Filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan and writer Varun Grover Sunday criticised the now-dissolved production banner, Phantom Films, for its failure to create safe working environment for women on their films’ sets.
Their reaction came in the aftermath of allegations of sexual harassment against Phantom Films co-founder Vikas Bahl.
Ghaywan’s 2015 drama “Masaan” was jointly produced by Phantom Films while Grover worked with the banner on films such as “Raman Raghav 2.0”, “Bombay Velvet” and Netflix series “Sacred Games”.
Grover took to Twitter to slam the company for its failure to ensure women’s safety on the sets of its films.
“I am sorry. As somebody who has been a part of many projects with #Phantom in various capacities (lyrics/writer), I feel ashamed that they failed to provide safe working environment for women,” he wrote.
He said it was a failure on his part that he did not stressed upon the company to follows the guidelines of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, also known as PoSH guidelines.
“We all are complicit in this failure by rarely checking on our female colleagues or demanding POSH guidelines to be followed. We are all complicit in letting this industry run purely on the hubris and entitlement of a few powerful men,” he said in another tweet.
“All of us men have let our job insecurities or emotional distance from such cases or patriarchy-induced prejudices to allow us to ignore or move on. Whenever some of us have raised our voices, they have either been too feeble or too inconsequential – and the onus is on us alone,” he added.
He said going forward, he will question the men in power about creating safe environment for women.
“It’s a moral crime and I promise to introspect and learn from it, and will keep questioning the people in power and my friends (this time louder and clearer). What’s the purpose of all the art we create if it’s devoid of any moral centre. Sorry again,” he said.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Ghaywan said he felt disgusted by the allegations against Bahl.
“I have felt absolutely disgusted by what Vikas Bahl did to a fellow team member. A legal complication enabled that he couldn’t be sacked owing to him being a partner. that complication has enabled him to make another film while she continued to go through agonising mental trauma.
“It was her choice not to speak at the time and I respect that. However, we are complicit in that system. I will speak for myself: I am complicit in working with the company that allows it. I allowed myself to work where such toxic male behaviour and perverse patriarchal mind-set fostered,” he wrote.
The filmmaker said he has introspected a lot in the aftermath of Tanushree Dutta’s resurfaced allegations of sexual harassment against Nana Patekar.
He said lack of women crew members allows such behaviour to be “trivialised”.
“At a personal level, I have been partially following some informal/unsaid rules as far as my personal working ecosystem is concerned and I am going to stringently enforce them from here on.”
Ghaywan also said that he will not be signing any film with the banner that refuses to follow the PoSH guidelines.
Screenwriter Apurva Asrani also slammed the company, saying, “Many associated with #VikasBahl’s company knew his reality.”
“Not only did they allow a predator to continue-they also earned money and fame by working on his films. Several among these were self appointed crusaders of social media-who arrogantly called out people for their mistakes,” he added.
In an article in Huffpost India, a former woman employee of the now dissolved production banner has reiterated the allegations and shared further details about the incident in May 2015.
According to the report, the woman said she had reached out to Kashyap and detailed her experience, but no action was taken while Bahl continued to harass her until she finally quit the company.
Earlier on Sunday, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap opened up about the sexual harassment allegation against Bahl, saying he was “ill-advised” in the matter by his lawyers.
In a two-page statement on Twitter, Kashyap said his legal aides told him that there was nothing he could do to fire Bahl from Phantom Films, which they set up seven years ago.