MUMBAI, Maharashtra—Two days after HuffPost India published a detailed account of a woman who was sexually assaulted by Queen director Vikas Bahl in 2015, Bollywood's most influential actors, directors and producers maintained a studied silence about the allegations. A few honourable exceptions broke the omerta and spoke up.
Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Bahl's business partner at Phantom Films, who knew of the allegations for two years and did nothing, announced that the celebrated production studio was splitting up, and published a two-page statement responding to HuffPost's story, as did Vikramaditya Motwane, another Phantom partner.
In his statement on Twitter, Motwane described Vikas Bahl as a "sexual offender."
Bahl himself and fellow-Phantom founder Madhu Mantena did not comment on the story. Neither did Reliance Entertainment or FoxStar, the studios that have supported Phantom's biggest films in the past.
HuffPost India has also reached out to Gaurav Gandhi, head of Amazon Prime Video and Aparna Purohit, head of creative development at Amazon to ask if they still intend to proceed with a show deal they offered Bahl in August this year.
Hrithik Roshan, who is shooting in Italy for Yash Raj's next film, put out a statement on Twitter saying he has asked the producers of Super 30 to take 'a harsh stand if need be'. However, he didn't mention Bahl in the tweet. Bahl is directing Roshan in Super 30.
HuffPost India has also sent a message to the producer of Super 30, Sajid Nadiadwala, who is yet to respond on how they plan to move ahead with the project.
Meanwhile, an number of Twitter users said they would boycott Super 30.
https://t.co/GON5J0CtcF. Even it means Shelving #super30— Sakshi (@saakshii23) October 6, 2018
It's ok even if some loss happens. Drastic steps need to be taken even if it means loss of money and livelihoods ith that movie! #vikasbehl#TimesUp
Kangana, Sonam Speak Up
While most top actors have remained mum on the issue, Sonam Kapoor called out Bahl, at an event in Bengaluru on Sunday evening.
"The whole thing that has happened at Phantom, I find it disgusting," Kapoor said. "If you read that article, it's disgusting, it's gut-wrenching. And I know these people, I know all of them."
"I don't know how I will deal with it. All I know is that I believe this woman. I find the behaviour despicable and cowardly." — Sonam Kapoor
In a detailed statement released to the press, Kangana Ranaut, who worked with Bahl on Queen said that his addiction became a sickness, adding he used to 'sniff her hair' while hugging, making her deeply uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, a handful of other writers and directors associated with films produced by Phantom expressed remorse for being complicit.
I am sorry. As somebody who has been a part of many projects with #Phantom in various capacities (lyrics/writer), I feel ashamed that they failed to provide safe working environment for women.— वरुण (@varungrover) October 7, 2018
Writer-lyricist Varun Grover, who has worked on projects such as Masaan and Sacred Games said Phantom's associates, such as himself, were, "complicit in this failure by rarely checking on our female colleagues or demanding POSH guidelines to be followed. We are all complicit in letting this industry run purely on the hubris and entitlement of a few powerful men."
"What's the purpose of all the art we create if it's devoid of any moral centre. Sorry again." — Varun Grover, writer-lyricist.
Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan, who will be co-directing the next season of Sacred Games, said in a Facebook post,
"I have felt absolutely disgusted by what Vikas Bahl did to a fellow team member. A legal complication enabled that he couldn't be sacked owing to him being a partner. THAT complication has enabled him to make another film while she continued to go through agonizing mental trauma. It was her choice not to speak at the time and I respect that.
However, we all are complicit in that system. I will speak for myself: I am complicit in working with the company that allows it. I allowed myself to work where such toxic male behaviour and perverse patriarchal mindset fostered. I am extremely sorry I didn't push hard enough."
Manto director Nandita Das tweeted the HuffPost India story with a message of support.
The hushed whispers are getting louder and are finally being heard. We all need to be in it together. Let's give courage to those who want to speak up but haven't felt able to yet. https://t.co/d2mvRYPYPV— Nandita Das (@nanditadas) October 6, 2018
Aligarh and Shahid director Hansal Mehta wrote, "Will anybody do anything about this bloody creep or will the industry protect him like it always does?"
Noted editor and writer of Simran said, "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 and even be assigned to report to him is awful."
Kal Ho Na Ho director Nikhil Advani said, "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."
Kubbra Sait, who appeared in the Phantom-produced Sacred Games, said, "The details in here are gory. But necessary to read. May the girl continue to fight knowing that her story isn't wasted. Thank You for the courage."
Filmmaker Pooja Bhatt told the news agency ANI, "You've to teach your young girls & boys there will be somebody who might want to exploit you, you've to stand up to that and also for others who're getting exploited. Don't dismiss someone raising their voice."
Yet, Bollywood's biggest stars — Amitabh Bachchan, Amir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and producers like Karan Johar, who had a cameo in the Phantom production Bombay Velvet, have kept quiet thus far.
As for Bollywood events, a press conference to launch the opening of the Mumbai Film Festival, which would mark the presence of a number of stakeholders from the Hindi film industry and which was supposed to take place Monday afternoon was abruptly canceled.
When HuffPost asked the publicist for the reason, we weren't given a specific answer for the postponement of the event.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include Hrithik Roshan's statement.