Comedy World Regroups Around Utsav Chakraborty After New Revelations, Mahima Kukreja Responds
In a series of tweets in October last year, writer and open-mic comic Mahima Kukreja accused former All India Bakchod (AIB) employee and comedian Utsav Chakraborty of sending unsolicited, sexually explicit photos to her as well as of sexually harassing minor girls.
In addition to her own story, Kukreja (now credited with pioneering the #MeToo movement in India together with Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta, and student Raya Sarkar, who released a list of sexual harassers in academia a year prior) shared screenshots of conversations detailing similar experiences of abuse and harassment by Chakraborty that several other women had also faced in the past.
AIB and others quickly distanced themselves from Chakraborty and took down any content featuring him. In a final statement on 23 May 2019, Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya announced that the company would cease functioning in light of the events of the past seven months.
However, in a recent development, two audio clips of an alleged call between Chakraborty, Kukreja’s lawyer/sister, Mansi and Kukreja, were posted to YouTube on 21 November, 2019:
As per the information provided in the clips, the call took place on 14 November 2018, during which both Mansi and Mahima warned Chakraborty against releasing any photographs of Mahima or screenshots that might prove that her version of events was untrue. Throughout the nearly one hour-long call, Chakraborty maintains that he is innocent of any wrongdoing, even asking Mahima to file an FIR so that his side of the story may be heard and that, since Mahima went public with a “false accusation”, he reserved the right to go public with any information that might acquit him.
Prior to the release of these clips, almost a month ago, a detailed account of the alleged wrongdoing on Kukreja’s part was posted to this Reddit thread by a user who goes by ‘anshulator’ and claims to be “pretty involved in the comedy scene”. A number of conspiracy theories are detailed that—either individually or in conjunction with careless journalism, a herd mentality, Chakraborty’s difficult behaviour, and the wake of #MeToo—contributed to his downfall.
Since the clips were posted to YouTube today, Chakraborty subsequently tweeted:
“Why would so many women lie about one person?”
In the next few tweets, I will tackle all the malicious insinuations and abject falsehoods put forth on me either by @AGirlOfHerWords or the media frenzy that followed. Stay tuned.
The thread (that is a point-by-point refutation of the allegations against Chakraborty, and chooses to name the women who had thus far chosen to remain anonymous) is still being updated.
Meanwhile, Dead Ant reached out to Kukreja for a response. Here’s what she has to say:
“I am being attacked by multiple unknown sources from around last one week. Except for knowing that Utsav is one of the people behind it, I do not know who all, individuals and parties, and why this vindictive campaign is being undertaken to undermine the #MeToo movement. To say the least, the timing SEEMS suspicious and the manner malicious and unfair.
I am snowballed with messages for comments, and non-credible stuff being put on the Internet to target me as well as huge support that’s coming in and need time to respond. My well wishers and I are currently reviewing everything that’s been put out and need some time to give a DETAILED statement. I am also seeking legal opinion.
However, I stand by everything I had stated last year. None of what transpired last year was actuated by malice or intention to gain somehow, it was just an impulse decision to speak out the truth.”
People are now offering to crowdfund legal fees for Chakraborty to get investigative authorities involved. Meanwhile, industry heavyweights including Azeem Banatwalla and Abijit Ganguly are creating a space for Chakraborty’s side of the story to be heard:
This is still a developing story; DeadAnt has reached out to Utsav Chakraborty for a statement. He has not responded so far.
A rough timeline of events
Kukreja accuses Chakraborty of sending her a “dick pic”; harassing “minors” on Snapchat and Instagram DM. Shares similar stories against him by other women
4 Oct: AIB releases a statement about the allegations against Utsav
4 Oct: Utsav puts out a total of 26 tweets, offering an apology collectively deemed flimsy
5 Oct: Industry heavyweights including Kunal Kamra, Abish, Kaneez, Mallika Dua react to the allegations by condemning Chakraborty
5 Oct: AIB issues second statement, saying that Tanmay Bhat knew about the allegations against Utsav
8 Oct: Bhat steps down as CEO of AIB, and allegations of sexual harassment in a separate private matter arise against co-founder Gursimran Khamba. AIB releases another statement stating that Khamba would be going on a leave of absence while the company investigated claims against him
8 Oct: Star Network’s streaming service Hotstar cancels third season of On-Air with AIB mid-filming
9 Oct: Film Festival Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) drops AIB’s ‘Chintu Ka Birthday’
23 Oct: Creators Naveen Richard and Sumukhi Suresh react to Hotstar pulling down the web-series Better Life Foundation in a statement
AIB releases a third statement announcing that they have stopped working on all projects, let go of their team, and that they were unclear what the future of the company would be
20-21 Nov: Two audio clips are released where allegedly Mahima’s lawyer and sister Mansi Kukreja called up Utsav and warned him against releasing any damaging pictures or screenshots; threatened with criminal remedy, loss of reputation
22 Nov: Kukreja speaks to Dead Ant, stands by what she said, and asks for time for a detailed statement