We did take immediate action against Vikas Bahl, claim Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane
Queen director Vikas Bahl has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former employee, and actor Kangana Ranaut.
Reacting to a recent exposé by HuffPost India, filmmakers Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane — former partners at the recently dissolved Phantom Films, which they co-owned with Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena — have issued clarifications regarding their handling of the sexual harassment complaints made by a former employee against Bahl.
The HuffPost article, quoting the victim, detailed an incident that took place on October 5, 2015 at a luxury hotel in South Goa during the promotional rounds of Kashyap’s big-budget film, Bombay Velvet. The victim alleged that Bahl molested her after a late-night party in her hotel room. She also accused Kashyap of not taking definitive action, and blamed him and his co-partners for ‘stonewalling’ her for over two years.
In the same article, Kashyap confessed, “I didn't handle it well, we failed. I cannot blame anyone but myself.”
On October 6, 2018 — around 12 hours before the publication of the article — Kashyap, Motwane and Mantena announced the dissolution of Phantom Films after a successful nine-year run.
The ensuing uproar against Bahl’s alleged behavior was further corroborated by actor Kangana Ranaut, who starred in Bahl’s National Award-winning 2014 film Queen. Kangana's statement read: “Totally believe her, even though Vikas was married back in 2014 when we were filming Queen, he bragged about having casual sex with a new partner every other day…. I don’t judge people and their marriages but you can tell when addiction becomes sickness …. he partied every night and shamed me for sleeping early and not being cool enough …..I often told him off…. he was scared of me but still every time we met socially greeted and hugged each other …. he’d bury his face in my neck …. hold me really tight and breathe in the smell of my hair …. it took me great amount of strength and effort to pull myself out of his embrace, he’d say…. “I love how you smell K…” I could tell something is wrong with him."
A day after the publication of the article, Kashyap and Motwane issued separate statements claiming that immediate action against Bahl was indeed taken at Phantom Films but the process was impeded due to legal ‘ill-advice’ and the victim’s decision to not pursue the matter further. They also added that they’d suspended Bahl from the company premises and stripped him of signing authorities.
“On the basis of legal advice being sought then, we were told that we were handicapped by two things— that we were dealing with an equal Promoter/director who actually ran the company, and that there was no provision to sack him on the grounds of misconduct,” Kashyap said as part of a longer statement.
“We immediately began to take action. We offered suspending Vikas from the company for a long period of time, not letting him produce or direct, taking away his signatory rights as well as sending him to rehabilitation. She (the victim) agreed. So did Vikas, who had no memory of the incident. We also worked towards formalising this and even taking steps towards documenting these terms,” Motwane said in his statement.
The directors also claimed that the HuffPost article did not include key admissions made by Kashyap and his girlfriend Shubhra Shetty.
Meanwhile, Bahl, who remains unavailable on social media, is yet to issue a statement on the matter, so is former Phantom co-partner Mantena.
Bahl’s upcoming film, Super 30, starring Hrithik Roshan as mathematician Anand Kumar, is scheduled to release on January 25, 2019.