Sandhya Mridul, crew member accuses Alok Nath of sexual harassment

The #MeToo movement in India has gathered momentum in recent days, with more than a dozen complaints of sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct leveled online against prominent journalists, actors, movie directors, comedians and other public figures.

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Most recently, veteran Indian producer Vinta Nanda accused television bigwig Alok Nath, who is known for his ‘sanskaari‘ image on screen. After her claims of Nath brutalising her, not just once but twice, a woman crew member of Hum Saath Saath Hain shared her horrific experience of working with him.

“We were shooting for a night scene and I had taken a change of costumes to him. Once I handed him the clothes, he started stripping in front of me. I was taken aback, and tried to make my way out of the room as soon as possible. When I tried to run out, he grabbed my hand and manhandled me. I remember yanking my hand out of his grip and rushing out of the room,” she alleged.

In an interview with Mid-Day, the woman recounted her horrific experience during the last schedule of the film in Mumbai.

Sandhya Mridul, who is known for starring in films like Angry Indian Goddesses and Page 3, shared with HuffPost India, that she looked up to Alok Nath and worked with him on a telefilm during the start of her career: “Alok Nath was very impressed with me and called me ‘God’s own child’ and openly praised me every day… I felt so fortunate happy and confident.”

She revealed that he first made her uncomfortable during a dinner with other cast members: “At dinner he got progressively drunk and started insisting I sit with him and that I belonged to him and other stuff that I don’t clearly remember but it made me very nervous and uncomfortable. My co-star realised what was happening and got me out of there.”

Vinta Nanda, Indian Director, who produced and wrote hit TV serial ‘Tara’ has alleged that veteran actor Alok Nath (famously known as Babu Ji), who was part of the show, raped her.

Nanda alleged that Alok Nath raped her and harassed Tara’s female lead. Alok is commonly known for his roles as a stereotypical Indian father, personifying religious traditions and moral values in films and TV shows.

“I have waited for this moment to come for 19 years,” Nanda wrote. Without mentioning the actor’s name, the filmmaker referred to the “predator in question” as “the actor par excellence who is known as the most ‘sanskaari’ (cultured) person in the film and television industry”. She later confirmed to IANS that she was referring to Alok Nath.

The filmmaker recalled the ‘worst’ that happened and narrated the incidents that followed after she left a party at Nath’s house. “I remember being violated endlessly. When I woke up the next afternoon, I was in pain. I hadn’t just been raped, I was taken to my own house and had been brutalised. I couldn’t get up for my bed. I told some of my friends but everybody advised me to forget about it and move on,” she said.

Nath has responded to Nanda’s allegations and said, “Neither I am denying this nor do I would agree with it. It (rape) must have happened, but someone else would have done it. Well, I do not want to talk much about it as for the matter if it has come out, it will be stretched.”

“At one time she used to be such a good friend… today she said such a big thing. In a way, it was me who made her what she is. It is useless to react on the allegations as in today’s world whatever a woman says, only that will be considered. In such a situation, it would be wrong to say anything,” he added.

The year-old #MeToo movement has long failed to take root in India, but a Bollywood actress’s accusations of sexual harassment appear to be emboldening women to speak out at last.

In recent days other Bollywood figures, a comedian, a best-selling author and top journalists have all found themselves accused of abusing their positions to behave improperly towards women.

The spark is actress Tanushree Dutta, who in a recent interview accused well-known Bollywood actor Nana Patekar of inappropriate behaviour on a film set 10 years ago.

She spoke out at the time, to no avail. But the global #MeToo phenomenon encouraged her to go public again and on Saturday to file a police complaint against Patekar, who issued a denial.

Dutta also alleged that filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri behaved inappropriately towards her while shooting a 2005 movie. Agnihotri’s lawyer denied the “frivolous” claims.

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