Queen director cleared
Vikas Bahl was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee of Phantom Films
» Probe says the complainant did not appear before the internal committee
» Bahl, who was removed from Hrithikstarrer Super 30, will be credited for directing it
» Bahl has filed defamation suits against former partners Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane
Director Vikas Bahl, who was accused of sexual misconduct by a former employee of Phantom Films and was removed from Hrithik Roshanstarrer Super 30, has been cleared of all charges following an internal inquiry by Reliance Entertainment, which held a 50% stake in Phantom. Mirror has learnt that the clean chit will enable Bahl to return to Super 30 and his name will be incorporated in the credits when the film’s trailer is released next week. The development could split the Hindi film industry right down the middle, as Bahl has already filed defamation suits against fellow directors Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane for comments on his alleged sexual wrongdoings. Phantom Films, founded by Bahl, Kashyap, Motwane, and film producer Madhu Mantena in 2011, was disbanded last year following the controversy.
Bahl, 47, who entered the Bollywood A-listers’ club with the 2014 blockbuster Queen which won the National Award for Best Hindi Film, was accused by the woman of sexual harassment on a trip to Goa in 2015. Subsequently, the film’s lead actor Kangana Ranaut along with Kashyap and Motwane spoke about Bahl’s alleged misconduct, culminating in his removal from Super 30—a biopic on educationist Anand Kumar—which is produced by Reliance Entertainment.
Shibasish Sarkar, Group CEO, Reliance Entertainment, confirmed the clean chit to Bahl and him being credited for Super 30. “Yes, it is true that the internal complaints committee report has exonerated Vikas Bahl. With the committee clearing Vikas, we don’t have a choice but to reinstate his credit as director of Super 30,” Sarkar told Mumbai Mirror yesterday.
This newspaper has learnt that Reliance Entertainment’s internal complaints committee probed allegations with due diligence. “Despite repeated reminders, the complainant did not appear before the committee,” a source told. “Those associated with the complainant and the respondent were interviewed by the committee. It also recorded documentation and correspondence between the two and based on this, it has unanimously concluded that Vikas Bahl stands exonerated of all charges levelled against him,” the source said.
After the allegations came to light in 2017, Bahl had clarified that the woman was not an employee of his company but a friend, and that they had collaborated on a project. “I’d like to sit across the table and talk to her. I want to ask her whether I have crossed the line, whether I did anything to hurt her, and if she feels that way, I’d like to apologise to her. I have known her for long. For twoand-a-half years she has never made me feel as if she is uncomfortable (around me). I have worked very hard to be the person I have become. I do feel victimised, but I don’t know what to do about it,” Bahl had said then.
On October 8, in the wake of the #MeToo movement in India, Hrithik tweeted, “It is impossible for me to work with any person if he/she is guilty of such grave misconduct. I am away and have access to only sporadic information. I have requested the producers of Super 30 to take stock of the apparent facts and take a harsh stand if need be. This is not to be hushed or brushed under the carpet. All proven offenders must be punished, and all exploited people must be empowered and given strength to speak up.”
Sources said that Bahl wrote to Reliance Entertainment to launch an investigation as the company or Phantom Films never received a formal complaint from the woman. “The woman said the incident took place in 2015—the same year that the Reliance-Phantom merger happened. Over the next two years, till April 20, 2017, Reliance did not receive any complaint nor did it have an idea of any such alleged incident. The company always had an internal complaints committee to deal with such issues but no compliant was registered with it either,” the source said.