Queen director Vikas Bahl, who has been accused of sexual assault, has sent legal notices to his former Phantom Films partners Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, accusing them of defaming him. According to a Mumbai Mirror report, Bahl accused Motwane and Kashyap of orchestrating a campaign against him.
Bahl accused his former partners of using the allegation as an opportunity to disband Phantom Films and pin the blame on him. The notices came in the wake of Kashyap and Motwane’s statements on social media condemning Bahl in the wake of the allegations.
“You are neither a witness nor the alleged victim, but instead an opportunist seeking to derive benefit based on unsubstantiated information,” the notices accessed by Mumbai Mirror states. “The alleged incident has not been established in any court of law and that you have exploited the media to propagate your own personal vendetta.”
Bahl also alleged that Kashyap bribed another employee of the now-defunct production house to make additional sexual assault accusations against him. “This makes us wonder whether the alleged incident [of sexual assault] also has any authenticity, given that the alleged victim was, in fact, working as your own employee,” the legal notice said.
The notice threatens Kashyap and Motwane with civil or criminal defamation lawsuits if they refuse to post “messages [on social media] and tender an unconditional apology to Bahl”.
Phantom Films, which Bahl, Kashyap and Motwane started along with Madhu Mantena in 2011, was disbanded on October 6. The filmmakers said they had decided to dissolve their partnership and go their separate ways, but no reason was given. The same day, a Huffington Post article detailed a former Phantom Films employee’s account of alleged sexual assault by Bahl in 2015. The incident had been reported in May 2017 by Mumbai Mirror. Bahl had denied the allegations at the time.
The Huffington Post article also alleged that Kashyap had ignored the complaint in October 2015. The woman resigned from Phantom Films in January 2017. She said that Kashyap had reached out to her in March saying he wanted to “set things right”.
Kashyap issued a statement after the report was publishing, claiming that he had been given the wrong advice by his legal team. Kashyap said he had tried to take action in his personal capacity by suspending Bahl, barring him from the premises and taking away his signing authority. “If that wasn’t enough, I also named and shamed him privately amongst whomever asked about it,” he said, adding that he was the anonymous source for the Mumbai Mirror story in 2017.
Bahl’s legal notice to Kashyap states that the Manmarziyaan director had not shown any intention to act on the victim’s allegations in 2015. “However, now he has changed his stand to say that he stood by the victim and had morally and contractually complied with what was expected of him as a Director of the company,” the notice quoted by Mumbai Mirror states.
Bahl has also been accused of harassment on the sets of his 2014 film Queen by actors Kangana Ranaut and Nayani Dixit. His latest film is the biopic Super 30, which stars Hrithik Roshan. In a statement, the actor said, “It is impossible for me to work with any person if he/she is guilty of such grave misconduct.” Roshan said he had asked the producers, which include Phantom Films and Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, to take a “harsh stand if need be”.
Phantom Films has previously produced films such as Lootera (2013), Masaan (2015) and Udta Punjab (2016) and the Netflix’s original series Sacred Games, an adaptation of Vikram Chandra’s novel of the same name. In a post on Facebook on Monday, Chandra said that he was not aware of any allegations against Bahl or Phantom Films. “But the systems and norms that make this kind of behaviour possible need to change now, and not just at one company or in one country, but worldwide,” Chandra wrote.
Meanwhile, Anurag Kashyap has stepped down as a board member of the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images, which organises the Mumbai Film Festival. Kashyap announced the decision in a post on Twitter, saying he wanted all “shadow of doubt of our alleged complicitness in silence” to be cleared. In a series of tweets, Kashyap vehemently denied allegations of inaction on the complaint against Bahl.
While announcing the closure of Phantom Films on October 6, Kashyap had called the collaboration “a dream, a glorious one” while Motwane had described it as “the most wonderful partnership of my life”. In a statement later that day, Motwane said he learnt of the allegation against Bahl in 2017 and called him a “sexual predator”.