' as the account says). I studied Civil Engineering in IT-BHU from 1999-2003. I was in 2nd / 3rd year in 2001.
2. We didn't have a 'dramatics society' (as the account says) - we had what we called a 'Theatre Club'. In fact we had no 'society' in IT -BHU at that time, only 'clubs'. Theatre club, literary club, music club etc.
3. I never wrote or even imagined any play in college based on Tillottama or Vishwamitra (as the account claims). This can again be cross-checked with any of the hundred or more people who were in theatre club during this period.
4. In college I directed ONLY TWO plays and only ONE of them in the year 2001:
a. In 2001: An adaptation of Nadira Babbar's 'Dayanshankar ki Diary' (a play about 3 film industry strugglers from small-towns in Uttar Pradesh in contemporary Bombay, with 3 male actors - Mayank Mittal (3rd Year Chem Engg), Gaurav (3rd year Chem Engg), and myself (2nd year Civil Engg) in 2001. I wrote and directed this play independently and we performed it at Swatantrata Bhavan in our annual festival in Feb 2001.
b. In 2004: A play (called 'KUNAL' - a hospital drama about a terminally ill boy his relationship with the staff (a bad rip-off of Hrishida's 'Anand') featuring a big ensemble cast of around 9/10 people with two female actors and rest male. The music team had one female and one male. This play I wrote myself but co-directed with 2 other members of our theatre team (Animesh Pathak and Pranay Arya). This one we performed in G-11 in our annual festival in Feb 2004.
5. We never used to rehearse at the 'music club'. 'Music club' didn't even have a dedicated room, just like theatre club didn't have. We used to rehearse either at Vishwanath Temple premises or at the rooftop of G-11 lecture theatre (from 1999-2001 Feb/March) and from late 2001 to 2004 in the Robotics Room in Mech. Engg. department
6. I NEVER called ANY WOMAN alone for a rehearsal for ANY play or skit - not in 2001 not ever. We were a team of theatre people and we always met in a group. Again, any of my team members can be reached independently and this can be verified.
7. This mythology reference on Vishwamitra probably came from my work in Sacred Games but I had zero interest in mythology at that time and I still don't know who or what Tillotama is.
8. I have NEVER touched any person inappropriately in my life.
9. So to sum it up: a) This play or anything even in its vicinity in terms of themes or characters NEVER happened. b) We didn't call it the 'dramatic society' and we didn't rehearse at the 'music dub'. c) I never called any female alone in a room for rehearsals. d) Never in my life I have touched a person inappropriately or forced myself on them.
And now about things that can be easily verified, again by an independent panel:
1 If this person can share their name with the independent panel, the panel can easily verify if they were in IT - BHU at that time or ever. Other theatre club members can verify if this person EVER participated in a play with our theatre group or any other.
2 If the person can furnish ANY evidence of the existence of any such play or even any play with those characters, the panel can verify the veracity and strength of the evidence.
'I know it must be really disheartening for so many people to read these allegations about me and I understand if you want to keep distance or believe them for now - but I promise you J will clear my name from this defamatory tactic.'
'Till then, keep #MeToo alive and don't let such stray cases hamper your spirits.'
Film-makers Anurag Kashyap and Neeraj Ghaywan, who have frequently collaborated with Grover, supported him.
'This man I have known so closely and so so long that I refuse to believe any allegations about him. #believethevictim and investigate the claims and also be careful to not let vested interests sabotage a long pending genuine movement,' Kashyap tweeted.
Ghaywan, who has worked with Grover on Maasan, said it was impossible for him to believe that the writer could do such a thing.
'I know Varun for the large part of my life. I can never believe he would do such a thing. Never. Those allegations reek of vindictive behaviour and not a shred of truth in them. Absolutely, 100 per cent, in solidarity with his statement below,' he tweeted.
The director said it was appalling how 'such slanderous allegations are trying to sabotage the #MeToo movement in India.'
'Varun is someone who is truly putting his weight and career behind for this movement. It is horribly irresponsible of whoever is behind this to malign him,' he added.
Ghaywan said his response to the allegations against Grover was emotional.
'This is my truth, what I believe in and I wanted to put it out there. You can wait for the truth to come in due course.'
With inputs from PTI
Photograph: Kind courtesy Varun Grover/Twitter