Mumbai: Multiple allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein opened a can of worms, which spilled over to the UK parliament house and many other industries.
Popular actresses have taken on prominent names in Hollywood, however, Swara, without taking names, has spoken about her 'scary' experience of harassment by a filmmaker, being groped in public and the casting couch in an interview with Mumbai Mirror.
She said, “Actors are vulnerable because they are perennially out of work and much too ambitious to risk their careers for a cause. Also, the backlash on the social media is scary. See how Mallika Dua was trolled (recent controversy concerning Akshay Kumar). Bollywood is not conducive to an honest conversation about sexual misconduct.”
With sexual harassment allegations against Kevin Spacey, David Hoffman and many other celebrities in Hollywood mounting, shouldn't such a clean-up take place in Bollywood? “I would like to make a distinction between sexual misconduct, inappropriate remarks and rape. Kevin Spacey has been accused of attempting to rape a minor. Bollywood faced a similar situation with Shiney Ahuja and the reaction was to quietly allow the law to take its own course.
"In other cases too, celebs have chosen not to comment, which in some ways is better than slut-shaming the victim or accuser. Ours is a small industry where everyone is friends with or related to someone which makes the task harder. We need to follow the example set by the Malayalam film industry which has instituted an anti-sexual harassment committee after the rape of an actress to create a safer working environment and to get justice,” Swara said.
Speaking about her personal experiences of sexual harassment, the actress said, “I've been propositioned by men who were in a position to cast me. I lost a few roles because I didn't give in. It made me vulnerable, nervous. Some people even stopped responding to my messages. Being an articulate, educated girl, they sensed that I would not take things lying down.
"There have been catcalls during shoots and eve-teasing on one of my sets. I've been groped by a mob during promotions and during a 56-day outdoor at a remote location, when I was still fairly new, the director harassed me with texts and dinner invites.”
She added, “He stalked me during the day and called me through the night. I was asked to go to his hotel room on the pretext of discussing the scene and would find him drinking.
“During the first week itself, he started talking about love and sex and one night, arrived in my room, drunk, and asked to be hugged. It was scary! I was young and alone. I would switch off the lights after pack-up and remove my make up in the dark so he would think I was asleep and stop calling me.”
Despite all these steps, Swara says that the harassment didn’t stop and she had to eventually take up the matter with the executive producer of the film. She shared, “After I told him that he was scaring me and making me uncomfortable. I told him I wouldn't be able to act if this continued. He acted hurt and said I had misunderstood him. He stayed away for two weeks, then he was back to his tricks. I finally confided in the executive producer and made sure that I was escorted everywhere."
While there will always be a debate if sleeping with someone for work, like Swara's character in 'Anaarkali of Aarah' does, should be acceptable or left to one's personal choice, the actress doesn't support the idea. "Lose the part but don't get on the couch. It's not a choice and it's certainly not a liberating choice. It's a bribe and it's wrong.”
We hope Swara's revelations spark a Hollywood-life movement in Bollywood as well.