Bollywood actor Swara Bhaskar has joined the conversation on women and men facing sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.
Ever since Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was (and continues to be) accused of harassment, molestation and rape by over 50 women, more victims of other famous perpetrators have also shared their horror stories.
In an interview to Mumbai Mirror, the Bollywood actor voiced her opinion on the matter too. “The way a film set operates is often feudal and always hierarchal, where some people give instructions and others execute them…Conditions at the workplace are ripe for sexual harassment, more so because victims can be easily silenced,” she said.
Swara revealed the manner in which she was asked for sexual favours in exchange for a film role, and how she lost a few because she wouldn’t give in. She even talked about the lack of safety on film sets, where women often experience ‘eve-teasing and catcalling’.
She shared her own story of how she was harassed by a film director during her early days as an actor. “…during a 56-day outdoor shoot at a remote location when I was still fairly new, the director harassed me with texts and dinner invites. He stalked me during the day and called me through the night. I was asked to go to his hotel room on the pretext of discussing a scene and would find him drinking. During the first week itself, he started talking about love and sex, and one night, he arrived in my room, drunk and asking to be hugged. It was scary!”
“I was young and alone. I would switch off the lights after packing up, and remove my make-up in the dark, so he would think I was asleep and stop calling me,” she said.
The director did stop after she told him how uncomfortable he was making her feel, and that she would leave the project if he continued to misbehave with her. While the man did stop stalking her for a time (not without acting hurt and complaining about “how she misunderstood him”, though), he was back at it after a few weeks. “I finally confided in the executive producer and made sure that I was escorted everywhere,” she said.
According to Swara, the best way to ‘deal with harassment’ at the workplace is to “lose the part but don’t get on the couch”. “It’s not a feminist choice, and it’s certainly not a liberating choice. It’s like giving a bribe, and that amounts to succumbing to a wrong,” she said.
Swara is currently shooting for her upcoming film Veere Di Wedding with Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and Shikha Talsania. The film releases in May 2018.