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Phantom Films' Vikas Bahl denies being sacked over sexual harassment charges

A woman working with Phantom Films allegedly accused Bahl of sexually molesting her during a trip to Goa a few months ago, following which a committee was set up to investigate the charges. 

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Filmmaker Vikas Bahl, who shot to fame with Kangana Ranaut’s Queen, has been reportedly ousted from Phantom Films as multiple charges of sexual harassment have been levelled against him. The matter came to the light after a woman working with Phantom Films allegedly accused Bahl of sexually molesting her during a trip to Goa a few months ago.

As per reports, Anurag Kashyap, Madhu Mantena and Vikramaditya Motwane, stakeholders at Phantom, took the victim’s complaint to Reliance Entertainment, with whom they have a 50-50 partnership. This resulted in setting up of a committee, as per Vishakha Guidelines to hear the girl’s grievances. Following this, Bahl was told to step down from the company on 28 March.

Vishakha Guidelines were promulgated by the Supreme Court for use in India in cases of sexual harassment.

Justifying the decision, one of the stakeholders told a daily on the basis of anonymity, “The decision needed to be taken because it was getting too much. There are not one, two or three but multiple victims. I was in the middle of a film shoot when I came to know about the first incident and I had to stop my shoot and come to Mumbai. There is a young girl on whom an intoxicated Vikas forced himself while they were in Goa. He has behaved badly in the past as well, but when this specific complaint came, we needed to act on it.” 

The stakeholder also added that Bahl’s sacking will act as an example since such incidents are common occurrences in the film world. “This industry is filled with instances like this and this is going on since ages. But it has to stop, and we will make sure it is done the right way. It is important to see this through. Vikas being sacked will affect everyone,” he added. 

However, Bahl has denied all allegations as false. “Nothing has happened. I am running the company. There is no complaint to HR and there is no Vishakha committee. I have heard about this particular lady you are speaking about and the Goa incident. She is not my employee. Yes, I am friends with her, we have worked together and there is a production job we have done together. But if she is feeling like this I would like to sit across a table from her and talk to her,” he told the daily. 

But he also stated that he would like to apologise to the victim if she feels he crossed the line. “I want to ask her if I have crossed a line, whether I have done anything to hurt her and if she feels that way I would like to apologise for it. I have known her for long. For two-and-a-half years she has never made me feel as if she is uncomfortable. I have worked very hard to be the person I have become. I do feel a little victimised but I don’t know what to do about that,” he added. 

In fact, Bahl has also expressed surprise at the turn of events as, according to him, he is liked by all. “People really like me. I don’t know why anyone would stoop to this level. Phantom Films is like my family. I gave up a huge job to start this company. My shares in Phantom are equal to the others. We are equal partners and best friends,” he added. 

Ironically, Queen, Bahl’s claim to fame, is a film about women's empowerment. 

The incident has come just weeks after Anurabh Kumar, the founder of digital channel The Viral Fever (TVF), was accused by a number of women of sexual harassment.