Actor Vichitra, a contestant in the reality show Bigg Boss Tamil season 7, has alleged that she was sexually harassed by a popular actor, forcing her to quit the film industry nearly two decades ago. Vichitra, who has acted in many south Indian films in supporting roles, said that she disappeared from the film industry in 2001 following her marriage. But sexual harassment was the real reason behind it, she told the other contestants.
“I was working with one of the top heroes for a film.” Vichitra said. According to her, the cast had been accommodated in a three-star hotel in Malampuzha in Palakkad district of Kerala. The hotel management had organised a party to celebrate the building renovation, which was attended by the film’s lead hero. “I met the hero there. Before he could even ask my name, he asked: ‘Are you acting in this film?’ When I said yes, he said, ‘Come to my room.’”
Vichitra said that she ignored the actor’s demand following which she was subjected to sexual harassment. “They created a lot of problems at the shooting spot. After 6 pm, men would consume alcohol and bang on my room’s door.” Unable to tolerate the harassment, she complained about it to the general manager of the hotel, who she later married. She said that to avoid the harassment at night, she had to switch hotel rooms everyday. “They got irritated. They wanted to teach me a lesson. I did not know about it.”
She then recalled that they were shooting for a scene in a village set in which goons would harass villagers. On the pretext of harassing the characters, a stunt man had repeatedly groped her, she said. “I caught him in the act during the third time. I took him to the stunt master and complained to him that he was touching me inappropriately. The stunt master removed my hand from the stunt man’s collar and slapped me hard. I was stunned!”
Vichitra also recalled that she complained about the incident to the actors union but nothing came out of it. “The head of the actors union asked me why I approached them and not the police,” she said.
Vichitra disclosed that the hotel’s general manager agreed to help her by being a witness in the case and she went ahead and filed a police complaint in Chennai. “They asked me to go for a medical test, but the mark of the slap was no longer there.”
She also recalled that the case was dismissed. “I thought then that despite such an atrocity, no one came forward to support me. I asked myself if I should still be in the cinema industry. Maybe they thought that I deserved it. Maybe they thought it was common for people like me. Even the union leader asked me to forget things and move on.”
Vichitra said that she made the decision to quit films after her husband questioned her about the lack of dignity for women in the industry, and the failure of a mechanism to address sexual harassment at workplace.
The India Today had reported about this incident then, albeit in a disparaging manner. According to the report, Vichitra had complained against stunt master A Vijay for physically assaulting her during the shooting of actor Balakrishna’s Bhalevadivayya Basu, which was released in 2001. While recounting her experiences to other contestants during a task, Vichitra did not name the hero or the stunt master. However, questions are being asked to both on social media.