Bollywood – the largest entertainment industry of the world exists in the financial hub of Mumbai, which is called ‘The City of Dreams’. The industry lures the eyes of almost everyone whoever loves watching Hindi movies and many of them pack the bags and head to the city to make their dreams come true. Few of them make their mark in the industry and the rest takes the route back to their homes with utter disappointment. Bollywood charms everyone. The big stardom, success, wealth, lavish lifestyle, respect and the perks conferred upon you when you are a celebrity – all catch your heart. This is Bollywood – the Hindi cinema industry. My association with this industry dates back to 2002 when I first wrote a cover story on the late legendary singer Kishore Kumar for the much popular film magazine Screen (an entertainment magazine by Indian Express which also holds Star Screens Awards every year) and it was well-received and liked by his fans, Bollywood aficionados and even the Editor that I could not help being a part of this genre of journalism. Apart from the sparkles and attractions Bollywood is endowed with, the industry often suffers accusations and this appears like a scar on its face.
Sexual harassment is found everywhere and the Hindi cinema industry is no exception at all. The media is always abuzz about the allegations of sexual harassments on Bollywood celebrities. It is not new for Bollywood rather it has been with the fraternity since the beginning. But since last decade or so, the noise for sexual harassment is quite high in the fraternity that feeds the tabloids with enough dose of spicy content to adorn their pages. Whenever any report related to this issue comes up, the entire media begins buzzing and all eyes get focused on the news leads. Years back in 2005, when the casting couch reports on Bollywood’s leading villain Shakti Kapoor hit the media, the industry shook heavily since it was an explosive sting operation done by India TV in which the leading villain was filmed to ask for the sexual favors from an undercover reporter posing as an upcoming actress in a hotel room in Mumbai. This sting operation was undoubtedly the biggest controversy of Hindi cinema industry that revealed Kapoor’s off-screen villainous side. When questioned about his role in propositioning the undercover reporter, Shakti claimed that she had threatened to commit suicide if he did not visit her hotel room. Even he was also heard saying that the girl (reporter) threatened to kill him if he did not come to meet her in hotel. The entire Indian media was jam-packed with breaking news and controversies formulated around this sting operation. The actor found no escaping at all since he got entangled in the same.
Shakti Kapoor received mammoth criticism for dragging into and involving the big names of the industry in the messy act. He was also filmed naming industry’s most popular names who he claimed had slept their way to success. He claimed in the clip that everyone had to sleep ‘once’ with the bigwigs of the industry to get the big break. Shakti unzipped it to the undercover reporter in the video that Aishwarya Rai (Bollywood’s leading actress and former Miss World) doled sexual favors to popular filmmaker Subhash Ghai for the leading role in ‘Taal’ (released in 1999) – the movie which then changed Rai’s career altogether by soaring her film career to sky high and she was also nominated for Filmfare Best Actress Award for the movie. Before ‘Taal’, Aishwarya was consistently giving flops. Earlier Mahima Choudhary and Manisha Koirala had also claimed that Ghai asked for the sexual favors to give them the big breaks in Bollywood.
Kapoor also dragged actresses Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji’s names in the video claiming that they also underwent sexual favors to make big in cinema industry. Shakti denied all reports and the videos making rounds in the media naming them ‘doctored and tampered’. Film and TV Producers’ Guild banned the actor by not working with him anymore. The actor then had to apologize to the actresses and other industry people whose name he revealed in the video clip.
Post the claims of Shakti Kapoor involving him and Aishwarya Rai and then the claims made by Mahima and Manisha’s to bed with him for big roles, Subhash Ghai was again accused of rape in 2018. An anonymous woman alleged him that he spiked her drink and then sexually assaulted her in a hotel room. The women did not want to be named, as she was a credible media personality which was why her name was not revealed in reports. According to her, the director would often call her to his home for script sessions. The actress then claimed that Ghai forcefully kissed her once on the set. She narrated the rape incident by saying that at a late music session Ghai offered her a drink that was spiked and while he was dropping her to her home in his car, he took her to a hotel room and assaulted her before she lost her conscious.
Saloni Chopra, another Bollywood actress, accused director Sajid Khan of sexual harassment while she worked with him as an assistant. A female journalist also put the same accusations on the filmmaker by saying that she went to interview her at his sister Farah Khan’s home when he forcefully kissed her.
Shiney Ahuja, a famed film actor, was spent three months in prison after he was accused of raping his domestic servant. Renowned actress Renuka Shahane too shared her past account of sexual harassment in the media. She was once staying in a hotel room for a film shooting, where a hotel staffer came to her room and laid out the food. He started praising her claiming him as her biggest fan. While talking to her, he started masturbating in front of her. Renuka then shouted and asked him to leave the room. There are plenty of other incidents relating to this bitter fact and if I start writing on, the story will begin multiplying the pages.
This is the Hindi cinema industry where you have to pay the price to make your name no matter if you have talents – all matters is a ‘chance’ and that is provided with a price. This is the bitter reality of Bollywood which we have to swallow.
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