Anurag Kashyap has reacted to the sexual assault allegations against Vicky Bahl. A former employee of Phantom Films, the production house founded by Kashyap along with Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Bahl, alleged that the Queen director assaulted her in May 2015. She said that the incident had a lasting impact on her life and that Kashyap did little to address the issue when she informed him about it in October 2015.
Now, Kashyap has released a statement through his social media account. He said that he tried to remove Bahl from the partnership but was advised against it by his lawyers.
“According to legal advice provided to me then, I was told I had very limited options. Now in hindsight and after taking stock of things myself, I can quite see how I was ill-advised,” he said.
“I am an idiot to not understand what I am signing, so I should be put in the dock for that,” he added.
The Manmarziyaan director said that he had tried to take action in his personal capacity by suspending Bahl, barring him from the premises and taking away his signing authority. “If that wasn’t enough, I also named and shamed him privately amongst whomever asked about it,” he said. Kashyap also revealed that he was the anonymous source in a Mumbai Mirror story about the incident in 2017.
“The industry is extremely ill-equipped to handle matters such as sexual harassment, copyright, censorship and all the things that we put ourselves in dock with,” Kashyap said, adding that none of this takes away from the woman’s experience. “I am deeply, truly sorry to the woman in question and she has known this all this while. This will never happen again on my work premises ever again.”
In an interview with HuffPost, the woman said that the attack happened on the night of May 4, two weeks prior to the release of Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet. The cast and crew were in Goa to celebrate the impending release of the film.
The woman had been recuperating from an accident that left her with a limp at the time. Under the guise of ensuring her safety, Bahl insisted on dropping her back to her hotel room during the wee hours of May 5. The survivor alleges that Bahl entered her room unnoticed and pretended to be unconscious on her bed. When she urged him to leave the room, he did not respond. Finally, the survivor lay down on the bed. A few moments later, she says that she could feel him touching her without her consent. Later, he committed a sexual act in her vicinity.
“The next morning when I woke up, I remember taking a very long shower,” she said.
In a party the next day, Bahl walked upto her and asked her if she was alright, as she had been too inebriated the previous day. The woman says that this was one of many attempts to gaslight her by Bahl. She told two of her friends about the incident. One was an independent producer working on a film with Phantom, while the other was a colleague.
Following the incident, the woman was harassed by Bahl on a regular basis which prompted her to approach Kashyap in the October of 2015. Kashyap didn’t give the issue the required attention and told her that he did not want to deal with it at the time. The woman was forced to resign from the company when she found out that she was being assigned to work under Bahl again. Kashyap now feels that he had committed a mistake.
Phantom only took note of the incident when multiple allegations were raised against Bahl in 2017 by the employees. Following this, Kashyap got in touch with the woman in March 2017.
And even then, the process initiated by Phantom to look into the issue was not satisfactory. Law stipulates that any sexual harassment inquiry must be headed by a senior female employee of the organisation. However, Phantom decided to let Madhu Mantena, another co-founder of the production house, head the inquiry.
Ultimately, nothing came out of the process. The survivor says that she was shaken up by the whole process, as Mantena seemed to want to poke holes in her story, rather than address it seriously. He is reported to have told her that he would not support her side of the story if the issue ever came out.
Earlier this week, Phantom Films, the production house founded by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Bahl, was dissolved. Many speculate that these harassment allegations against Bahl hastened the demise of the production house. Financial issues and personal problems between the founders had already fractured the organisation, sources in the industry told Silverscreen.
Phantom was a dream, a glorious one and all dreams come to an end . We did our best and we succeeded and we failed. But i know for sure we will come out of this stronger, wiser and will continue to pursue our dreams our own individual ways. We wish each other the best.
— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) October 5, 2018
“To me, the overnight split appears like a pre-emptive measure,” says the woman who also added, “I think twice before going out for a film-related event… but do I fear him? No. Not today. And I want to tell every young woman in this industry, it’s never your fault. It’s not your burden, it’s not your shame.”
Meanwhile, several film personalities have lashed out.
Will anybody do anything about this bloody creep or will the industry protect him like it always does? 'Queen' Director Vikas Bahl Sexually Assaulted Me, Phantom Films Did Nothing: Survivor Speaks Out https://t.co/dKeqlMkE0n
— Hansal Mehta (@mehtahansal) October 6, 2018
This story makes me sick. Why was no action taken against Vikas Bahl in over 3 years?? To think that the victim had to continue to work in the same office & even be assigned to report to him is awful.
Terrific reportage @aktalkies ? https://t.co/nbmE3rrJ6f
— Apurva Asrani (@Apurvasrani) October 6, 2018
Kubbra Sait, who has worked with the production house on the NetFlix series Sacred Games reacted to the attack.
— Kubbra Sait (@kubrasait) October 6, 2018
Serious action, serious introspection and serious correction is required from an industry that has forever been plagued with ill repute. This is not the story of one girl or one incident but symptomatic of a work ethic at large. @aktalkies @HuffPostIndia https://t.co/ZkGcMe5qZ8
— Nikkhil Advani (@nikkhiladvani) October 6, 2018
Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times