Bollywood has exercised a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment allegations over the past few weeks, as several alleged offenders — including directors Sajid Khan and Subhash Kapoor — were dropped from their respective professional assignments. Actor Payal Rohatgi had accused director Dibakar Banerjee of sexual misconduct in 2011.
Rohatgi points out that despite her seven-year-old accusations against him, Banerjee has walked away unscathed and finds himself helming a prestigious project in Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar.
"Dibakar did six films after that. He doesn't look like a villain, but that doesn't take away from the fact that he used his sob story of a bad marriage to make a move. I didn't file an FIR against him because I was intimidated. In the wake of #MeToo, I hope things will be different. I don't know if YRF [Yash Raj Films, producer of Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar] will take a stand. YRF knows about Dibakar," says Rohatgi.
For the uninitiated, the actor had alleged that Banerjee had tried to take advantage of her in lieu of offering a role in one of his upcoming movies.
She claimed that he had asked her to "lift my shirt and show him my stomach." While she had called him out then, Rohatgi says she was punished by the industry for speaking up.
I was working opposite actors like Irrfan and Paresh Rawal. But after I held the press conference, no one called me for an audition again. I stopped getting films. So I had to move to television.
I kept myself alive with stage shows. It was a case of one brother backing another. According to Anurag [Kashyap], I was having an affair with Dibakar. But if I were hypothetically having an affair, that still doesn't make Dibakar right; he was married at that time," she fires back. Though empowered by the change in the industry, Rohatgi doesn't intend to pursue the matter anymore. "I don't want to put Sangram [Singh, fiance] and my family through the earlier turmoil. I have moved on." mid-day reached out to Banerjee, but failed to receive a response.
Will YRF take action against Malik?
After several women accused Anu Malik of sexual harassment — including three survivors who opened up to mid-day about how he had misbehaved with them — he was dropped from Indian Idol on Sunday. "Anu Malik is no longer a part of Indian Idol jury panel. The show will continue its planned schedule and we'll invite some of the biggest names in Indian music as guests to join Vishal and Neha to judge extraordinary talent of Indian Idol Season 10," read the channel's statement. Malik is also the music composer on board Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar. It remains to be seen whether Yash Raj Films, the studio backing the project, will take action against him.