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Casting directors Mukesh Chhabra, Vicky Sidana accused of sexual harassment, both deny allegations

Four women have accused Chhabra and Sidana of inappropriate sexual behaviour during the audition process.

Our Correspondent

Casting directors Mukesh Chhabra and Vicky Sidana are the latest names in the Hindi film industry to be accused of sexual harassment by aspiring actresses. According to a report in the Mid-Day, a tabloid, two women each have accused Chhabra and Sidana for inappropriate sexual behaviour during the audition process.

One anonymous actress recounted that during an audition for a film role at Chhabra's Aram Nagar office, the casting director "grabbed me hard and felt me up". The actress was enacting a scene from a film when Chhabra tried to show her how the hero and heroine should hug.

“Under the pretext of showing me how the scene should be performed, he grabbed me hard and felt me up. I could feel his hand on my butt. I was shell-shocked and immediately withdrew. He realised [my trepidation] and started vehemently apologising. At one point, he said, I thought you were fine with it because other girls are,” she recalled.

Another anonymous actress provided the newspaper a recorded phone conversation with Chhabra for a 2017 project with actor Varun Dhawan. The casting director allegedly told the actress, "You'll have to compromise, get physical with people in power." When the young woman said no, he responded, "I am not promising that people ready to compromise get selected. Everyone is ready to compromise. It's no big deal. We can meet at a hotel tonight."

Chhabra denied the allegations made against him and put up two letters on Twitter, citing legal action against the newspaper.

The letter calls Mid-Day's report "a clearly motivated piece" and Chhabra denies "any incident as alleged took place." He has asked for the complainants' names and the phone recording be brought forward to their Internal Complaints Committee so that an investigation can be conducted.

Meanwhile, two other women have also accused casting director Vicky Sidana of sexual harassment. An anonymous actress who was auditioning for a role on a Neeraj Pandey film alleged that Sidana molested her sister while she was away at a photoshoot.

"He got chatting with my sister. He then pushed her on the couch and squeezed her breast, all the while muttering, 'Actress kyun nahin ban jati.' When I heard about it, I swore I would never see his face again," she told Mid-Day.

Another actress, who wished not to be named, said Sidana misbehaved with her at his home.

She stated, "The role in question needed me to have a pixie cut. He pulled my hair away from my face to see how I would look in short hair. Then, he grabbed me from the side and tried to hug me. I could feel his d*** hard against my thigh. I somehow managed to run out."

Sidana, too, has denied both allegations and told the paper that these accusations are an attempt to malign him.

"I have never called anyone home. If I have, my wife would have been there. In any case, if someone is not naming themselves, how do I prove myself innocent? One has to understand, that as casting agents, we suffer the wrath of those we don't cast. They harbour ill feelings towards us and this is an attempt to malign me. I have been working since nine years and have a certain reputation. Casting directors are harassed by budding actors; they send objectionable pictures and messages."

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Sexual harassment