For Chitrangada Singh, the wounds of the horrific incident that occurred on the sets of Kushan Nandy’s Babumoshai Bandookbaaz in 2016 are still raw and hurting. For those who came in late, Chitrangada was asked to do a vulgar love-making sequence with the film’s leading man Nawazuddin Siddiqui. When she protested, she was taunted, jeered, admonished until she had to leave.
Recalling the ghastly episode Chitrangada says, “I’d like nothing better than to forget about it. But the incident refuses to go away. I had spoken about it when it happened two years ago. But I was declared ‘troublesome’ and ‘moody’ and made to pack my bags. They found a replacement for me overnight (Bidita Bag) who went around saying how lucky she was to get such a role.”
Chitrangada feels, unless women in the film industry come together to protest against exploitation it won’t stop. “How can men take our voices of dissent seriously when another actress walks right into a role after one actress says she’s been harassed ? It is true that women are the worst enemies of their own kind. Even when I was being harassed on the sets of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz the film’s lady producer was there, making things worse for me.”
For the record, Chitrangada was asked to take off her saree get on top of her hero and rub herself.
“I pleaded that this was not in my comfort zone. I said I was wearing only a petticoat underneath the saree. The director told me not to fuss and just do what was required. I was intimidated bullied and threatened into doing it. Some crew members were mortified. But Nawaz just sat there waiting for the storm to blow over,” recalls Chitrangada.
After the harassment and bullying Chitrangada retired into her van to weep. A little later she recalls the director Kushan Nandy paying her a visit. “He didn’t ask me if I was okay. He just asked, ‘Are you doing the scene?’. I said no. He left. Nawaz could’ve taken a stand against my harassment. He didn’t. When empowered men in the film industry do not take a stand, the harassers feel encouraged.”