The #MeToo movement continues to expose Bollywood's underbelly of sexual misconduct. Speaking out now is an actor, who was allegedly asked in 2010 by Pyaar ka Punchnama director Luv Ranjan to strip down to her underwear during an audition for the movie. She'd left the audition after mentioning she wasn't comfortable doing so.
But another uncomfortable conversation with Ranjan followed, where he asked her if she masturbates. She ended up pulling out of the film, a decision that was met with several messages from Ranjan telling her she'd 'misunderstood' him. The actor has now come out with her story in mid-day.
The actor says
"It was 2010. I was 24, and had done two small roles in big movies opposite well-known actors, and was in the auditioning phase. I was called by Vicky Sidana, a casting director, who said that the auditions for Pyaar Ka Punchnama were on, and a very short list of girls had been called for them. I trusted him and hence, went for it. The dress code was a short skirt and a tight top, which was fairly common, and wasn't a problem with me. There were seven to eight girls there, and the strange part was that they didn't give us dialogues as they would usually ask you to enact the scene. This was supposedly only a look test.
I was at Kumar Mangat's office and Abhishek Pathak, his son, was the producer. I'm not sure whether or not he was present that day because I didn't see him or interact with him. The director, Luv Ranjan, and the cinematographer were sitting in a room and calling the girls in one by one. The girl who went in before me came out with an ashen look and seemed uncomfortable. She hurriedly left. Then I went in. The room was properly lit for an audition and there was a proper camera set up, etc. They asked me to give an introduction, which was totally normal, totally legitimate.
Then, Luv Ranjan said there was a kissing scene and bikini scene in the movie and asked if I was fine with that, to which I said yes. He said he wanted to see what I'd look like in a bikini. Later in life, when I gave another audition for a movie, there was a female stylist who gave me a bikini to do a look test in the presence of lots of people.
Luv asked me to strip down to my bra and panties. He said he wanted to see my body so he could check if I needed to lose weight. He said they were not recording anything and the cinematographer would also leave the room, so I needn't worry. After that, it all gets blurry. My heart was pounding and I rushed out saying I had to leave, and wasn't comfortable with it. I went home and tried to forget about it.
It felt strange
This felt strange. I didn't even know if this was part of the protocol because I wasn't from the industry, but I just knew that it didn't feel right. The people I had worked with prior to this had been absolute gems, totally respectful and professional. I didn't mention this to anyone at that point. Within a day or two, I got a call from Vicky saying I'd been finalised for the role. I was happy so I said let's forget this, and go do the movie. I met Kumar Mangat and Abhishek, and all three male leads were there too.
They spoke about the contract and other details. I went into the cabin, where the three boys and Luv were there. They were making me try on a nose ring for my character. I asked for a script at the time, to which Luv said, "If a script decided the fate of a film, then even Amitabh [Bachchan] would have never given a flop. What will you understand from a script? I will make you look hot, you will have songs, I'll make you a star."
When I kept asking, he gave a weak narration of the film. I kept thinking about he hasn't even seen me act. He said all that will be taken care of in workshops, and there was one at 7 pm at Abhishek's house. When I went there, the three male leads, Abhishek, his dog, Vicky, an acting coach, one male AD and Luv were there. Abhishek left soon after. The boys had scripts in their hand and were rehearsing with the acting coach in the hall. Luv said, "The guys have a scene today, so we'll just talk."
'Are you a virgin?'
We went into another room because he said it would be noisy in the living room where we were rehearsing. I kept waiting for someone to come with us and wondered why I was here if I wasn't in the workshop. He said a director and his actor need to be friends.
"You need to draw from your experiences and when you can't, I need to know you so well, that I can help you," said Luv. He asked me about my schooling and family, so I relaxed. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend, to which I said yes. Then he asked, "Are you a virgin?" I was shocked. He said, "Arrey, we can talk like this, we're adults."
Then he asked me if I used condoms. The last straw was him asking me if I masturbate. By then, I was scared and asked if I could leave. He said I shouldn't misunderstand him, and called the three guys into the room and asked them, "Do you trust me enough as a director, that if I were to ask you to drop your pants, you would?"
They all said yes. I don't blame them. They were also young and wanted to make it in the industry and had no idea in what context they'd been called in and asked this question. He then asked them to go back to the rehearsals. He told me to relax, and that it wasn't [because] I was a girl; that's how it worked. I still said I needed to go as my parents would worry, and left. I went and sat in my car and started shaking and crying. I'd escaped.