Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane on Sunday offered clarifications on the row over sexual harassment allegations against their Phantom Films partner Vikas Bahl.
In separate statements, Kashyap and Motwane, who formed the company along with Bahl and Madhu Mantena seven years ago, detailed the deliberations that took place in order to bring their partner to task.
Kashyap said his legal aide told him there was nothing he could do to fire Bahl from the company.
“I did everything I could, within what I was told by my partner and his lawyers. His word and his team’s word on any matter used to be the final word for us,” said Kashyap.
“According to legal advice provided to me then, I was told that we had very limited options. Now in hindsight and after taking stock of things myself, I can quite see how I was ill-advised.”
The director added 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”.
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 Kashyap and detailed her experience, but no action was taken while Bahl continued to harass her until she left the company.
Kashyap claimed that the story got out only after he corroborated it with HuffPost journalist and added that he was the anonymous source who shared the story with the press last year.
Motwane, in his statement, said he was unaware of 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.”
Apologising for the incident, he said he will ensure a safer work 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.
The company’s fourth partner, Mantena, is yet to react on the controversy.
While big names from the Hindi film industry have still not reacted on the row, the revelations against Bahl drew a fierce reaction from their frequent collaborators — Sacred Games co-writer Varun Grover and Masaan director Neeraj Ghaywan.
Grover took to Twitter to slam the company for failing to provide its women employees a safe work environment.
“I am sorry. As somebody who has been a part of many projects with #Phantom in various capacities (lyrics/writer), I feel ashamed that they failed to provide safe working environment for women,” he wrote.
He said it was a failure on his part that he did not stress upon the company to follows the guidelines of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, also known as PoSH guidelines.
Ghaywan said he felt disgusted by the allegations.
“I have felt absolutely disgusted by what Vikas Bahl did to a fellow team member. A legal complication enabled that he couldn’t be sacked owing to him being a partner.
“I am complicit in working with the company that allows it. I allowed myself to work where such toxic male behaviour and perverse patriarchal mindset fostered,” he wrote.
Before the HuffPost article was published, the four partners on Saturday announced that have decided to dissolve their banner Phantom Films, without citing the reason for the decision.
The article, which went viral on social media, was shared by a number of Bollywood celebrities such as filmmaker Hansal Mehta, screenwriter Apurva Asrani, director Nandita Das and Kubbra Sait, among others.