Even as Oscar-winning filmmaker Jane Campion denies reports of sexual harassment, the women directors who accused India International Women Festival (IIWFF) director Shyamali Banerjee’s husband Bhaskar Deb of sexual harassment, stand by it.
In an interview to the Guardian UK, Campion said, “I wasn’t sexually harassed by the festival director’s husband and did not make that allegation.
However, at least two other delegates I spoke to and a third I heard about did have bad experiences with the festival director’s husband. I hear they went on to make allegations of sexual harassment.”
A publication had broken the news of Campion and Pakistani filmmaker Ayesha Arif Khan of lodging a complaint against Deb, accusing him of lewd behaviour and sexual harassment.
In the statement sent to the Delhi Police, Khan wrote, “After a brief meeting with Bhaskar at their art gallery in Shahpur Jat, I’m taken to the hotel and asked to join them later for dinner at the rooftop. At the dinner, I’m repeatedly mauled by a drunken Bhaskar and constantly offered alcohol. I refuse graciously.” The next day, there was a roof-top party again, she said. Thrice Deb’s “cronies” knocked on her door, seeking her company. “It’s the same show of extreme lechery and drunkenness,” she alleged.
Khan told HT that she wouldn’t like to add anything until the complaint was seen as that of all the filmmakers at the festival.
Banerjee, however, has hit back. “If my husband had done anything of this sort, why didn’t they complain two months ago?” Ayesha stayed with them from December 16 to, but didn’t say the her husband sexually abused her, Banerjee said.
Israel-based British filmmaker Lipika Pelham also claimed that Deb harassed her. She said, “The festival was a sham. You don’t put a drunken man as the main organiser of the event. I cannot remember a time when he was not drunk or not making obscene or lewd comments... He... tried to kiss me. It was horrifying.”