Mumbai: Comedian Utsav Chakraborty, who has featured in some videos of comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB), has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women who have come out about their experiences on social media. In his defence, he says the issue needs patience and context.
The allegations came to light as part of a Twitter thread about the way Indian men behaved onboard a cruise liner. It led a woman to allege that Chakraborty had sent unsolicited pictures of private parts to women and harassed girls, including minors, through social media platforms.
A post by Twitter handle @AGirlOfHerWords read: "I want everyone to know @Wootsaw (Chakraborty) is a piece of sh*t. He sent me a d**k pic, was creepy, then cried saying I'll ruin his career if I tell others. I told two of the most influential men in comedy in India. Nothing happened. Let me tell you what else he has done with others."
It sparked a ripple effect, leading a string of others too to come forward and share similar stories involving Chakraborty. Some claimed he sent them explicit and offensive direct messages via social media and asked nude images from them too.
The Mumbai Police took note of the posts, and tweeted: "We will look into this on priority."
Chakraborty, in a statement issued on his Twitter page, said issues are more complicated than they seem.
"I don't know what to say here and fight back (or even if I should). Literally everyone I know has turned against me and I don't blame them for that. But the whole thing is far more complicated than it appears.
"I am not discrediting anyone. It's not my place to. But this whole thing needs a lot of patience. And an incredible amount of context. Which I will gove. Hopefully sooner than later," he wrote.
On its part, AIB said: "We have followed the allegations made on social media this afternoon by women against Utsav Chakraborty, who has featured in some of our videos. The accusations describe a pattern of behaviour that is unacceptable, and we at AIB condemn Utsav's alleged behaviour.
"We are also aware that by extending safe working spaces and a collaborative environment to people like Utsav, we have contributed towards a toxic environment that can be scary and unsafe for women. And so we are sorry for any part we may have played in the tolerance or furthering of such behaviour.
"If these allegations result in any investigation, the team at AIB would be wiolling to cooperate and extend full support to it."
AIB also immediately delisted every video featuring Chakraborty on its channels.
Stand-up comics Varun Grover and Aditi Mittal called out Chakraborty's behaviour, while actress Sonam Kapoor Ahuja felt it was "good on AIB" to issue a statement.
Mittal wrote: "What's up with this Utsav? Your behaviour has been consistently misogynist for a while and you keep pretending to be woke like your boyfriends at AIB who keep you employed as well. Women don't feel safe around you. What are you doing about this?"
"Shameful, creepy, ugly behavior by a fellow comic (Utsav). More stories coming out, all because @AGirlOfHerWords decided to speak out. Indian comedy, like every other industry, needs a #TimesUp," Grover tweeted.
Comedienne Mallika Dua tweeted: "I feel sick and scared and angry and ashamed. Where the hell do men get this audacity from? Oh yes from society."
Last year, Arunabh Kumar of web entertainment firm The Viral Fever (TVF) was named for allegedly causing sexual harassment to unidentified women.
The allegations against Chakraborty come at a time when the Hindi film industry is in the midst of a raging debate which followed former actress Tanushree Dutta's claim of being sexually harassed by veteran actor Nana Patekar -- which she had first come out about a decade ago.
It has sparked the hope of India's very own #MeToo movement, which a range of celebrities have already supported, but not so far named and shamed.
The globally popular #MeToo movement began with The New York Times reporting a year ago on October 5 about allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, with incidents dating back to 1990.