The Iranian actress has spoken about how Shah tried to sexually harass her for nearly two months on the false promise of casting her in his film.
Elnaaz Norouzi accuses Namaste England director Vipul Shah of sexual harassment
Mumbai - 19 Oct 2018 14:39 IST
The newest name to have cropped up in the #MeToo movement is director Vipul Amrutlal Shah.
Iranian actress-model Elnaaz Norouzi has accused Shah of sexual harassment. Speaking to a tabloid [Mid-Day], Norouzi narrated her ordeal of how Shah allegedly harassed her. Norouzi was last seen in Netflix web-series Sacred Games, in which she played a foreign actress Zoya.
Before she had signed for Sacred Games, Norouzi was approached by Shah for a role in his film Namaste England, which is currently in theatres. According to Norouzi, Shah was considering her for a role that was initially turned down by Jacqueline Fernandez. She said the filmmaker kept giving her false assurances of a contract, asked for repeated auditions, and even called her to a hotel in Amritsar where he allegedly tried to molest her.
Shah gave her the impression that she was all but signed for the film, but he never offered her a contract. In the first audition, he asked her to come at 6am to Versova beach where casting director Honey Trehan, as claimed by Norouzi, wasn’t given any briefing.
Unimpressed by her show, Shah allegedly called her to his office few days later.
“I met him again in his office, and again he mentioned, 'We will sign the papers over the next couple of days'," said Norouzi.
"This time, when we were saying bye, he came on to me. It was too close for comfort. I didn't get the right vibe. He gave a peck on my face. I didn't expect it. I called up my manager after this to say, 'Vipul is serious. He wants to sign the papers. Get in touch with him and go ahead'. For days, I kept chasing my manager, who told me that Vipul wasn't getting back," she added.
Norouzi went through six rounds of audition and each time Shah wasn’t impressed, leaving her depressed, she claimed. She became suspicious when Shah repeatedly started calling her to his office.
"The next time we met at his office, he tried to kiss me. I backed off, said, 'What are you doing? We are in your office!' I pushed him away, being affirmative; but careful enough not to come across as rude, because I really wanted the film," she told Mid-Day.
Namaste England stars Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra and is shot in Punjab and London. According to Norouzi, Shah had told her that she would be required for the London shoot. But he asked her to come to Punjab to get familiar with the lead cast. He auditioned her again where Shah allegedly tried getting close to her again. A peeved Norouzi said she wasn’t well and then left the country citing other commitments. Upon her return to India, Shah supposedly asked her to come to an Amritsar hotel for another audition.
“I asked him about when I could hear the (film's) story. He had always avoided narrating it thus far. This time, he said, 'Come to my room. I will make you hear the script.' At this point, he touched my butt and dragged me towards himself. I dodged him, went to my room, and sat there wondering if I should just give in. When I got a message from his assistant to come down for dinner, I thought everything was normal. But I felt there was something weird about him at the table," said Norouzi.
All this kept going on for two months before Norouzi managed to get a break in Sacred Games, produced by Phantom Films, which was dissolved earlier this month.
"At that point, I took the offer to Vipul. He said that he would launch me in a big way. It was a girl-next-door part in Namaste England, and that he was clear he would not be able to cast me, as a result of Sacred Games, and that I should skip the offer since they would make me do nude scenes. I was ready to let go of Sacred Games, when a friend of mine made me go back to Phantom, and ask them what my scenes were going to be like. I told Vipul that I had no (nude) scenes in Sacred Games, and that I had read the script,” she elaborated. Norouzi played an important role in Sacred Games as Zoya, an actress.
Even after all this, Shah approached Norouzi again for Commando 3 through his associates, but she turned it down.
We tried to contact Shah, but did not get a reply.
In an earlier interview with us, Shah had outlined the measures his company had taken to avoid cases of sexual harassment.
"I am not sure how we can handle it [sexual harassment cases], but in my company there is a rule. When a boy or a girl comes to us for casting, no executive can meet them alone. Either they have to bring somebody with them or two people from the company will sit with them. And if at all they are meeting alone it has to be in our glass cabin. These are basic rules that you have to put in practice to create an environment where girls feel safe to come into your office," he had said.