Controversial #MeToo cases that have hit Bollywood hard.
In our patriarchal society, allegations against men in power are often overlooked by authorities, and if they do make it to court by any chance, victims and witnesses are commonly seen backpedalling as they face intimidation and coercion. However, Hindi cinema’s #MeToo movement has continued to gather steam as more sexual predators are unmasked in the industry.
Deboshree Banerjee shares five gut-wrenching stories.
The Hindi film industry’s #MeToo movement was sparked by one of Bollywood’s forgotten members, Tanushree Dutta. The actress first shared her ordeal on social media which quickly went viral. She recounted that she was harassed on the
sets of Horn OK Pleassss (2009) by co-star Nana Patekar, who is respected and idolised by millions. During the shoot, she left the film set to make an official police complaint, alleging that Nana grabbed her arm and touched her “indecently
and unnecessarily” on the pretext of teaching her dance moves, even though her contract clearly stated that it was a solo sequence. Unfortunately, no action was taken until now, in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
While the primary accused is Nana, Tanushree also claims that choreographer Ganesh Acharya was involved. Nana denied the charges and Ganesh labeled her accusations as a publicity stunt.
One of the most tragic cases of sexual misconduct which has shaken the entire industry is the story of writer, director and producer Vinta Nanda, who revealed that Bollywood’s veteran and most sanskari actor Alok Nath raped her.
Vinta took to Facebook to share her trauma, alleging that Alok sexually assaulted her twice, 19 years ago. She wrote, “I can remember more liquor being poured into my mouth and I remember being violated endlessly. When I woke up the next afternoon, I was in pain. I hadn’t just been raped. I was taken to my own house and had been brutalised. I couldn’t get up from my bed. I told some of my friends, but everybody advised me to forget about it and move on. Although my company was closed, I got a job to write and direct a series for Plus Channel.The man found his way through the casting route and became one of the lead actors on the show. He created an environment in which I was made to feel threatened, so I asked the producers to release me from directing the series because I didn’t want to be around [him].”
She filed a First Information Report (FIR) against him. However, Alok’s lawyer claims that the actor is currently unwell and unable to reply to the FIR. The lawyer also stated that the allegations are baseless.
Stree (2018) actor Asha Saini shared her horrific ordeal of sexual harassment and physical assault by producer Gaurang Doshi in 2007. She shared a picture of her bruised face on Facebook, saying that Gaurang, who was also her former romantic partner, left her with a “fractured jaw and a scarred soul.”
Asha stated that she didn’t speak up when the alleged abuse occurred, because it was the word of a powerful producer against hers, and that he threatened her with loss of work. Despite her compliance, she was replaced in films and was refused auditions.
Nevertheless, after the avalanche of #MeToo accusations in the film industry, she finally found the courage to voice her experience. She recalled how no one supported her, except Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, saying that “when I spoke, I felt [like] I made a huge mistake. Nobody was giving me work. I’m the only breadwinner in my family and it became very difficult. The only person to support me [then] was Aishwarya and I thank her from the bottom of my heart.” Aishwarya had signed a film with Gaurang and then walked out of it saying, “I refuse to work with a woman beater.”
Kangana Ranaut and Nayani Dixit
Remember Queen (2014)? It’s ironic that a film which empowered women had a director who was going around harassing them. Vikas Bahl has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, including Kangana Ranaut, Nayani Dixit and a former employee of Phantom Films. The former employee came forward to recount her tale of sexual harassment, saying that Vikas had assaulted her during the promotional tour of Bombay Velvet (2015). And even though she had reached out to Phantom Films Cofounder Anurag Kashyap at the time, the matter was not given due importance until two years later.
Kangana, however, supported her and shared her own experience. She said, “I often told him off. Every time we met, we hugged, and he would bury his face in my neck and hold me really tightly [to] breathe in the smell of my hair. It took [a] great amount of strength and effort to pull myself out of his embrace. He’d say, “I love how you smell, K.”
Nayani Dixit, who also starred in Queen, had no qualms in revealing that, “Doing the movie was the biggest mistake of [her] life.” She stated that Vikas had also misbehaved with her and he was infuriated by the way she reacted to his indecent proposal. This resulted in him terrorising her on set.
Model and actor Saloni Chopra recalls how Sajid Khan emotionally abused and sexually harassed her while she was working as his assistant in 2011.
It began when Sajid asked her intimate questions, which made her very uncomfortable. He then went on to call her at odd hours, demanding that she should be available to him at all times, regardless of the situation. He told her that she didn’t have what it took to become an actress because she wasn’t attractive enough, didn’t sit properly, and so on.
Fed up, Saloni asked him what he wanted, and he allegedly said that she should do whatever he asked for, including sexual favours. She went on to reveal, “It would be up to him. If I thought the casting couch was only a one-time thing, then I was foolish. No one would cast me unless I was ready to be their ‘keep.’”
When she wanted out, Sajid allegedly threatened to end her career. “I was scared, but I knew if I kept working for him I’d probably kill myself, so I told him to end my career if that’s what he wanted to do.” When she told people about it, they laughed it off saying, “That’s Sajid for you, he has pulled off this shit with so many girls.” So during that time Saloni was forced to keep quiet due to his power and influence. Unsurprisingly, Sajid has also been accused of sexual misconduct by others, including a freelance Bollywood journalist and actress Rachel White.