Actress Sandhya Mridul on Wednesday came out in support of writer-producer Vinta Nanda's sexual harassment allegation against actor Alok Nath, sharing her own ordeal with him during the shoot of a telefilm in Kodaikanal.
Nanda, a veteran writer-producer of the avant-garde 1990s' show "Tara" fame, accused actor Alok -- known for his "sanskaari" on-screen image -- of sexually violating her almost two decades ago.
Sandhya took to Twitter to share her own experience, which left her "disillusioned and unsure" in the industry.
She wrote: "At the very start of my career, I was shooting a telefilm in Kodaikanal. I was the lead. And very excited. Alok Nath was my on-screen father and Reema Lagoo my mother.
"Alok Nath was very impressed with me and called me 'God's own child' and openly praised me every day. I was over the moon. I was a huge fan of this wonderful Babuji. I felt so fortunate happy and confident."
However, she recalled that one night, Alok got "progressively drunk".
"And started insisting I sit with him and that I belonged to him and other stuff that I don't clearly remember but it made me very nervous and uncomfortable. My co-star realised what was happening and got me out of there," she added.
"We went back to the hotel without dinner. It was late and I was back in my room and the costume dada came to my room to give me my clothes for the next day as I had a very early call time. Few minutes after he left there was a knock on my door I opened the door thinking it was him again.
"It was an inebriated Alok Nath. I instinctively tried to shut the door but he pushed it and lunged at me. I stepped aside, he went flying past me into the room. I fell back toward the bathroom door, he lunged at me again screaming 'I want you, you're mine'."
The actress claims she ultimately had to latch the bathroom door and then ran out of her room down the corridor into the lobby. After she sought help from the show's director of photography, Sandhya says "what ensued was traumatic because a belligerent Alok Nath refused to leave. He kept screaming, shouting, threatening, abusing, trying to grab me... but at some point we managed to make him leave".
This, when in a few hours that she had scenes with 'Bauji'.
"In one, I had to sit on his lap and cry. I still feel nauseous when I think of it," said Sandhya, adding that Alok continued drinking every evening and would "traumatise" her with calls to her room every night.
One day, she recounted, he said to her that he was an alcoholic and that he had destroyed everything -- his family and his marriage.
"I finally broke my silence. I screamed, shouted, cried and it was done. I believed him. I had to."
Sandhya says she is grateful to her co-actors, the DOP and the late Reema lagoo for taking him on and protecting her.
"But it was too late. The damage was done. A very disillusioned, disgraced and unsure me returned home."
According to Sandhya, Alok then told people that she "difficult and arrogant."
"Alok Nath. You know this to be true. As do few others. I had to forgive you for myself then and for my sanity, but I will never forgive you for what you did with Vinta. Whom I have always respected and loved. I stand by you Vinta. What I went through is nothing compared to you."
FWICE's statement follows promises of measures to be taken by film associations such as Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image or MAMI, Cine And TV Artistes' Association or CINTAA and Indian Film And Television Directors' Association or IFTDA, which is directly affiliated to FWICE.
At the press conference in Mumbai, FWICE said notices will be sent to all those who have been implicated in accounts of #MeToo survivors within the next 24 hours asking them to respond within the next 10 days. On failing to do so, the film body will have every right to boycott them. "No matter how big the name is, the federation has decided to take action against them," they said.
CINTAA has already issued a legal notice to Alok Nath, who has been accused of rape and harassment by Vinita Nanda, the writer of his Nineties' TV show Tara. While the show-cause notice from CINTAA asks him to explain why he should not immediately be expelled from the film body, FWICE has asked Mr Nath to respond to the accusations, else he will be boycotted by the association. "We extend you full support," actor Sushant Singh, a CINTAA official, tweeted to Vinta Nanda.
Following Vinta Nanda's rape allegations, the Producers Guild of India has also pledged support for #MeToo survivors. Meanwhile, Alok Nath in his defence told ABP News, that he neither 'denies nor agrees with Vinta Nanda's allegations and that 'only what a woman says will be considered.'
Meanwhile at the press conference, FWICE chief Ashoke Pandit said he would have the controversy involving Tanushree Dutta and Nana Patekar investigated further before the film body takes a call on the matter.
"Want Nana Patekar to be heard," said Mr Pandit, adding: "Have my reservations on Tanushree Dutta's controversy". "Casting couch is in every industry," added Ashok Pandit. Tanushree Dutta named and shamed Nana Patekar for allegedly harassing her on the sets of 2008 movie Horn 'OK' Pleassss, following which the veteran actor cancelled a press conference in Mumbai as legal advice from his team of lawyers.
Earlier, CINTAA had issued an apology to Tanushree Dutta, admitting they failed to address her complaint filed 10 years ago. But later, a CINTAA official told news agency PTI that they are willing to investigate this time if Ms Dutta wants.
Meanwhile, Nana Patekar has filed a defamation case against Tanushree Dutta, who has also reached out to the Maharashtra Women Commission. He continues to deny the allegations and told the media: "I would say what I said 10 years back, the truth doesn't change."