This past weekend has been a whirlwind in the country and India seems to be going through a revolutionary change; some might even say that we are looking at our very own #TimesUp movement. It all started with actress Alyssa Milano taking to Twitter and penning down two words- me too, which when seen separately can sound innocent but when clubbed together in a hashtag, symbolise an uprising of women against powerful men who have enjoyed male privilege for way too long. While the movement started against producer Harvey Weinstein, there was soon a domino effect with women sharing personal stories of assault, abuse, and harassment at the hands of men in power.
However, the whole time, Bollywood stayed silent. Even though casting couch, harassment and men using their power and fame to take advantage of women has never been a secret in the industry.
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A few weeks ago, actor Tanushree Dutta opened up about being touched inappropriately by Nana Patekar and even an attacked on his behest. She tried talking about it eight years ago too but there was no one who'd listen. This time, however, most of the industry stood behind her in support.
Now allegations have come up about director Vikas Bahl sexually assaulting a woman crew member during the pre-release promotional tour of Bombay Velvet. The victim spoke up and tried to tell Phantom Films about it, however, the production house of four powerful men, Vikas Bahl, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena did what they knew best- nothing.
According to Huffington Post, Vikas Bahl, the accused allegedly insisted on dropping the crew member back to her hotel room on the early hours of 5 May 2015 and pretended to pass out drunk on her bed only to awaken soon after and masturbate on her.
Image Source: Times Now
The girl was alone and recovering from an accident that had left her on crutches for months. She had only just started working. Because of this, after the party, he insisted on walking her to her room. She first said it was okay and that she could go alone but when he persisted she agreed and thought nothing of it.
She walked into the room and instantly rushed into the bathroom and when she came out he was passed out on her bed. She tried moving him several times and asking him to leave but he wouldn't. She then put a barrier of many pillows to keep him on his side of the bed while she lay on the other. Within seconds she felt Bahl slide his hands into her dress. She resisted several times when she pushed him away one final time, he dropped his pants and Bahl began to masturbate to her back. She was too afraid to look at him and he spat out "Fuck you bitch" before he left.
The next day he even tried to gaslight her by asking, in front of everyone, if she got to her room safely as she was very drunk the previous night.
After heading back to Bombay from Goa she went into a whirlwind of depression, blaming herself for the incident. She became suicidal and shared a chilling account of this traumatic time. And the worst part was she had to see Bahl in office. He continued to harass and belittle her even then but nothing came out of it.
Image Source: NDTV
She finally opened up to Anurag Kashyap, the only person she was close with about the incident and he had then allegedly said, "I don't want to know this right now."
Later, he promised that he would get Bahl to apologise but he never did. The woman in question finally quit Phantom Films. But was later approached by Kashyap's girlfriend who wanted to unearth the story and decided to stand up for her. However, firing Bahl from the company wasn't an option as he was a partner and didn't have a clause for 'misconduct' in his contract.
Last week Kashyap took to Twitter to announce that he had dissolved Phantom and the company no longer existed. The survivor says it feels like a pre-emptive measure to her.
Image Source: Indian Express
Apparently, Bahl's misconduct wasn't limited to this, even Kangna Ranaut came out and spoke about how uncomfortable she felt around him. In a statement she said, "(I) Totally believe her, even though Vikas was married back in 2014 when we were filming Queen, he bragged about having casual sex with a new partner every other day. I don’t judge people and their marriages but you can tell when addiction becomes a sickness."
The Queen actor said she was "shamed" by Bahl for not being cool enough. Even though he was scared of her every time they met socially and hugged each other he'd bury his face in her neck, hold her really tight and breathe in the smell of her hair. He would say, "I love how you smell K."
Kangana said she supported the survivor even then but the story was pushed under the rugs. He even approached her with a script but stopped talking about the project because she supported the girl.
Image Source: India Today
These stories are only coming to the forefront now because even when women spoke about it earlier they were silenced by powerful men.
But what I want to say to these people is - the castles you've made and the fortresses you've hidden behind are shaking and guess what, your time is up.
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