This story is an update to yesterday’s article.
Even as comedians and musicians scrap their upcoming performances at High Spirits Cafe, the scandal-embroiled club and its controversial owner Khodu Irani refuse to acknowledge the highly explicit posts made in the Facebook group ‘High Homies’ moderated by Irani and his team. Yesterday, ID interviewed two former associates of Irani and his team, and gained an inside look at the facebook group run by them. ID published the graphic posts and group chats of the closed group. You can view the posts here. [WARNING: Highly explicit content]
ID has reached out to Irani for comments, but he was unavailable. Somesh Narwani, a manager at High Spirits, informed ID that Irani is abroad and will return next week. When we asked Narwani for a comment on the group chats, he denied any knowledge of the graphic posts in the group. He is, however, an administrator of the group. The group had over 4,000 members as of October 16th, and the full list of moderators can be seen here.
After learning about the allegations against Irani and the cafe, we reached out to artists and performers for comments. Among other artists, Indian-American band Sky Harbor has confirmed that they have cancelled their upcoming performance at High Spirits. The band has dropped the venue for their performance in Pune, and is looking for a different venue.
“Sexual harassment in the music business is a very deep rooted and troubling issue, and we will not support it in any shape or form,” said the Skyharbor Facebook page.
“We are absolutely not performing at High Spirits,” said Devesh Dayal, a member of the band. “We will, however, continue the tour in India and make an announcement once a new venue is identified.”
Comedians and other performers have also spoken up about their past experiences. Tanmay Bhat tweeted last week about an incident where Khodu Irani interrupted his performance to get on stage and grope him. Irani manhandled Bhat in front of 200 people, and Bhat says he laughed it off at the time as he had no choice and felt pressured to do so, but found it demeaning and embarrassing.
I was once on stage at High Spirits when Khodu jumped onto stage and groped me, you know, coz I'm overweight.
— Tanmay Bhat (@thetanmay) October 14, 2017
Shortly after Tanmay’s tweet, fellow-comedian Aditi Mittal also said that she was aware of the environment at High Spirits since 2016, and stopped performing at the venue since then.
I knew about this behaviour at High Spirits since 2016. Heard about it from friends. I stopped taking shows there-but I never mentioned why.
— Aditi (@awryaditi) October 14, 2017
Skeletons keep spilling out of the High Spirits closet, even as artists continue to cancel performances at the venue in light of recent allegations. Many artists are supporting victims with their own stories through social media under the trending hashtag #MeToo, which has become an international dialogue about sexual assault and abuse. Several comedians including Aditi Mittal, Sahil Shah, Kunal Kamra, Karunesh Talwar and Varun Grover have come forward in support of Tanmay Bhat, and musicians including Sahej Bakshi and Sky Harbor have reacted to the allegations levelled against Khodu.
ID has reached out to Khodu Irani, Somesh Narwani, and the High Spirits team for comment, but has received no response apart from the statements published in this article.
This is an ongoing story. More information will be available soon.
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