Indian actress Payal Ghosh, who has accused director Anurag Kashyap of sexual misconduct, claims that she doesn’t care if Bollywood and internet trolls attempt to discredit her.
“People from Bollywood may not support me, but people from India are supporting me. The ones in Bollywood are either quiet or not supporting me, but I don’t care. I know what I am saying is right … Let the truth come out,” said Ghosh in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.
On September 23, Ghosh filed a First Information Report (FIR) with the Mumbai Police claiming that Kashyap had raped her at his home in Yari Road, Mumbai, in 2013. Kashyap has vehemently denied her allegations, calling them ‘baseless’. Ghosh has filed a case under the Section 376 (I) (rape), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 341 (wrongful restraint), and 342 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code. Kashyap, through his lawyer Priyanka Khimani, tweeted that Ghosh’s allegations of rape were ‘completely false, malicious and dishonest’.
“It’s sad that a social movement as important as the #metoo movement has been co-opted by vested interests and reduced to a mere tool for character assassination,” tweeted Kashyap through his lawyer. But Ghosh claims that she’s speaking her truth.
“You cannot have a sexual relationship with a person who doesn’t want it and that’s just wrong … I want justice,” said Ghosh. “Article 376, rape, has been imposed on him. I told everything that happened to me in 2013 to the police.”
She also claims that the assault has left deep scars on her and have led to anxiety and panic attacks. Trolls on social media, aimed at discrediting her and questioning her morality, are intense, claims Ghosh.
“Tweets that say that I opened my clothes… that I am doing drama isn’t going to break me … Initially, I wanted to do this for me but now my fight is for every woman who was trapped in a similar situation,” she says.
Excerpts from our interview with Ghosh as she talks about her allegations, her apology to actress Richa Chadha (whose name Ghosh brought up when claiming Kashyap had demanded sexual favours from his female colleagues) and why many prefer to disbelieve her…
Why prompted you to make these allegations against Anurag Kashyap now as opposed to 2013?
At the time it happened, my family and my manager didn’t allow me to complain to the police. I also spoke to my manager back then and although we thought that we will report it initially, the more we discussed it, the more we realised that it may hurt my budding career which had just begun. We weighed the pros and cons and decided not to talk about it. But the incident kept haunting me. It was painful and traumatic to see this man talk about women’s liberation and empowerment in public platforms.
Even when the #MeToo era began in Bollywood in 2018, I wanted to speak up, but my family and my manager dissuaded me from doing so at that point too… But the trigger was hearing this man talking about Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, it made me want to speak out. I didn’t deliberately tweet about it because I was afraid that I would be asked to remove or take down that tweet by those around me. Instead of doing that, I revealed that episode in an interview with a South Indian TV channel. Speaking to the media ensured that I could file an FIR.
Kashyap has denied your rape allegations and you have also met resistance from his ex-wives and colleagues who have supported him. Did you know that your account of sexual misconduct will not get support?
He has a lobby who will support him no matter what. These people who are supporting him were not in the room with me. Secondly, that big lobby is filled with women who claim to be feminists. They are fake feminists and they are supporting someone whom they know nothing about. They don’t know what happened with me… I knew from day one that I would get only resistance in Bollywood. This is what happens in Bollywood, everybody knows about each other’s wrongdoings and they are worried if their own wrongdoings will be revealed. They are just trying for self-protection here.
Actress Richa Chadha took offence to her name being dragged in his alleged list of conquests. You have also apologised to her after she filed a defamation suit against you … Your thoughts.
We had an amicable settlement in court over that. But from day one, I had maintained that the names I took was uttered by Mr Kashyap … My testimony to police would have been incomplete if I did not recount what had happened with him in 2018. That was my whole idea. She should have complained against him for using her name, but instead she filed a defamation case against me. Being a woman and a human being, I decided to say sorry to her because she was being trolled. If my sorry makes her happy, then I am ready to do that … But they are making my sorry as a sign of victory. Trust me, it takes a lot of guts to say sorry and I could have continued to fight her case in the court for the next five or ten years. But she’s not my objective. I have nothing to do with her. I don’t know her personally and I don’t have any grudge against her … My goal is Anurag Kashyap, not Richa Chadha. If my ‘sorry’ makes her happy, then so be it. She’s the most unimportant person in my life right now.
What are you hoping will happen after coming out with the #MeToo allegations against Kashyap?
I want to get justice. I want justice for me and for all those women who face similar situations in their lives. This should be a reminder to everyone out there that here’s a person who came out against an influential, powerful personal like Mr Kashyap and dared to talk about it. I did not talk about it initially because I was scared that my career will be ruined and that I will be harmed. But I couldn’t stand it any further. I had to take medications after that episode with him.
Initially, I wasn’t anxious or didn’t have panic attacks. At first, I buried that episode deep in my subconscious and it was my doctor who told me that there’s something that you are burying and after his prodding I realised that this could be the reason behind my mental health. I was born into a conservative family where women are not allowed to work. I consider myself a pioneer for other women in my family … But what happened with Mr Kashyap continues to haunt me and that’s why I decided that I want closure. I agree, I wasn’t courageous before but now I am. I knew that I didn’t come out and speak up, that incident would continue to haunt me forever.
So it was the lack of closure that triggered mental health issues?
I am on medication for my anxiety and panic attacks now. I had this constant fear that I am going to be attacked after what happened to me. I couldn’t even switch off my lights at night and I had this feeling that somebody will attack me. My sister says that I often scream in my sleep about somebody attacking me. I also experience panic attacks — that feeling of being dizzy and suffocated. Even though I am on medication now, speaking up has helped me so much. Even if I forget to take my medication now, I don’t feel that anxious now because I spoke up.
In the case of Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who is in prison for sexual assault, many women came forward to speak about their experiences with him. But no women have come forward following your accusations against Kashyap. Does that weaken your accusations?
No, it doesn’t. What happened to others doesn’t strengthen or weaken my claims. I am speaking my truth and the investigation is going on now. I will give necessary evidence to prove what happened with me. I cannot claim to know what happened with the other women he worked with. I am fighting for my truth. I don’t care who is supporting me or who isn’t. I am sure I will get justice and I will do whatever it takes to get that justice … I cannot talk about the details of the ongoing investigation.
Help me understand this a bit better. Do work-related meetings happen at a filmmaker’s house usually and not his office? Did his alleged request seem strange to you?
I met him first at his office along with my manager and I got to know him better in that first meeting. And, when he asked me to meet him at his place I went along with my driver. At the meeting in the office, he behaved well with me and was talking about how big actors were in touch with him constantly. During that time, I felt good talking to a person who was an outsider who made it big. I found him inspirational because he is not from the film industry, but he made it on his own. So when he asked to meet me at his place, I didn’t think much of it … Let me make it clear, that he’s not the first director or actor in Bollywood to try a chance on me. But they all respected my ‘no’. They didn’t try to force me and that’s the main difference. When I told him ‘no’, my no was not respected.
You claim that your cricketer friend Irfan Pathan — who knew about the incident — did not show any support either …
Irfan was a very good friend and other than my manager, he knew a lot about it. I used to tell him that Anurag Kashyap was messaging me asking me to over to his place and he knew a few details. I wish he had supported me now on humanity grounds alone. I was hoping that he would come out and support me as a good friend. As a friend, I feel it’s my right to ask him why he didn’t bother to support me today and that was the least I expected from him.
What’s the way forward now?
The investigation is going on now and I cannot talk about the details of the case. I want justice.
Who is Payal Ghosh?
Payal Ghosh, 30, was born in Kolkata and was an actress hopeful from the age of 17 where she began auditioning for roles. She has acted in less than a dozen films — mostly in South Indian languages like Telugu, Tamil and Kannada. She got her first major role in Telugu film ‘Prayanam’ in 2009 with actor Manoj Manchu and was later seen in films including ‘Mr Rascal’ and ‘Oosaravelli’. She wasn’t a big name in Bollywood though despite acting in Hindi films such as ‘Freedom’ in 2012 and ‘Patel Ki Punjabi Shaadi’ in 2017.