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Swara Bhaskar: One night, film’s director arrived in my room, drunk, and asked to be hugged
Hollywood is being flooded with horrifying casting couch stories after the numerous sexual abuse allegations against the powerful producer Harvey Weinstein. Bollywood actors like Kalki Koechlin, Tisca Chopra, Ranveer Singh and Ayushmann Khurrana had also spoken up on the existence of casting couch in Bollywood. Now, Swara Bhaskar has opened up on her experience of sexual harassment. In an interview to a leading publication, the ‘Veere Di Wedding’ actress revealed that she was asked for sexual favours in exchange for a film role, and how she lost out on some films because she wouldn’t give in. She also highlighted the lack of safety on film sets.
On being asked if she had ever come across a sexual harassment case in Bollywood, Swara Bhaskar told Mumbai Mirror , “Of course. I’ve been propositioned by men who were in a position to cast me. I lost a few roles because I didn’t give in. It made me vulnerable, nervous. Some people even stopped responding to my messages because they knew I would not give in. Being an articulate, educated girl they sensed that I would not take things lying down.”
Swara Bhaskar spoke about how she was a victim of sexual harassment by a film director. She told the tabloid, “There have been catcalls during shoots and eve-teasing on one of my sets. I’ve been groped by a mob during promotions and during a 56-day outdoor 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 the scene and would find him drinking. During the first week itself, he started talking about love and sex and one night, arrived in my room, drunk, and asked to be hugged. It was scary! I was young and alone. I would switch off the lights after pack-up and remove my make up in the dark so he would think I was asleep and stop calling me.”
Swara Bhaskar told the director that he was scaring her and making her uncomfortable. She told him that she wouldn’t be able to act in the movie if he continued. She said that he stopped harassing her, but only for a few weeks. She told the newspaper, “He acted hurt and said I had misunderstood him. He stayed away for two weeks, then he was back to his tricks. I finally confided in the executive producer and made sure that I was escorted everywhere.”
When asked how could an actress deal with the harassment on set, Swara Bhaskar said, “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 is succumbing to a wrong.”
On the Bollywood front, Swara Bhaskar is currently shooting for her upcoming film ‘Veere Di Wedding’ with Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor and Shikha Talsania. The film releases on May 18, 2018.