Sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct are the bane of our society. With many in the west speaking up against producer-distributor Harvey Weinstein, a lot of other names have come to the fore. Back home, the film industry is known to have the casting- couch menace but it’s only spoken in hush-hush tones. In an interview to Mumbai Mirror, the very talented Swara Bhaskar opens up on lost roles as the dreaded casting-couch.
The 29-year-old actress has acted in close to 15 movies since 2009. Some of her movies like Tanu Weds Manu and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo were among Bollywood’s highest-grossers. However, the talented actress had a hard time finding roles as she denied the couch. “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 I would not give in”, she told the Mumbai Mirror.
Speaking about how patriarchal the movie sets are she says, “The way film sets operates is often feudal and always hierarchical, where some people give instructions and other execute them.”
It is appalling that in a time where there are movies such as Julie and Annarkali of Aarah talk about the dirty ritual of casting couch, the practice is still rampant. Talking about her movie Annarkali of Aarah, Swara tells that how the protagonist’s choice to sleep with her manager does in no way make her okay with being propositioned. “It doesn’t matter what a woman does, she does not want to be touched or propositioned without consent. Period.”
Over 300 women have spoken up in Hollywood and there have been close to 31 official complaints. One can only hope that the trend follows suit in Bollywood and more women speak up against any misconduct. Swara says, “We need to stop silencing and start sharing. We need to stop-slut shaming and ask for a collective platform to deal with this issue. We are all guilty of being in the know and remaining silent. And that is complicity.”