Kashyap Issues Statement on Vikas Bahl and Phantom Controversy
Trigger Warning: The following article contains details about sexual assault and violence. The details may be traumatic for survivors. Reader discretion is advised.
Anurag Kashyap has come out with a statement on Twitter clarifying his actions and feelings on the matter, claiming that the Huffington Post article didn’t include specific details. In the two page statement, Anurag has said that he took a strong stand early in the matter, adding that it was he who broke the news anonymously last year to a major newspaper. He claims that his hands were tied by the fact that the victim refused to lodge a legal complaint with Phantom, and that the studio’s contract barred him from ousting a partner such as Vikas Bahl over misconduct. Read the full statement below.
Varun Grover, lyricist/writer and frequent collaborator with Phantom Films, has issued a statement about the accusations detailed in Huffington Post. In a series of tweets this afternoon, Varun apologised and said he felt ashamed, adding that men like him should constantly raise their voices and check on their female colleagues. Take a look.
Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan, who has also extensively worked with Phantom, has shared his feelings on Twitter as well.
Original story follows.
Anurag Kashyap tweeted on 6 October that Phantom Films, a production company started by him along with Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl and producer Madhu Mantena in 2011, has now folded up.
The production house and its partners came under the scanner in 2015 much before the #MeToo movement gathered momentum or Tanushree Dutta spoke up against Nana Patekar. A woman crew member accused Queen director Vikas Bahl of sexually assaulting her during a promotional tour of the then readying-to-release Bombay Velvet. No steps were actually taken by Phantom Films against Bahl.
However, now the survivor and Anurag Kashyap in interviews to Huffington Post, have opened up about the incident once more. The survivor has shared the horrific experience she went through with Bahl following which he kept harassing her till she quit the organisation, and how when she shared it with Kashyap, he didn’t really do anything about it. Others too corroborated her story.
Kashyap on the other hand has said:
“Whatever happened was wrong. We didn’t handle it well, we failed. I cannot blame anyone but myself. But now we are determined to do better. We believe her completely. She has our undying support. What Bahl has done is horrifying. We are already on our path of course correction and will do everything in our capacity to fix it.”Anurag Kashyap, Director-Producer
While Kashyap came on record for an interview, Motwane, Bahl and Mantena didn’t participate in the story. Interestingly, Kashyap’s tweet came just three days after the questionnaires were sent by Huffington Post.
The Survivor’s Account
On 4 May 2015, after a late party before the release of Ranbir Kapoor-Anushka Sharma’s Bombay Velvet, the team gathered for a swanky private party in a luxury resort in Goa. It continued till the late hours, and the woman (survivor), who was drunk, announced she would be going to her room. Bahl offered to escort her, pointing it out that she was still limping after a recent accident.
The survivor then recounts how Bahl slipped into her room, acted too drunk to leave despite repeated requests, and tried to make advances when she gave up and lay down on the bed with a barrier of pillows between them. Finally, when she kept resisting, Bahl masturbated on her and left.
On 7 May, the woman shared the incident in detail with a close producer friend who, at the time, was working with Phantom on an independent film. He asked her to take it p with Kashyap. He told Huffington Post:
Kashyap however, went into his own shell after the failure of Bombay Velvet, and Bahl continued to allegedly harass the woman for months - to the extent that her friends feared she would harm herself.
On 30 October 2015, five months after the incident, the woman told Kashyap about the incident on their way to Bengaluru for work. Kashyap said, "I don't want to know this right now", but he promised to fix it. Kashyap told Huffington Post however that he remembers the incident differently. He was inebriated and knew something had happened, but didn’t know what, and that he regrets not probing further.
In January 2017, the woman quit Phantom. Kashyap had promised her that Bahl would apologise, she said. But from October 2015 to the month she resigned, he never did.
The Right Step or Internal Politics?
Come 2017, rumours were abuzz in Bollywood that the formerly inseparable Phantom partners were drifting apart. Kashyap’s girlfriend Shetty, who knew about the incident since 30 May 2016, suddenly messaged the woman saying: "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."
Kashyap told HuffPost India that Phantom's contracts are such that they don't have a clause to remove a partner over 'misconduct', unless perhaps there was an actual police complaint. There were then no internal policies or committee in the company to deal with sexual harassment allegations.
According to the woman, she felt that Kashyap was trying to use her to settle scores with Phantom Films” "It didn't seem right to me. Something seemed off. It felt like it wasn't been done for me but for some other gain."
Kashyap wrote in a message to the woman on 10 March 2017:
“There is a lot of livelihoods at stake, yet everyone is with you and want to do the right thing. You will decide the punishment and even if you sympathize , he will still have to go... we just don’t want to be suicidal, that fuck it, let’s kill Phantom.. we want to correct it and set an example.”Anurag Kashyap in a message to the woman
On 10 March 2017, the partners at Phantom arranged a meeting between the woman Kashyap, Mantena, and Motwane. Once there, Mantena allegedly asked her if she was drunk at the time and if she had any evidence. He also reportedly told her that he would not put out a statement supporting her if the media asked him questions.
On 13 March 2017, at a meeting between Kashyap, his girlfriend Shetty, the woman and her boyfriend, things turned worse. Kashyap insisted that the woman denounce Bahl in the media, while the woman's boyfriend pointed out that Phantom Films had done nothing for two years and now expected the woman to go public without any guarantee of support that Kashyap or his company would stand by her.
Kashyap didn’t deny the incident to Huffington Post.
Bahl had earlier refuted all charges in an interview with Mumbai Mirror.
“Nothing has happened. I am running the company. There is no complaint to HR and there is no Vishakha committee.... 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.”Vikas Bahl
And now, Phantom Films is no more. "To me, the overnight split appears like a pre-emptive measure," the woman said. "My heart really goes out for those people who didn't have anything to do with my case and will perhaps lose their job."
Bahl's next, Super 30, starring Hrithik Roshan, is slated to release early next year.
(Source: Huffington Post)