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He touched, kissed me wherever he wanted: Actress Usha Jadhav shares casting couch experience

While several industry insiders refuse to accept the existence of the casting couch, actresses Radhika Apte and Usha Jadhav have stepped forward to reveal their own personal ordeal in a BBC documentary.

Radhika Apte and Usha Jadhav

Shriram Iyengar

The Indian film industry is set to have its own #MeToo moment, and it is a long time coming. After the shocking revelation of Telugu actress Sri Reddy spurred the Telugu film industry into action, there have been several calls for the Hindi film industry to step up and take on the 'casting couch' from within.

While several industry insiders refuse to accept the existence of the casting couch, actresses Radhika Apte and Usha Jadhav have stepped forward to reveal their own personal ordeal in a BBC documentary.

Titled Bollywood's Dark Secret, the BBC World News report is set to be aired on Saturday (28 April) and Sunday (29 April).

The investigative documentary revolves around the inconspicuous existence of 'casting couch' within the Hindi film industry. Actress Radhika Apte, one of those featured in the documentary, stated that the power of the perpetrators in the industry is one reason a #MeToo cannot happen in India.

A report by the tabloid, Mid-Day, quoted the actress saying, "Some people are regarded as Gods. They are so powerful that people just don't think that my voice is going to matter, or people think that if I speak, probably my career is going to get ruined."

Apte, who starred alongside Akshay Kumar in Pad Man (2018), added, "The way the women, and the men, of course, came together [in Hollywood] and decided that as a team we are not going to let this happen, I wish that could happen here."

In the documentary, Marathi actress Usha Jadhav shared her own personal experience of being molested by a director.

The actress revealed that a producer asked her sexual favours in return for an opportunity in films. She said, "I said something on the lines of, 'What? I don't have money'. He said, 'No, no, no, no. It's not about money, it's about you sleeping with, maybe it can be a producer, maybe it can be a director, it can be both too."

Jadhav added that she had to suffer molestation before she could get out of there. "He started telling me that for an actress, you should be happy to have sex as and when possible, and embrace your sexuality...He touched me wherever he wanted, he kissed me wherever he wanted and I was shocked. He put his hand inside my clothes so I asked him to stop and he said, 'Do you know what [sic], if you really want to work in this industry I don't think you've got the right attitude'."

The existence of the casting couch phenomenon has been called out by several actresses like Richa Chadha, Taapsee Pannu before. However, there are several prominent members of the industry who refuse to take a stand.

Recently, choreographer Saroj Khan dismissed the furore over sexual harrassment in the industry by saying, "Yeh chala aa raha hai baba azam ke zamaane se. Har ladki ke upar koi na koi haath saaf karne ki koshish karta hai. Government ke log bhi karte hain. Tum film industry ke peeche kyun pade ho? Woh kam se kam roti toh deti hai. Rape karke chhod toh nahi deti [This has been taking place since ages. Every girl is a target. Even the government employees indulge into this. Why do you always target the film industry? At least, the film industry provides work. They don’t dump you after raping]."

Incidentally, actor Ranbir Kapoor, during the promotion of his upcoming film, Sanju, was asked a similar question on the casting couch phenomenon. The star joked that "I have never faced it. If it's there, it's the worst kind."

The question itself prompted a laughing director Rajkumar Hirani to say, "What do you expect our stance to be?"

The film industry in the United States of America underwent a drastic change after a group of women stepped forward accusing producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. Since then, several other prominent names such as that of actor Kevin Spacey, director Woody Allen, and Quentin Tarantino have come under the purvey of these accusations.

Now, it remains to be seen if these growing voices manage to spur a change in the Indian film industry.

Related topics

Casting Couch