#MeToo takes a toll on Bollywood projects
New Delhi: The #MeToo movement may have taken time to get to Bollywood but is now firmly making its presence felt with impact on some of its biggest projects. Popular industry names embroiled in the controversy are either stepping down from projects or being asked to leave. Top of the list is the dissolution of production house Phantom Films, after co-founder Vikas Bahl was accused by a female employee of sexual harassment and the company took more than a year to respond.
First to be impacted would probably be Phantom’s immediate line-up of films, all co-produced along with Reliance Entertainment, with which it has had a 50:50 joint venture since 2015. There is the Hrithik Roshan-starrer Super 30 (directed by Bahl himself), a biopic on Bihar-based mathematician Anand Kumar; ’83, a period drama on India’s cricket World Cup victory; and a comedy titled Ghoomketu featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The last mentioned, has finished shoot.
“Super 30 is into final stages of full-fledged production while ’83 is still looking at casting and pre-production,” said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema.
That means, trade experts say, the films will now be taken to culmination by Reliance alone, which now owns 100% share in what was earlier a combined business and which was anyway the parent company funding the projects with Phantom merely looking after creative execution of the films.
“Phantom disbanding doesn’t really change anybody’s life here because they’ve only dissolved their share of the business. Apart from the person accused, other filmmakers may still continue to do projects for Reliance that they had committed to,” explained Utpal Acharya, founder of film company Indian Film Studios.
Phantom co-founder Vikramaditya Motwane said it was premature to speak at this point while Reliance did not respond to Mint’s queries.
Further, Acharya said, the co-founder filmmakers would carry on with their individual careers, like Anurag Kashyap, who already has a track record of collaborating with director Aanand L.Rai’s Colour Yellow Productions on films like Manmarziyaan and Mukkabaaz. Even though the company no longer exists, the talent is unlikely to suffer even in case of its other high-profile commitment -- Netflix’s critically acclaimed crime drama Sacred Games that Kashyap and Motwane had co-directed.
“At this time we are evaluating options on the path forward,” Netflix said in a statement. However, industry experts say, like Reliance and the movie projects, the second season of Sacred Games, too, will be overseen directly by Netflix without having to outsource production to Phantom. Kashyap and Motwane are again likely to helm the series together that is expected to build on the first season that reportedly cost Netflix nearly Rs 16 crore to make.
Phantom is not the only Bollywood firm reeling from the impact of #MeToo. Earlier this week, Yash Raj Films fired Ashish Patil, vice-president of brand partnerships and talent management and head of its youth wing, Y-Films, after an aspiring actor accused him of sexual misconduct. Apart from feature films like Bank Chor and Mere Dad Ki Maruti, Patil produced and ideated short films and web series like Band Baaja Baaraat and Ladies Room for Y-Films’ YouTube channel.
“Yash Raj Films terminates the services of Mr. Ashish Patil: Vice-President: Brand Partnerships and Talent Management & Business and Creative Head- Y-Films with immediate effect,” the company said in a statement four days after assuring the complainant of strict action and investigation when the revelation was made on Twitter.
Filmmaker Sajid Khan, too, announced his decision to step down as director of upcoming comedy Housefull 4 earlier this month. Housefull 3 director Farhad Samji will now helm the new project.
“In the wake of the allegations against me and the pressure being put on my family, my producer and the stars of my film Housefull 4, I must take the moral responsibility of stepping down from my directorial post,” Khan said in a statement.
Aamir Khan Productions has also backed out of director Subhash Kapoor’s biopic on Gulshan Kumar, Mogul. Kapoor had been accused of molestation by actor Geetika Tyagi in 2014.
“At Aamir Khan Productions, we have always had a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual misconduct and predatory behavior of any kind. Two weeks ago, when traumatic #MeToo stories began emerging, it was brought to our attention that someone we were about to begin work with has been accused of sexual misconduct. Upon enquiry, we found out that this particular case is sub judice and the legal process is in motion…without coming to any conclusions about these specific allegations, we have decided to step away from this film,” Khan said in a statement along with wife Kiran Rao, without naming Kapoor.
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