The #MeToo movement has arrived in Indian with a bang, and it seems it’s all set to make lives miserable for the ‘sexual predators.’
After Nana Patekar, Vikas Bahl, Rajat Kapoor and AIB’s Utsav Chakraborty and Gursimran Khamba were accused of harassment, the latest in the line of fire is someone we probably wouldn’t imagine even in our wildest of dreams.
The man to play the most ‘Sanskaari’ (noble person with ideal morals) roles in Bollywood, Alok Nath, has been accused of sexual harassment of the worst kind.
As more and more women are coming up with their #MeToo incidents, Vinta Nanda, writer and producer of some of the top shows of ‘90s, most notable among them ‘Tara’, shared her horrifying story on Facebook.
Nanda, in a lengthy Facebook post, without naming Nath, but giving enough hints throughout, said the most ‘Sanskaari’ actor and TV actor of that decade, sexually violated her 20 years ago.
Detailing her ordeal, her post mentioned how she was invited for a party at his house, where her drink was spiked and after she left his house and could barely walk, he picked her up in his car and dropped her home. In her own words, she writes, “I have faint memory after that. I can remember more liquor being poured into my mouth and I remember being violated endlessly. When I woke up the next afternoon, I was in pain. I hadn’t just been raped, I was taken to my own house and had been brutalised.”
Her trauma didn’t end there as Nanda also revealed why it took her two decades to come out with her story.
After the incident, she was going through a tough period professionally and was writing and directing another show when Nath again managed to join the cast of the serial. He ‘created an environment’ to make her ‘feel threatened’, following which she asked the makers to release her from the direction duties but she continued to write. Expressing regret for the need for job and money then, she also wrote, “While I was working on this new series, he asked me to come to his house again and I went to allow him to violate me.”
Before detailing these instances, Nanda also revealed that during the shoot of ‘Tara’, Alok Nath was ‘alcoholic, shameless and obnoxious’ and sexually harassed his co-star and lead actress, Navneet Nishan who even slapped him for ‘feeling her up.’
After being humiliated by the CEO of a channel who pulled down four of her shows, Nanda’s life took a turn for the worse after the aforementioned incident. She underwent a nervous breakdown and revealed how channels and sets started to ‘freak her out’, detailing how she would break down while pitching ideas to channels. She resorted to alcohol and drugs and that made it worse. But 10 years after the incident and with the help of friends and social media, Nanda’s life is back on track today.
Revealing her reason for coming out, she concluded her post, “I have waited for this moment to come for 19 years. I shout out to each one of you who have suffered at the hands of predators to come out and say it aloud. Don’t hold yourselves back. This is a moment for change so your silence will only hold barriers to its evolution. Speak out. Shout out from the top of the roof.”
We were in and out of each other’s homes, we belonged to the same group of friends, most of us from theatre, slowly making our arts shine in the content renaissance, which had taken place because of the satellite television revolution of the 1990’s.
I was producing and writing the No 1 show on TV called Tara.
He was after my lead girl.
She was not interested in him.
He was an alcoholic, shameless and obnoxious but he was also the television star of that decade, so not only was he forgiven for all his bad behaviour but many of the guys would egg him on to be his worst.
My lead female actor was being harassed by him.
He would mess with her on the sets and everyone would be silent.
When she complained to us, we decided to let him go.
We needed one last shot between them and soon after it had been taken we had planned to let him know that we didn’t want to work with him any longer.
He had become aware of our plan and on that day, he came drunk on our sets.
He continued to drink till the time he was called for the shot.
When the moment came and the camera rolled, he felt up our female lead and very viciously.
My lead actress slapped him.
We asked him to leave the sets and told him that he was not going to be on the show any longer.
Life went on without him on the show and common friends intervened to patch us up as friends.
The ratings of the show kept soaring but the management at the channel changed and it started asking us to change the lead actress.
We said we could not do it but then the management demanded a change of generation story to start and asked us to cook up a younger Tara, who was to appear out of nowhere and was to be later revealed as the original Tara’s daughter, born out of wedlock to her or some such thing.
This also meant that our original Tara would continue with us.
We agreed to go ahead, not that we had much choice, but a day before we were to shoot the new generation story, we were told that the lead actor who had been asked to leave the show was to be brought back.
We did that because there was no room left for protest under so much oppression that we had by now been subjected to.
We had four more shows running on the same channel, all big on ratings and our refusal to do as we were being told to do meant jeopardising them.
The new generation story went on air and ran for a week.
We were called by the newly appointed CEO of the channel on the Monday of the following week and told to shut down the show, along with all our other shows.
I was insulted and humiliated by the CEO, asked to get out of his office and told that women like me should be thrown out of the country.
All our shows went off air with immediate effect and my production company was made to shut down.
Now is when the worst happened.
I loved my life, I was a successful woman, I smoked and I drank.
I was a liberated person.
I was invited to a party to this mans house, his wife, my best friend was out of town.
It was usual for our group of friends from theatre to meet regularly so there was nothing unusual about my going to the party.
As the evening flowed, my drinks were mixed and I began to feel strange.
Then at around 2am I left his house.
Nobody followed me or offered to drop me home, which was what was rather unusual.
All I knew at the time was that I had to get home. I could sense it wouldn’t be right for me to stay there any longer.
I started to walk home on the empty streets although the distance to my own house was long.
Midway I was accosted by this man who was driving his own car and he asked me to sit in it and said he would drop me home.
I trusted him and sat in his car.
I have faint memory after that.
I can remember more liquor being poured into my mouth and I remember being violated endlessly.
When I woke up the next afternoon, I was in pain.
I hadn’t just been raped, I was taken to my own house and had been brutalised.
I couldn’t get up for my bed.
I told some of my friends but everybody advised me to forget about it and move on.
My company was closed but I got a job to write and direct a series for Plus Channel.
The man found his way through the casting route and became one of the lead actors on the show.
He created an environment in which I was made to feel threatened so I asked the producers to release me from directing the series because I didn’t want to be around where he was.
I continued to write the show.
Here’s the most difficult part, the main reason why I have taken so long to come out with the truth.
While I was working on this new series, he asked me to come to his house again and I went to allow him to violate me.
I needed the job and didn’t want to leave it as I needed the money.
It was after this that I quit.
I was completely shattered by then. It was a nervous breakdown I was going through, but I was trying to be brave.
I tried to pick up the threads of my life but channels and networks and sets and rehearsals started to freak me out.
I continued to write, but the couple of times that I pushed myself and found the courage to pitch for shows, I would break down during meetings.
Finally I gave up.
Almost 20 years later, I’m totally fine now, healed and reunited with my own self again.
I’m afraid of speaking to an audience.
For someone like me who was fearless and could talk to large audiences for hours, it is something that bothers me so I’m working on it.
The only reason I’m telling this story now is because I don’t want that any girl should ever fear holding the truth back.
What followed because of my silence was even worse.
I became easy prey because the message had been put out that I was afraid and so I would not open my mouth.
The couple of times that I wrote about what I had gone through created more complications because I stopped getting work.
To deal with all the fear and shame I drank myself silly almost every evening and even flirted with drugs.
I had friends who rallied around me and helped me clean up and restart my life in 2009, which meant that I had lived my trauma for 10 long years.
Social Media also saved me.
I had been done, dusted and buried as a professional but I was back in the face of the world on Facebook and soon on Twitter as well.
I had tremendous support from some friends including their trust, so I became emboldened and bounced back.
I have waited for this moment to come for 19 years.
I shout out to each one of you who have suffered at the hands of predators to come out and say it aloud.
Don’t hold yourselves back.
This is a moment for change so your silence will only hold barriers to its evolution.
Shout out from the top of the roof.
My friend Nutan who is no more took me to the back road of #LokhandwalaComplex in #Andheri where she made me break a 100 empty bottles and I threw them into the mangroves and shouted out all my anger and frustration.
I never looked back after that day.
Irony is that the man, the predator in question here is the actor par excellence who is known as the most #Sanskaari (Cultured) person in the film and television industry.
We appreciate Vinta Nanda’s courage and hope this fight doesn’t end here and names and shames more such assaulters.