As many women are coming forward with their sexual harassment stories, the many names from the different field are being named and shamed for sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse. With Nana Patekar – Tanushree Dutta, Vikas Bahl and Alok Nath scenarios grabbing headlines, another name that has come in limelight and it is filmmaker Sajid Khan. The MTV actress Saloni Chopra has accused him of sexually harassing her when she was very new to the industry.
In a detailed post on Medium blog, Saloni narrated the story about how she began working for Sajid Khan when she was new to the industry. She was just shifted to India and wanted to learn the nuances of filmmaking. She was made uncomfortable during the interview itself when she was questioned about masturbation, sex, being sexually abused, if she ever got a breast job etc. “This goes back to 2011, when I had barely just moved to India properly and wanted to assist a director to learn more about film making, and my first ever experience, was the most awful experience of my life. Unfortunately, I was naive and had no idea how to handle it at the time. He was famous for his interview questions. He asks questions like ‘do you masturbate?’ and ‘how many times a week?’… he also asked me if I’d ever been sexually abused, I said yes. Then he asked weird questions like if I would ever get a breast job, and talked about how sex is really a mental connection. Of course he went into a philosophical rant about our human bodies and it’s desires and how sorry he felt for people who had to go through abuse (not the only man who’s said this shit before they take advantage of you, it’s quite common) by the end of the interview I was in tears, and I wasn’t entirely sure why. I didn’t know if it was because I felt somewhat uncomfortable around him, or because I’d opened up too much. I got the job,” she wrote.
Then, Saloni went on to reveal how the harassment began. She began working as an assistant director and would start receiving calls from Sajid at odd hours. She narrated that how he would share details of his sex life with her, ask her to become more sexy otherwise no one would make her an actress, would share graphic details about his genitals and even once went onto flash her leaving her flabbergasted.
Here is the post:
“Working for Sajid, he said I was a ‘director’s assistant’ and not an ‘assistant director’ which apparently meant that I’d have to do his work directly. I was okay with that. Slowly, he started calling at really odd hours. If I didn’t pick up I was told it didn’t matter to him if I was shitting or showering or having sex, when he called — I had to answer. I was petrified. The calls started coming at 12 am and 2 am. He said the industry never sleeps and work happens at all hours… except he wasn’t talking about work. He’d ask me what I’m wearing or what I ate. He’d ask me to send him my bikini photos because he needed to know how I looked if I wanted to become an actor.
Eventually, that turned into mental and emotional torture. For months, he mentally abused me and I would cry myself to sleep every night. He’d tell me I wasn’t sexy enough to be an actress. I didn’t have it in me, I didn’t have the ‘oomph’ factor. I talked too much. I didn’t sit properly. I wasn’t alluring or girly enough. Said he wanted to take me under his wing and make me an actress. Cast me in his next movie, but only if I was prepared for it. A part of me wanted it so bad that I kept working for him, and excusing his behaviour whenever I could. He’d say horrible, horrible things about his supposed girlfriend at the time, who also happened to be one of the kindest, nicest women I’d ever met in the industry. I wondered why she was with a man like that. He’d gloat about how he made her who she is today, and he could train me too. Then he’d go onto describe their sex life in ways I didn’t need to know, and also remind me about his one vagina problem. He’d talk about his dick and how big it apparently is and his sexual needs. He would ask me to touch his dick and get irritated with me when I said I didn’t want to. This one time, during a costume trial for a character in the movie he came in to see the girl in the outfit and asked her to lift her skirt and show her ass to him, she looked at me confused and I asked Sajid if it was necessary. She lifted her skirt and he started insulting her telling her she didn’t have any breasts or any ass, how did she think she’d become an actress? Then he asked me to leave the room and let them talk, and I did. It made me sick, but I clearly hadn’t had enough to quit.
This went on for a few months. The calls, the comments. He’d ask me to come stay over at his house and I’d find whatever excuse I could to not go. The ‘I have to be on set at 8am’ excuse didn’t work because his response to that was ‘you can come in late. I’m the director and I’ll ask someone else to do the job’. So I told him my mum didn’t allow me to stay over at people’s house.
One night, it got really ugly. I was so tired of the calls and the constant harassment; I asked him what he wanted from me. I told him that if this was just about sex then fine, I’d come over right now and f**k him but provided he backed off afterwards and stopped calling me every day. I was so tired of his behaviour that even my fear of him wasn’t enough to shut me up.
He started yelling at me and claimed that I was so naive and stupid if I thought this was just about sex. This wasn’t about sex, it was about me being his little bitch and doing everything he told me to do. He’d name directors that keep actresses at their homes for months and that’s just how this works. He then said ‘you think I want to f**k you? I have such a hot girlfriend, why would I f**k a girl like you that’s not even sexy?’ So I asked, almost pleading, what was it that he wanted from me? He said he wants me to do everything he tells me to. Stay with him. Maybe he’ll ask me to touch myself in front of him; maybe he’ll want to record it. He’ll do things to me and give me orgasm and teach me the art of sex but maybe he won’t actually put his dick inside me. Maybe he will. But it would be up to him what he wanted and if I thought casting couch was just about a onetime sex then I was foolish. No one would cast me unless I was ready to be their ‘keep’.
Frustrated, I asked him to f**k off and I hung up on him. That night I went and told my mother everything. She told me I should quit, or find a way to handle it, but whatever I chose to do, I should be strong enough for either.
The next time I went on set for shoot I was petrified of what he was going to do. But to my surprise, he acted like nothing had happened… for half a day. Then he called me to his ‘directors cabin’ and asked me to write an article for him for some newspaper that wanted to know his hobbies or more about him and his filthy self. I don’t remember what the article was but I liked writing, and he knew I was good at it, so I took his laptop and started typing. I asked him questions and he answered them for me. We didn’t talk about anything else, up until he pointed at the way I sat and snapped at me. ‘Spread your legs when you sit!’ I said I didn’t want to. He started again about how I was so unattractive and there was nothing sexy about me. I wasn’t even good enough to be an actress so how could he ever cast me. He could print a contract right now and make me sign it, but I just didn’t have it in me. He said he was doing this all for ME, for MY GOOD. He tried to grab my hand and put it on his dick to show me that I didn’t give him a boner. I shrugged it off and asked him to stop. He frantically started walking around the room telling me I was never going to have a future in this industry and no man would ever find me sexy and he should have a boner but he doesn’t, he doesn’t have a boner looking at me. And then, he pulled his pants down and showed me his dick as he kept yelling ‘see? You don’t even make me hard!’
That’s when I threw his laptop and I walked out of the room. I was petrified and disgusted and I couldn’t believe what had just happened to me. I couldn’t work for this man anymore.
That night he called and told me to take a few days off, threatening to fire me. I said nothing to him.
Then a few days later he called me up and asked me to come back to work again, and that’s when I told him I wouldn’t work for him anymore. He threatened to end my non existing career and throw me out of this industry, and once again, I was scared, but I knew if I kept working for him I’d probably kill myself because I couldn’t take the abuse every day, so I told him to end my career if that’s what he wanted to do, but I was done.
Just like that, I was gone. No one on set wondered why I quit or what happened. Maybe he said I was fired, maybe he didn’t. This isn’t a story no one knows… I’ve told a lot of people about these incidents, and they usually laugh at the audacity the man had, or everyone just says ‘that’s Sajid khan for you, he’s pulled off this shit with so many girls’. It was as though it’s just… accepted and known by everyone and no one cares enough to do anything about it because clearly he was working with some pretty big stars. So I decided I’d just shut up, and forget about it. What was I going to do anyway? Fight against him? That thought made me laugh, even at the time. It took me years to get over the trauma he put me through. I was so scared around the people I worked with. And I’m sure he’s done this to so many other girls, I just want them to know they’re not alone. It’s been 7 years, and it’s about time I said it out loud.”