When the #MeToo wave hit India, Bollywood did not go unscathed. And among those from the industry who were called out, Queen (2014) director Vikas Bahl was one. A former colleague of the director, from the now defunct production house Phantom films (started by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Bahl), accused him of sexual misconduct last year. The production house was dissolved, while Kashyap and Motwane extended their support to the victim.
Bahl’s name was removed from the credits of Hrithik Roshan-starrer Super 30, a film that he had directed. Later, an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) was set up to investigate the case. Meanwhile, Bahl filed Rs 10 crore defamation suit against both Motwane and Kashyap. saying that the defendants were “taking advantage of the ongoing #MeToo movement in the country”.
However, on June 1, Bahl, was given a clean chit by the ICC; subsequently, his directorial credit for Super 30 was restored. The clean chit has come just in time, for last week it was announced that Super 30 will finally release in July after much controversy over its release date. It is also being reported that the complainant failed to appear before the ICC despite repeated reminders.
Ever sice the news of Bahl’s clean chit surfaced, people have had mixed reactions. Twitter has been abuzz, too. @AasthaBKhandpur wrote “#VikasBahl cleared of all harassment charges, #AlokNath is cracking metoo jokes in films and #AnuMalik is back in #IndianIdol I want all the hours I spent on making sure #MeToo victims got their due back! It’s all a sham and patriarchy in this industry will never end!” Another user, “RSalasskar: if #VikasBahl has been cleared of all charges of #MeToo then what’s the problem with him getting back to #Super30? he’s was just ACCUSED and not PROVED TO BE GUILTY. the pseudo feminists should ctfd.”
The film fraternity reacts:
Sona Mohapatra, singer: At leat there is awareness
What I had tweeted (“The fraternity, film makers, crews, actors & all participants of this industry who know the truth should stand up & want to clean up this open secret of a mess?This is a systemic issue.Rehabilitation of such men will harm us all.Their disease will show up sooner or later..”) is fairly accurate. I believe it’s a systemic issue. I believe it will take time to change but things are changing. Most of the biggest production houses in the industry, from what I understand, have a contract in place where member of the crew, apart from stars, can actually complain email or call a number if they are experiencing an uncomfortable situation. So I think that is a big positive change and that is what I am focusing on. Vikas Bahl getting a clean chit is not something I spent much time thinking about. Change takes time. This is an ongoing thing and just one committee giving a clean chit cannot be a reason to go out and say “oh he was innocent”. I don’t think anybody is foolish enough to think that way. In no way it’s a blow to #MeToo movement, it’s just a beginning. The awareness has been created around how to behave and how not to behave. Hopefully even Vikas Bahl will think twice before behaving in any way that is inappropriate. So as long as a collective we are heading towards a better place, that’s more important right now.
Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, musician-actor: ‘Impossible to prove workplace harassment’
This one thing about sexual harassment in the workplace that is alleged, which is no doubt a lot of us have faced it at one point in our lives. But to prove these things legally is practically impossible. Are we supposed to be going around with cameras and collect evidence, are we supposed to do that at all times of our lives? So I am not surprised that people like Vikas Bahl, Anu Malik, Alok Nath are back at work… #MeToo is something that will prevent people from misbehaving in future but if you take it to a legal platform it’s bound to fail. See court and legality is all about evidence, it is blind to allegation, actual occurrence. These cases were bound to lose, but as long as it sets an example in future that men cannot misbehave in the workplace it sets a precedence that women are at least speaking out. I think this has to become open, transparent and fair. I also feel a bit of hypocrisy in the movement because a lot of time women who speak up don’t take it ahead, so I feel they should do it with a lot of honesty and integrity and that’s the only way to take this forward.
Hansal Mehta, director: If the committee has cleared him after due process, let’s not accuse him
His company has carried out an enquiry which is according to current sexual harassment norms in the country. If he is cleared of all the charges then we should not be accusing him. This calls for stricter investigations. These internal committees might not be the right mode at times; although these committees are known to have external people and lots of rules… am sure Reliance as a corporation must have followed those guidelines. I was shocked when I heard the story, the victim herself has decided not to follow through this case. So as a third party, who has not seen anything, whatever I will say will be speculation.
Tanushree Dutta, actor
I am very disappointed with all these media reports of #MeToo accused trying to sneak into Bollywood again with rumours of clean chits. Who are these organisations claiming to give clean chits while police investigations in many of these cases still pending? So now it seems there is a new trend of putting out news stories by those accused themselves that they are getting clean chits by strange organisations so that they can get back to work and normalcy. Very clever and ingenious idea to get yourself off the hook! I just want to say that nobody is foolish enough to believe these so-called clean chits given by internal committees and organisations we never heard of before. In fact I would take a clean chit by law even with a pinch of salt as many times due to lack of evidence and sheer pressure the victims don’t press charges on the accused. It’s very common in our country for victims to back out, for fear of a lengthy court procedure bringing further shame, stigma and awkwardness to family. I’m not surprised because I know how clever these people are and the tactics they will use to combat the effect of #MeToo. But my calling in life is to bring awareness and vanquish ignorance so here I am still fighting the good fight and calling out bull*&%#!
Trade analyst Komal Nahata on how this entire incident will affect the films business
Not at all. Why will it affect at all? The public has nothing to do with the internal functioning of the industry. When Rekha’s husband Mukesh Aggarwal committed suicide, her film Phool Bane Angaray (1991) was due to release in a few days. She was the hero as Rajinikath, who was the hero in the film, dies and she seeks revenge. So everybody was ‘do not release the film … she is seeking revenge for her husband’s death in the film and here she is sort of being blamed for her husband’s death in real life’. But it did not affect the film. After about four days the film came and went on to become a hit. Like Alok Nath, people spoke so much about his presence in De De Pyaar De, but people loved him. So they don’t remember. Initially, they think but when they can overlook what an actor allegedly does in his real life, then he is just a director, it does not make any difference.
Author tweets @Shreya_MJ
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Jun 03, 2019 17:26 IST
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