As part of the ongoing #MeToo campaign movement on Indian social media, Kannada actor Sangeetha Bhat came out with her own story. In a Facebook post, the actor alleged that she had faced sexual assault and misconduct on multiple occasions, and it ultimately compelled her to quit the Sandalwood for good. She added that these incidents “have haunted” her every night and are the reason behind her depression.
Without taking names, the Dayavittu Gamanisi actor accused a casting director, a serial director whose daughter, she said, is also an actor; three film directors and two assistants, including one director who who “was in news for allegations of casting couch”; one producer, a Tamil TV comedian, and two Kannada actors from one family, of sexual misconduct and assault.
“I guess it’s time I shared my experiences as well. I have found courage in sharing these moments, which have haunted me every night before I shut my eyes,” she wrote.
The first incident Sangeetha recounts happened when she was 15 years of age. Having lost her father at a young age, Sangeetha decided to work in the film industry as acting was her passion.
“In 2008, I auditioned for a Kannada movie. It was being produced by the ex-husband of a well known serial artiste. One day, the casting director took me in his car to have my costumes checked at their office in Vijaynagar (after promising and assuring my mother that he'd take care of me like a brother). He stops the car halfway in a deserted area, starts forcibly touching me all over and ends jerking infront of me. I was a 15-year-old kid then. I didn't realise what was happening. He then says in Kannada, "this is a normal thing here in the industry. I didn't even touch you. I just touched myself"...and then tries to assure me and act like everything is just normal. (sic),” she alleged.
She added, “The same day, I reach the office to try out costurnes. The main director looks at me and sits in front of me to see me dress. He then walks up and starts touching me all over. I ran outside in trauma. The movie never went on floors.”
In another incident from 2009, Sangeetha alleged that after her mother invited home the director and two assistants of her first film for dinner, the trio allegedly turned up drunk and tried to manhandle Sangeetha. “Me and mom ran out of the house and hid in the terrace until they left. This movie got completed. But never got released (sic),” Sangeetha said.
She also wrote about another incident where a woman hairdresser allegedly molested her, and then badmouthed to another director. This director, who Sangeetha alludes to as one who made news for “casting couch” (sexual harassment) recently, allegedly tried to solicit sex from her as well. “His daughter is currently an actress as well! I hope she doesn't go through such incidents,” Sangeetha said.
In yet another harrowing experience in 2012, a well known producer, who was apparently dating her roommate at the time, allegedly told Sangeetha that if she slept with him just once, he would cast her alongside a big film star in an upcoming project. “He also said, he can make me rich by pimping me out, coz he had some great connects with business tycoons. When I told this to my roommate (his girlfriend) about all this. She asked me to leave the house! (sic),” Sangeetha narrated.
She talks about several other incidents of being slut shamed, receiving unsolicited sexts, being asked coloured questions, and also facing sexual harassment on set of the film by a Tamil comedian in 2015-16.
Sangeetha is the first woman in the Kannada film industry to speak on the issue so far. As to why she did not take names, she said it was because she did not have proof apart from her own trauma. “And also because, I care about their families who were no way involved. I am sure the people reading this would realise their mistakes,” she said.
Sangeetha also talked about how she did not speak up earlier fearing for her career, and about how she hid her marital status because married women do not get much work in the industry. She further shed light on the lack of pay parity as well. “Most of the time, I was paid peanuts..and the movie used to go on for two/three years...and sometimes don't even release! ...On an average, I would earn less than 8k a month! ...Imagine the survival. It was just the passion for acting that kept me moving ahead (sic),” she said.
Sangeetha concluded the post saying that while quitting the Kannada film industry has brought her a sense of peace, acting was a passion she would continue through theatre and short films she would do for her own satisfaction.
Sangeetha’s post comes in shortly after the demand for an Internal Complaints Committee by several members Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce. TNM had earlier reported how Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce President SA Chinne Gowda has agreed to transfer all sexual harassment cases to Film Industry for Rights and Equity’s (FIRE) ICC.
Read her full post here: