The weekend gone by was quite significant and was riddled with shocking statements. Anurag Kashyap revealed that his production house Phantom Films, run by him along with partners Vikas Bahl, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena, has shut down. Some hours later, a website wrote in detail how Vikas Bahl had sexually harassed a female employee in a production house with Anurag confirming all the allegations. The article spread like wild fire and sent shockwaves. The shock was manifold since Vikas had directed the 2014 flick Queen, which spoke of female empowerment.
Queen earned accolades for everyone, more so for lead actress Kangana Ranaut, and also for its other cast members. Nayani Dixit, who played Kangana’s friend Sonal, too got her share of accolades. Yet, she has no qualms in saying that, “Doing Queen was the biggest mistake of my life”. The actress exclusively spoke to Bollywood Hungama wherein she talked about her humiliating experience of working with not just Vikas Bahl but also the entire Phantom Films production team.
Nayani begins her experience by recounting, “Whatever the girl has accused Vikas Bahl is not at all wrong because he also tried his hand on me. I literally told him that ‘main tumhe maarungi if you do this again’. So I am sure he did the same with the girl in question as well.” The actress claims that the way she reacted to his indecent proposal infuriated Vikas who started behaving rudely with her. She adds, “Next day, when I came on the sets, something went wrong with my hair. I didn’t get it as it’s not my area of concern. But Vikas blasted me and he behaved very weird with me. Now when I look back, I realized that why this behaviour. Since he did not get a chance on me, he was taking revenge.”
This wasn’t the only time Vikas tried his luck. Nayani adds, “They kept us in a 2-star hotel. When I said that I am not comfortable, Vikas told me that he can share his room with me. Look at his audacity!”
Not just Nayani, but Vikas eyed many other women in the team. Nayani states, “We were shooting for the ‘London Thumakda’ song and in the crew, there was a 21-year-old local Delhi girl who was in the costume department. Vikas flirted even with her and she was very uncomfortable and she later confided to me that why this person is always behind me. Even Kangana Ranaut was witness to this drama and even she was taken aback. She remarked, ‘Tu pagal hai kya?’”
When asked why she remained silent on these experiences all these years, Nayani said, “I did not say anything then. I was quiet at that time as firstly, I was alone. I did not know anyone neither from Phantom nor from the cast. Hence, I remained mum and decided to speak when the time is right. Now I thought that the time is right.”
Nayani also has complaints with the production team. Recounting her horrific experience, the actress says, “Phantom Films paid me peanuts. They haggled as if they are buying vegetables. And nobody out there talks properly. The production people used to talk to us so badly as if woh humein film de ke hum pe ehsaan kar rahe hai. They kept me in a vanity van which was a mere 6x6 cubicle. All the props of production make up and costume was kept there and also the chest in which all these things are stored. The make-up and hair guys were also inside this small space. They had no respect for me – nobody would ask if they can use my washroom. They’ll just knock, barge in, use the loo and leave. One day, when my hair-stylist was doing my hair, my hair got stuck in the blow dryer and she had to cut that chunk of the hair to get rid of it. Then once my hand accidentally touched the bulb, since there was no space, and I got burnt badly. I told them that I am burnt and need attention and medication. But just one production guy approached me, handed me a tube of Colgate toothpaste and asked me to apply it on the affected area. That’s it. No apologies offered! I requested them to give me a bigger vanity van but I was told that ‘yahan sab aise hi hai’ and that I have to adjust. Moreover, Vikas humiliated me in front of everyone the day I got burnt, as I had rejected his proposal. I used to go to my hotel room in Delhi and cry and was hoping that the shoot would get over soon.”
Referring to the accommodation problems, she asserts, “When I got fed up with the hotel room offered to me, I decided to shift to a friend’s place. But they didn’t even allow me to stay there as they had paid for the room! Yeh kya zabardasti hai? They even told me that they won’t pick me up from my friend’s place, which was just 2 kms away from the hotel, by the way.” She also states, “I witnessed production money being used for partying and boozing in the five-star hotels where they were staying.”
Nayani goes on as she says, “The food offered was very spicy. The production guys would speak rudely to us when we complained. Moreover, we were told that if we asked for tea at night, we’d have to pay for it from our own pockets! Can you believe that?! They even forced us to travel by train from Mumbai to Delhi, citing that even our director is traveling by train. But I put my foot down and thankfully, we were given air tickets.”
Nayani Dixit’s bad experience didn’t get over with the shoot. She says that the team at Phantom Films took a long time in clearing her payment. She tells, “I had to cry to get my own payment. I got my final instalment 8 months after Queen released. It was a meagre Rs. 8000 and yet, I had to fight for it. Everytime I’d call, they’ll refuse on some pretext or other like producer bahar gaya hai, aaj woh bahar gaya hai etc. I didn’t attend the screening or premiere or the trailer launch of the film. I promised myself never to work with Vikas Bahl or Phantom Films. I have told about my experience to all my friends in FTII and I have warned them that if Phantom Films call you for a movie and if you charge ten rupees, then please ask for twenty rupees and only then would they offer you eight rupees!”
Nayani Dixit however is all praise for Vikramaditya Motwane. She says, “He is the only guy whom I admire. He is just interested in his work and has nothing to do with anyone”. And what about Anurag Kashyap? “I have not met him so I can’t comment,” is what she says.
Coming back to Vikas Bahl, she claims that the chief assistant director ghost-directed Queen. “He has zero knowledge on filmmaking. By God’s grace, we had a great team, including his chief AD. She knew her work very well. It’s all her contribution and Vikas just took the credit and the National Award. Warna jisne Queen banaya, woh Shaandaar jaisi itni buri film kaise bana sakta hai,” she signs off by referring to Vikas Bahl’s 2015 film that received terrible reviews and thumbs down from one and all.