3 Women Accuse Kolkata Playwright of Sexual Assault, He Responds
Three students have accused playwright & professor Sudipto Chatterjee of sexual harassment and abuse.
In a Facebook post dated 16 October, a student of a top Kolkata college accused Sudipto Chatterjee, a 55-year old theatre actor, playwright and scholar, of sexual assault. In the post, the woman said that Chatterjee was a professor at her college and assaulted her in March 2019 when he called her over to practice dialogues for a play.
Calling him a “serial offender”, she also expressed disappointment with the college, which allowed him to resign just a day after she registered the complaint.
After the woman’s post, at least two more of Chatterjee’s students have taken to social media to accuse him of inappropriate behaviour.
When contacted by The Quint, Chatterjee said, “Everything was done with consent”.
He added,“The theatre practices the women in their Facebook post were talking about were done with prior consent. I’ve used this practice with many other students – both men and women – but they have never complained. I don’t understand what has happened now.”
Chatterjee has also reportedly taught in many universities in the UK and US.
‘Penetrated Me With His Fingers and Asked Me To Spurt Out The Dialogues’
In the post, the woman says she was summoned by Chatterjee to his home while she was acting in a play that he was directing. The woman said Chatterjee spoke to her “about the traumas of rape as the scene was of a similar nature” and took her to her “utmost state of vulnerability”.
Chatterjee then proceeded to touch her inappropriately and even sexually assault her, wrote the woman.
“He held me from behind to teach diaphragm breathing and explained it wasn’t sexual, because if that had been the case then I would’ve felt his hardness. Then he asked me to lie down on the bed with my eyes closed and deliver the dialogues of the above mentioned scene. He started touching me and asked me to respond to his touch while delivering the dialogues. Then without a warning, he penetrated me with his fingers and asked me to spurt out the dialogues louder and louder. I had became a corpse, completely non-functional. The moment I tightened my body and my voice broke, because of the suppressed cry, he withdrew. He distanced himself and explained how the process is complete and I’ve reached the emotional and mental state that was needed for the scene.”The woman in a Facebook post
“This is not the post where I am going to describe what Sudipto Chatterjee exactly did with me, because the incident is too long to describe (almost 2 and a half years). I was in his group, I think some people knew that. Here, let me tell you, abuse-consent-assault stay in an overlapping position in some cases. Things are not direct to identify. It was covered with so many layers in many many subtle ways. As I cannot deny the fact that I have learned from him a lot, at the same time, I was the one of the victims of his trap. I was 20 years old at that time, when it all started. Now if you ask me, why I was silent for last two years, trust me, I didn't know how to talk. I didn't know how to come up with this complex situation,” read a post by another student.
Yet another student wrote that Chatterjee had tried to sexually assault her when she had gone to his home to practice voice exercises. Chatterjee allegedly asked her to take her clothes off before an “exercise”.
Prior to their meeting, Chatterjee sent her this message, said the girl:
“There’s one more thing. Hope you don’t mind. There’s a lot of physical touch involved in this process. Nothing very sexual, but close contact... if you have inhibitions then think about it now. I always clear this out with my students beforehand so that there’s no misunderstanding later. And, of course, privacy will have to be maintained. There are two phases – a technique-based phase, and a text-based one. I told you all this in order to maintain transparency. Please don’t misunderstand!”
Chatterjee further asked her if she would be menstruating on the day of their meeting.
‘They All Kept In Touch With Me’
When asked by The Quint if the women were told about the nature of these theatre exercises, Chatterjee replied in the affirmative, saying their consent was taken.
“I have used these techniques all around the world, in various universities. There are male actors who I’ve done this with for voice exercise purposes. But with them there’s no problem with access to the body because I can embrace them from behind and push their rib cage down. With, women, for anatomical reasons, I can’t do that in a public space. I need access to the bare body for these exercises.”Sudipto Chatterjee to The Quint
When asked if penetration and other such things were explicitly discussed, Chatterjee replied with a vehement yes. He went on to say that all of the women “had kept in touch even after the exercise”.
“I helped some of them land roles, get into university etc. One of them wrote, ‘I don’t know how to thank you’. And this is how they thank me,” he said.
“My wife and one of the accusers had a personal friendship, I don’t know what conversation they had,” said Chatterjee on the allegation that his wife had asked one of the women to keep quiet when she had brought up the incident with her.
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