Vikas Bahl sexual harassment row: Additional details from Bombay Velvet press junket, and what's happened to Phantom Films since

As tales round Vikas Bahl’s sexually abusive behavior pile up (a Bombay Velvet crew member has bravely shared her account, as reported by HuffPost India) this author feels blindsided. In all honesty, earlier than sympathy and empathy, it’s the feeling of helplessness that stands out. Right here’s why: I used to be one of many journalists to have landed at a 5 star resort by the ocean in Goa for the Bombay Velvet press junket in 2015. An costly affair, this media interplay session was a primary of its sort for India, with stars, crew, journalists and studio executives dwelling in the identical resort and holding a blitz of interviews for the movie.

Vikas Bahl. Picture from Information18

It concluded with a celebration the place Ranbir Kapoor made a visitor look on the dance ground, getting media people to shake a leg earlier than slipping out with the Haves (versus the Have Nots) for a personal celebration in his suite. The folks that mattered — founders of Phantom Movies, solid members and studio executives — joined him right here.

As journalists, our total focus throughout these hectic two days and nights was to glean out as many interviews and tales as doable, and to file them promptly for publication. I recall getting maintain of Vikas Bahl for a chat on the second day, whereas he was hanging across the stars’ enclosure, making an attempt to get him to talk about his a lot hyped directorial, Shandaar. He casually acknowledged that he would like to talk about the movie later as this occasion was about Bombay Velvet, his co-production.

Right here’s what was clear as day: Anurag Kashyap, the movie’s director, and Bahl, weren’t pals. And Phantom Movies, the impartial banner of impartial filmmakers, could be present process bother in paradise.

This was 2015. Neeru Sharma, a colleague and channel head of E24, and leisure editor at Information 24, was on the similar junket. She recollects, “ Our community had run a narrative up to now owing to which Anushka didn’t wish to do an interview with us. So I made a decision to attend after the press dinner to satisfy Anushka’s supervisor. She was attending a celebration held at Ranbir’s suite together with the remainder of the solid and producers. It was getting late, and round 2 am it had beginning raining. So I made a decision to stroll again to my room. It was darkish contained in the resort, and as I needed to cross a bridge to get to my room, I centered on strolling the place there was some mild. I noticed two individuals, a person and a lady, on the bridge chatting. As soon as I acquired nearer, I noticed it was Vikas Bahl. I didn’t acknowledge the lady. Later, I questioned what was he doing exterior when all of the others – Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Anushka, Madhu Mantena and the remainder have been partying with Ranbir Kapoor.”

In a scientific separation of stars from the remainder, this occasion efficiently remoted an incident of sexual abuse that would have doubtlessly been addressed in 2015 itself. What has adopted, as per the survivor’s account, is mismanagement by founders of Phantom Movies, in addition to postponement of addressing this matter, whereas prioritising the very excessive stakes of Bombay Velvet.

Reaching out to crew members, males or girls, has yielded full silence on the document.

Off the document, insights into what went down emerged. A key member of the movie’s manufacturing workforce mentioned he knew as little as anybody else. All that was instructed to him was that an incident like this had transpired, and that, applicable motion had been taken. Mainly, this episode was solely dealt with by the corporate’s founders. Or a minimum of that’s what was conveyed to the crew members.

Moreover, a second crew member, a part of the directorial workforce, states that huge events have been widespread whereas this movie was being made. Not a participant at these, he acquired the impression that everybody who made movies had fun, and it was all consensual. “From the periphery, it simply seemed utopian,” he mentioned.

On this episode round Vikas Bahl, probably the most amusing element is the dissolution of Phantom Films. This has been within the works for some time. Phantom Movies started to disintegrate across the making, after which debacle of Bombay Velvet. As an skilled film star instructed me off document, “Not all that went down whereas making this movie was accomplished transparently. Quite a bit has not been defined.” She was referring to discrepancies in managing the movie’s finances.

Anurag Kashyap. Image from Twitter

Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena shaped Phantom Movies. Photos from Twitter

The corporate has gone on to make respectable content material since then, however mutual variations amongst co-founders have propped up visibly. Udta Punjab, Masaan, Trapped, Mukkabaaz and Manmarziyan are amongst their higher movies, as is Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane’s world hit, Sacred Game on Netflix. Nonetheless, rocked earlier by a sexual harassment scandal the place Kashyap had made his points with Bahl clear, the utopia of Phantom Movies fell aside.

Primarily, they’d damaged up a while again, however the announcement of the corporate being dissolved, which occurred late at night time on 5 October, round accusations of sexual abuse, makes it look like an try at rushed harm management. Anurag Kashyap, Varun Grover, Vikramaditya Motwane and Neeraj Ghaywan have since tweeted apologies about being complicit and normalising a piece surroundings that was unsafe for girls.

However the query arises, is that this story over and accomplished with? No. It has simply begun, as a number of tales of harassment from totally different working sectors proceed to pour out on social media.

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