It has been almost a month that the Harvey Weinstein scandal of Hollywood came to light. Though the issue of casting couch is not a new one, in Hollywood as well as Bollywood, Indian actresses have mostly chose to remain silent on the issue. It is only in the past few days that a few shocking stories of sexual exploitation of actresses in India have been revealed. About a week ago, Marathi actress Harshali Zine had shared her story of casting couch horror, and now a renowned Bollywood actress has disclosed her horrific experience.
Showing the ugly side of the industry of glamour to the world, actress Swara Bhaskar has shared her casting couch ordeal. On being asked if she has ever faced harassment on a film set, Swara told Mumbai Mirror,
Of course. 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 because they knew I would not give in. Being an articulate, educated girl they sensed that I would not take things lying down.
The ‘Veere di Wedding’ actress went on to share her horrible experience and said,
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. 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.
She further revealed that the harassment did stop after she told the director that he was scaring her and making her uncomfortable. The director then acted hurt and said that Swara had misunderstood him. The sad part of her story is that it did stop only for a while and eventually she had to confide in the executive producer. The actress was then escorted everywhere, which made sure that she was safe.
When asked how actresses should deal with such incidents on film set, she said,
Lose the part but don’t get on the couch. It’s not a feminist choice and it’s certainly not a liberating choice. It’s like giving a bribe and that is succumbing to a wrong.