After the news of Phantom films sudden dissolution came as a surprise or shock to many. But not many remember that there have been stray reports of the four partners’ internal scuffle for a couple of years now. And the reason for that is said to the sexual harassment accusation on one of the partners of Phantom films and filmmaker Vikas Bahl (director of Queen and upcoming Hrithik Roshan starrer Super 30). While Vikas had denied it back in 2017 in a long statement to Mumbai Mirror and had said that, “Nothing has happened.”, in a recent interview with one of the online portals Anurag Kashyap accepted that he knew about the harassment incident and couldn’t do anything.
He 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.”
Three years after the shocking incident, the woman, the sexual assault survivor has once again come out and gave the horrifying details of what happened that night when Vikas Bahl harassed her in a hotel room. She quoted that before the release of Bombay Velvet, the cast and crew gathered together for a party and post that Vikas Bahl, who was one of the producers of the film offered the woman to drop her to her room since she was recovering from an accident and had few drinks.
The woman said, “I didn’t make anything of it. For me, Bahl was my boss’s (Anurag Kashyap) business partner. I wasn’t worried about anything. He had acted normally throughout the party.” The two then headed to her room and the woman bid Vikas good night and gave him a hug. After that, she rushed inside the room to the bathroom, she said because “I couldn’t hold my pee anymore”.
But to her shock when she came out of her bathroom, Vikas was lying on the footrest of her bed. She recalled, “He acted as if he couldn’t get up. I asked him to get up, leave. In my head, I was thinking furiously, ‘what should I do to get him out?” And after she asked Vikas to leave the room repeatedly, she gave up. “I had no energy to do anything more. He wasn’t leaving my room. I gathered some strength and put multiple pillows between the two of us to create some sort of a divider. Everything was blurry, I was on the verge of passing out but one part of my brain was very aware of this man who wouldn’t leave my bed.”
But to her horror, as soon as she lied on her bed, in a few seconds time, Vikas put his hand inside her dress and when she pushed him away after resisted several times, he dropped his pants and started masturbating onto her back, because her back was towards him, saying, “Fuck you, bitch”. He then left the room.
The incident left a lasting trauma on her. For the next few months, Vikas would harass her even in office. And finally, she gathered courage and revealed everything to Anurag Kashyap in the hope of some sort of solace and help. While heading to the airport, when she told Anurag, a couple of months post the incident, he said, “I don’t want to know this right now” but promised that he’ll sort the matter soon.
But nothing happened. Talking about the day, the woman told Anurag Kashyap, he recalled, “I have a vague memory of it. I was super drunk and didn’t quite process what she said. At that time, I knew something happened, I didn’t know exactly what.” He also added that because of the epic failure of Bombay Velvet, he used to often drink.
Anurag Kashyap also revealed that they couldn’t fire Vikas Bahl because he was the part owner of Phantom and not the employee.
Talking about the sudden dissolution of Phantom films, the woman said, “To me, the overnight split appears like a pre-emptive measure. My heart really goes out for those people who didn’t have anything to do with my case and will perhaps lose their job.”
“What Bahl did to me that night in that hotel room in Goa has had a lasting impact. I am still healing. It has affected my relationships, my spirit, my social life, everything. I think twice before going out for a film-related event… but do I fear him? No. Not today. And I want to tell every young woman in this industry, it’s never your fault. It’s not your burden, it’s not your shame,” she said.
Post Tanushree Dutta’s sexual harassment charges against Nana Patekar, multiple women have come out and have revealed their traumatic incidents. From Vikas Bahl, Kailash Kher, Zulfi Syed to comedian Utsav Chakraborty are just a few of them facing the accusations. Looks like Bollywood’s MeToo movement has finally commenced.