With revelations of sexual misdemeanours tumbling out of Bollywood’s closet, actors find themselves targeted by moralists. Akshay Kumar gets trolled for shooting with Nana Patekar in Housefull 4 while Hrithik Roshan is being questioned for working with Vikas Bahl.
The chilling account of a victim of sexual assault published in Huffington Post India names and shames Queen director Vikas Bahl. But, former associates and ex-friends of Bahl (I am afraid that’s all he has left now) say this revelation that actually erupted two years ago and was duly hushed up by Bahl’s partners, is just the tip of the iceberg.
A producer, who was closely associated with one of the partners at Phantom Films, says “Vikas Bahl is a ‘known sex addict’ with a compulsive need to ‘have sex with as many partners as possible’”.
Says the producer, “I’ve seen Vikas in action with women at parties after a few drinks. Once, I saw him put his hand up a lady’s dress in full view of guests at a party. This is when my wife told me to quit my association with them. And I did. The stories about Vikas were being narrated and heard at Phantom for years. Everyone, including Anurag Kashyap who now wants to champion the cause of aggrieved women at Phantom, turned a blind eye and deaf ear to Vikas’s dirty doings. It was being said that he would wait for his wife to go to sleep each night and then go out to look for his prey. Vikas’ sex addiction is nothing new.”
Now that Vikas Bahl’s power-packed peccadilloes in the province of perversities are out in the open, what happens to Super 30, the film on the life of Bihar’s iconic mathematician Anand Kumar that Vikas Bahl is directing for Phantom? While Hrithik Roshan, as expected, chose to remain silent on the issue when questioned, Anand Kumar protested his ignorance on Bahl’s background. “I don’t watch that many films. But I had seen Vikas’ Queen and liked it. I readily agreed to the film on my life being directed by him. Earlier, it was to be directed by Anurag Basu and I liked his Barfi too, so I had agreed. Beyond this, I know nothing about what is going on.”
While it is easy to accept Anand’s rationale, as he is far removed from the Mumbai film industry, Hrithik Roshan cannot absolve himself of the murky charge of working with a sexual predator who is now known as Bollywood’s Harvey Weinstein. Hrithik cried himself hoarse over being sexually harassed for two years (by the same actress who worked in Bahl’s Queen and now claims he behaved inappropriately with her as well). Even if Hrithik was unaware earlier of Bahl’s randy reputation, he’s aware of it now.
Will Hrithik continue working in Super 30 oblivious of the grave charges being faced by the director? In Hollywood, the high-profile alleged sexual offenders Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Woody Allen have all been blacklisted by all the major stars. Is Hrithik going to blissfully continue working with an acknowledged sexual offender? Director Kabir Khan and Ranveer Singh, who are doing a sports film 1983 for Phantom, would also have to do some serious re-thinking.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta, who condemned Bahl in the strongest words on Twitter, has had to shut down activity on his Twitter account. “After I spoke out against Vikas Bahl, Hrithik’s and Kangana’s fans started trolling me. How is that going to help? Don’t shoot the messenger. The problem of sexual harassment goes much deeper. Why is the entertainment industry not empowered to protect women against sexual harassment? The Vishakha Guidelines clearly state that every workplace for women must have the telephone numbers of the Vishakha helpline as close to the entrance of the office as possible. How many production houses and film sets actually have those phone numbers handy? Where do women in the film industry go after they are harassed? It has taken Tanushree Dutta ten years and the Vikas Bahl’s victim two years to speak up. But will things change for women in the film industry? Can they feel safe?”
As far as the allegations against Nana Patekar are concerned, they are yet to be proven. However, a filmmaker who has directed him says how he talks to women about women. “He uses language that is very embarrassing. But he doesn’t see his tone and content as offensive.”
This, says Tanushree Dutt, is the problem. “For decades men in the Indian film industry have behaved crudely and inappropriately. Pushing, heckling, sneering were earlier considered harmless behaviour.”
Today, you will find it had to get away with a ‘Darling’ or a ‘Are you free tonight?’ without repercussions.