Bengaluru: The #MeTooIndia movement is attaining gale force proportions here in the south, searing the Kannada film industry with back to back allegations by three Kannada actresses, with the biggest one of them all, on Saturday coming from actress Sruthi Hariharan, who has accused multilingual star actor Arjun Sarja of sexual harassment during the filming of a bilingual movie, Vismaya in Kannada in 2016.
With a career spanning over three decades, he is known as Action King, and amongst scores of hit movies, his most popular film is Gentleman, which is known for its popular numbers scored by Academy award winning composer A.R. Rahman.
The 29-year-old actress who was one among the first to speak about the existence of a casting couch in the film industry has accused actor Arjun Sarja of inappropriate behaviour on the sets. Sarja, in turn has expressed shock and disbelief over the incident and said he will file a defamation case against her.
Hitting back, the actress has said that she has evidence to back up her charge of sexual harassment.
Sruthi who has been speaking in support of #MeToo movement, is the fourth actress to come out in open in Sandalwood. While naming Arjun Sarja and accusing him of sexual harassment, she has posed a detailed note wherein she describes the incident which she says left her shocked and took a while for her to recover. She also explains why she chose to talk about it now.
In support of her, actress Shraddha Srinath has said that she knew about it since November 2016, when she along with Sruthi attended a talk show together about casting couch and other related topic. Further, in her tweet, Shraddha has said that Sruthi did not take names that day, “but off camera she told us what happened”.
However, actor Arjun Sarja who has refuted the allegations said that he is in shock and "total disbelief that it is his co-star from the film Vismaya whom he held in great regard for her talent had made such allegations". He has refuted other charges saying that he never called her to any resort, and raised questions on why the actress chose to speak out now.
He goes on say that it was he who had asked for several changes to the script, and to cut down on intimate scenes for him to be a part of the film. Sarja's family and several people in the industry are backing him as he gears up for a legal battle.
In her own version on various social media accounts which has rocked the film industry, Sruthi Hariharan writes: “The #metoo movement has made many of us comfortable with sharing our uncomfortable realities! This movement has empowered survivors of sexual violence to come forward and share their stories with the world! I often see individuals refraining from talking about experiences of sexual violence because they feel they don’t embody what it means to be a “Perfect Victim”. Sexual Violence is about power and privilege, every time a perpetrator is called out, it’s like saving more vulnerable girls from being vilified under their shadows. With the current reckoning happening around the world, #metoo has helped us fervently resist systems of oppression that have been maintaining power for far too long”.
On the particular incident of sexual harassment, she shares: "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…”