#MeToo: Kangana Ranaut accuses Vikas Bahl of sexual misconduct
Director and co-founder of Phantom Films, Vikas Bahl's name has come up in the wake of Bollywood's #MeToo movement. He was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee. Bahl ironically gained repute for his film 'Queen' and its feminist tone. However, now, 'Queen' actress Kangana Ranaut has accused Bahl of making her feel uncomfortable with his behavior. But, why were you quiet, Kangana, all this while?
Bahl was first accused by his employee in 2015, for sexually harassing her and creating a toxic work-environment after the incident. Initially brushed aside, post-Tanushree Dutta's accusations against Nana Patekar, the survivor's story resurfaced after three years and led to Bahl's co-founded Phantom Films' dissolution.
Only after the survivor's retelling of the incident went viral, courtesy HuffPost, Kangana came out in support of the woman and alleged that Bahl made her feel uncomfortable too on several occasions. The actress charged him with unwanted physical proximity, a shameless admission of promiscuity and shaming her for not being cool. Notably, Kangana said she supported the survivor even back in 2015.
Kangana supported the woman saying, "Totally believe her...Vikas was married back in 2014 when we were filming Queen, he bragged about having casual sex with a new partner every other day. I don't judge people... but you can tell when addiction becomes sickness".
Kangana's personal encounter with Bahl's unacceptable behavior came when he would embrace her tightly, breathe in her hair and say 'I love how you smell K'. She notably mentioned her tiff with the director because she supported the harassed woman in 2015. The 'Queen' actress recalls that Bahl stopped discussing a film about a Haryana gold medalist with Kangana, due to her stance.
Although Kangana and Bahl, apparently fell out over her support of the woman, the actress does not mind. Her ideology was more important than a film's script. Moreover, Kangana said others were a 'bunch of cowards' for expressing selective outrage and finding the courage to attack Bahl only after Phantom Films' dissolution. Notably, the actress' statement implies she was always opposed to Bahl's actions.
What appears problematic is if Kangana really supported the woman and was discomforted by Bahl's behavior, why not speak up then? Though we shouldn't question the timing of survivors deciding to narrate experiences, Kangana has always taken on big Bollywood names, like Karan Johar for nepotism. Maybe if she had gone public then, the woman's testimony might not have been 'pushed under the carpet'.
I have criticized Kangana for not taking her narrative public before, as she held more power within Bollywood, compared to Bahl's accuser. Since the power disparity in Kangana-Bahl's relationship was lesser, her narrative would have been more effective in helping the woman get justice.