Filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane Sunday broke his silence over the controversy involving his Phantom Films partner Vikas Bahl, who has been accused of sexual harassment.
In a recent 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 filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, on of the partners of the production house, and detailed her experience, but no action was taken while Bahl continued to harass her until she finally quit the company.
In a statement on Twitter, Motwane, who formed the company along with Kashyap, Bahl and Madhu Mantena, apologised for the incident and said he will ensure a safer working environment on the sets of his films.
“I’m truly sorry about what happened to the girl. Vikas Bahl is a sexual offender. He’s preyed on a young woman, abused her trust, ruined her life. The scars are going to stay and that just isn’t right.
“The only thing I can offer now is an apology. And the only thing I can say is that this will never happen again on my watch,” he wrote in the statement.
Motwane, whose films “Lootera”, “Trapped” and “Bhavesh Joshi” have all been made under the banner, said he was unaware about the incident until March 2017.
“I didn’t hear about the incident between Vikas and the girl
when it happened in 2015. The the first time I heard of it was in March 2017, when Anurag called me and told me about it.
“Madhu, me and Anurag sat with the girl and she told us the whole story, in the same detail as in the article. It was hard to hear and it horrified us,” he said.
Motwane’s statement comes after 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.
Motwane said the company ensured that Bahl does not produce or direct a film while they contemplated a strict action against him.
“We immediately began to take action. We offered suspending Vikas from the company for a long period of time, not letting him produce or direct, taking away his signatory rights as well as sending him in rehabilitation. She agreed. So did Vikas, who had to no memory of the incident. We also worked towards formalising this and even taking steps towards documenting these terms,” he said.
Motwane said the victim refrained from going public about the incident and Kashyap and Shubhra Shetty, tried to convince her to change her mind.
“Of all the various remedies offered then to the girl and us, which included suspending him from the office, stripping him of any signing authority and not allowing him to produce films – we did all of it.
The filmmaker also defended his silence over the incident and said he did so to protect the identity of the woman.
“For those of you accusing me of being complicit, creating a boys club, and protecting Vikas – I was silent in the press because I felt I was trying to make things right in a manner that, at all times, sought to protect the identity of the girl in question, without assigning any doubt whatsoever to her version of what had transpired, and most importantly, on terms that she wanted and expressly agreed to then.”
In his statement, Kashyap said the lawyers told him that Bahl’s removal from the company was hindered by his status as “an equal promoter/director who actually ran the company” and that there was no clause in their contract to fire him “on the grounds of misconduct”.
He claimed that the story got out only after he corroborated it with the HuffPost journalist. He added that he was the anonymous source who leaked out the story to the press last year.