Amidst Tanushree incident, Anurag Kashyap ‘failed’ survivor of Vikas Bahl’s crime

DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Oct 6, 2018, 8:16 pm IST
Updated Oct 6, 2018, 8:16 pm IST
Deccan Chronicle yesterday reported that Phantom Films, producers of ‘Queen’ and ‘Udta Punjab’, has dissolved.
Anurag Kashyap.
 Anurag Kashyap.

Deccan Chronicle yesterday reported that Phantom Films, who produced movies like ‘Queen’, ‘Udta Punjab’, ‘NH10’ and many more, has dissolved.

But the members of this team, who gave the hit web show Sacred Games, will work in collaboration with Reliance Entertainment in their individual capacity.

 

The reason for this split goes beyond what the naked eye sees, is what Huffington Post reports.

The publication links this incident to a horrific one which took place back in 2015, which involved one of the main members of Phantom Films, Vikas Bahl.

‘Queen’ helmer Vikas has been accused of committing a crime during the promotional tours of Bombay Velvet.

A crew member from Phantom Films recalled:

On the night of 4 May 2015, a gaggle of Bollywood A-listers assembled in an exclusive party suite at the Park Hyatt, a luxury resort in south Goa.

Bombay Velvet was days away from release and the crew and cast including Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar and Phantom partners Bahl and Kashyap danced the night away.

The woman recollected how a smaller group of people including her, Bahl, and a few other crew members moved to another suite, where the celebrations continued on May 5, post the star-cast leaving at 2.30 am.

"We were all having fun," the woman said, adding, "I had been drinking vodka and by now, I was really, really drunk."

When the party finally wound down, the woman said Bahl offered drop till her room.

"I told him I will figure it out," she recalled, but she said Bahl pointed to the fact that she was still recovering from an accident that had left her with a limp, and insisted he accompany her for her safety, which all appeared very normal and just a concerned boss’s business partner to the woman.

"I didn't make anything of it. For me, Bahl was my boss's business partner," she said. "I wasn't worried about anything. He had acted normally throughout the party."

When they finally reached her room, the woman hugged Bahl, bid him goodnight, and rushed inside to the bathroom as she couldn’t hold her pee for longer.

But little would she have known, Bahl had slipped into the room behind her.

When she came out, she said, she was taken aback to see Bahl lying on the footrest of her bed.

"He acted as if he couldn't get up. I asked him to get up, leave. In my head, I was thinking furiously, 'what should I do to get him out?'" she said, going back in time of the situation where Bahl refused to leave the room at any given cost.

"I had no energy to do anything more. He wasn't leaving my room. I gathered some strength and put multiple pillows between the two of us to create some sort of a divider," she said. "Everything was blurry, I was on the verge of passing out but one part of my brain was very aware of this man who wouldn't leave my bed."

Within seconds of her lying on the bed, the woman said, she felt Bahl put his hand inside her dress. The woman says she resisted several times. When she pushed him away one final time, Bahl dropped his pants and began to masturbate.

She was too shaken to face him, she said, so Bahl masturbated onto her back.

"Fuck you, bitch" she recalls Bahl saying, before he pulled up his pants and left the room.

"The next morning when I woke up, I remember taking a very long shower," she said adding that she was still numb all of next day.

There was another party the next day, and Bahl showed up.

That evening, the woman said, Bahl made it a point to walk up to her, and loudly state that she was very drunk the previous night, and asked her if she had made it to her room safely.

The woman saw this as way to gaslight her, by muddling her own recollection of the events of the night before.

She avoided him for the rest of the evening, and asked a cast member to stay close to her to protect her from Bahl. The cast member confirmed that the woman told him Bahl had done something to her soon after the incident.

"She didn't mention the specifics at that time but I later found out and understood what she was referring to," the cast member spoke.

The following night, the woman flew back home to Mumbai from Goa.

On 7 May, two days after the incident, the woman narrated the incident in detail to a close friend of hers, a producer who, at the time, was working with Phantom on an independent film.

"I was shocked and asked her to immediately take it up with Kashyap," the disappointed friend said, "But the thing with Phantom is, we know nothing would come out of it."

Despite being close to Kashyap, the woman wasn’t ready to talk to the filmmaker seeing how his dream project was trashed at the Box Office.

"I took her to a therapist. She was feeling suicidal," the woman's friend recalled, also saying, "It didn't quite help so we went to a few more people. She was on strong antidepressants and we were all worried for her. The antidepressants had side-effects."

"I was blaming not just myself for this incident but the entire course of my life, my past divorce, the accident, all of it," the victim said, looking back at the immediate aftermath of the incident. "I was in a phase where I felt like I didn't deserve any better."

"I would hide at Phantom," she said. "I'd eat lunch alone. I'd talk to nobody. I'd attend no parties. I lived inside a shell whenever I went to the office. I tried to remain in touch and hang with friends outside of Phantom."

The worst part, she said, was seeing Bahl in the office everyday.

One day, she said, she was at the Phantom canteen when Bahl walked up to her and said, "You know, abroad they allow dogs everywhere. Here also, they allow dogs at a lot of places."

The woman said she stood silently as Bahl continued, "But what about you? With your fucked-up attitude, who will allow you anywhere?"

Post May passing, it was finally in October of 2015 that the woman decided to tell Anurag about the incident and the filmmaker shunned her saying, "I don't want to know this right now" but still promised to fix it.

"I have a vague memory of it. I was super drunk and didn't quite process what she said," Kashyap said, adding that the failure of Bombay Velvet meant he was frequently inebriated. "At that time, I knew something happened, I didn't know exactly what," said Anurag, who, despite her plea of not functioning with Vikas Bahl, assigned her a project which was passed on to the Queen director.

"This made me realise that Kashyap wasn't thinking about me or the trauma I went through," the victim said, adding that she felt humiliated at having to repeatedly ask that Bahl apologise to her. "It told me that he isn't going to do anything about it. I had to leave."

Despite Kashyap promising that Bahl would apologize, even after the woman resigned in January 2017, there was never an occasion where Vikas apologized. In fact, Anurag too probably would’ve never taken the matter seriously had it not been for his girlfriend Shubra Shetty who completely supported the woman.

Shetty messaged the woman, "I'm not letting this go. I'm not taking an apology. I've had enough of this bullshit and people taking this lightly. I'm disappointed with myself for being so passive when you first told me in that hotel room. And I was disappointed with Anurag for not taking serious action."

"I'll admit that it has been a failure on our part. We could've done a lot better, much sooner," Shetty said.

It was in December 2016, at a wedding in Coimbatore, where several current and former Phantom employees told Shetty that Bahl's behaviour had made them uncomfortable on multiple occasions.

Post that, Shubra refused to talk to Kashyap till he took action against Bahl, by either firing him or dealing with the situation.

As it goes, Phantom Films did not have a term in their contract where they couldn’t fire a co-owner over ‘misconduct’.

"We spent a lot of time working that out. Since there wasn't an FIR so we had no legal ground to fire him," Kashyap said, "It's entirely my failing that I didn't know how these contracts were made and I should've looked into it more clearly. I shouldn't be starting a company if I don't know how to run one."

By March 2017, Kashyap said, "One thing was clear: we wouldn't allow Bahl anywhere near or into the office. He was barred."

"I was disappointed in Kashyap. He knew everything," the woman said, "He had the power to do stuff. He could have if he wanted to. He didn't. And I don't think so I will never be able to forgive him for that."

Kashyap didn't deny this and said, "We didn't handle it well," adding, "I cannot blame anyone but myself."

In April 2017, Vikas Bahl defended himself to Mumbai Mirror stating, "Nothing has happened. I am running the company. There is no complaint to HR and there is no Vishakha committee. I have heard about this particular lady you are speaking about and the Goa incident. She is not my employee. Yes, I am friends with her, we have worked together and there is a production job we have done together... but if she is feeling like this I would like to sit across a table from her and talk to her. I want to ask her if I have crossed a line, whether I have done anything to hurt her and if she feels that way I would like to apologise for it. I have known her for long. For two-and-half years she has never made me feel as if she is uncomfortable (around me). I have worked very hard to be the person I have become. I do feel a little victimised but I don't know what to do about that."

On the decision to dissolve Phantom Films, the woman says, "To me, the overnight split appears like a pre-emptive measure. My heart really goes out for those people who didn't have anything to do with my case and will perhaps lose their job."

 

It is interesting to note that the woman came up and spoke post Tanushree Dutta also raised her voice again, 10 years after the incident with Nana Patekar on the sets of Horn Ok Please. It does indeed appear that the actress has started the Indian #MeToo movement.

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