Actress Sandhya Mridul Opens Up On Being Harassed By Alok Nath

He came back to my room what ensued was traumatic because a belligerent Alok Nath refused to leave.. kept screaming shouting threatening abusing trying to grab me..

Actress Sandhya Mridul who was seen in Page 3 has opened up on being harassed by film and television actor Alok Nath during the shoot of a telefilm.

In her detailed tweet 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.

Till one night after an early pack up. The cast went out for dinner. At dinner he 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.

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 .. I dodged again he went into the bathroom and I think I latched the loo door and ran out of my room down the corridor into the lobby. Fortunately, my DoP was there making a call from the reception ..

He came back to my room what ensued was traumatic because a belligerent Alok Nath refused to leave.. kept screaming shouting threatening abusing trying to grab me.. but at some point we managed to make him leave. The hairdresser was called and made to sleep in my room I was so shaken up.

In a few hours I had scenes with Bauji, in one I had to sit on his lap and cry. I still feel nauseous when i think of it.

It didn’t stop there .. every evening he would drink and every night calls were made to my room. I dreaded the ring.. I had to keep it off the hook most of the times. But then he would come calling. It was a catch 22 situation. I had the hairdresser moved in to my room permanently. I was a nervous wreck.

Few days later I got very sick & was laid up and couldn’t shoot. The stress had broken me. He continued to traumatise me with calls. And knocks. The hairdresser would answer. One day when he landed up at the door and cried and begged to be allowed in to sodas to me to apologise.. I couldn’t take it anymore I told her to accompany him in..he pulled a chair next to my bed and howled. Said he was an alcoholic and that he had destroyed everything his family his marriage everything’s and I was like his daughter and he respected me and that he was very sorry. He says he had learnt his lesson and that he would go to therapy and change it all..

I finally broke my silence I screamed shouted cried and it was done. I believed him. I had to.

He left. He got away. I don’t know how I shot with him for the remaining days and weeks.

I’m grateful to my co-actors , my DOP & especially the late Reema lagoo for finally taking him on & protecting me like a mother from then on.

But it was too late. The damage was done. A very disillusioned, disgraced & unsure me returned home. He went on to return to Bombay and tell people I was difficult and arrogant. All apologies forgotten. He was a popular man I was a newbie. He laid the foundation others like him built on. All those who heard ‘No’. Attitude my biggest crime. The deal breaker.

Mr. 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. I’m so sorry.

More power to you.

To us all.

I’m certain there are others. I urge you to come forward.

“Your time is up Sir”.

The problem is sexual harassment has been open to interpretation.

I come from a time when nobody wanted to hear. I was a nobody. When I tried to speak I was labelled arrogant and difficult.

And replaced from work.

And there was no social media to make ourselves heard, directly.

It’s taken me years to lay those demons to rest and move on.

And just stay away from it all.

But it never actually goes away. Does it?

I do little work because I do it with people I trust. And those who respect me. My choices.

I felt I had two choices then. One , to fight for work or two to preserve my dignity.

And stay away from the conflict, the ugliness and embarrassment to me and my family.

Which to me meant silence.

I chose the latter. At that point.

It’s way different now, they know me so I’m spared. From abuse.

And from work.

Even though i managed to escape or prevent it somehow and it never reached the point where i was assaulted physically.

My soul was. My creativity was. My career was.

But I stood my ground. As shaky as it got.

My bold bindaas badass image comes from there.

But nobody wanted to work with “such a woman.”

Yes I was told that. On many occasions.

My career was set in stone.

What Tanushree has started is admirable.

I’m happy now women can speak go on social media. So there’s that platform.

And it’s pretty powerful. I believe.

We have a voice finally.

I have a lot more to say. But it’s been buried so long. I need to dig up what I buried.

For that I need more courage and clarity.

I need time.

Yes, some of us need time. To dig into the shame and darkness we’ve buried to be able to work with strength and dignity.

I’m work in progress.

And where do I begin?

So much happened that I can’t remember.

And the worst part is I don’t have evidence anymore.

Except for me.

But I stand with Tanushree. And Vinta. And every woman. Who has been through this & will follow suit and break her silence.

We have a voice.

I’d like to tell all the newcomers that they should use it. Correctly. Honestly. Wisely. Fearlessly.

Don’t be ashamed.

Don’t be scared.

Don’t bury.

Don’t let it fester. And corrode your soul.

Let’s Speak.

Let’s keep this fire going.

#TimesUp

Earlier, writer-producer Vinta Nanda have acussed Alok Nath of rape. In her long Facebook post she wrote,

His wife was my best friend.
We were in and out of each other’s homes, we belonged to the same group of friends, most of us from theatre, slowly making our arts shine in the content renaissance, which had taken place because of the satellite television revolution of the 1990’s.
I was producing and writing the No 1 show on TV called Tara.
He was after my lead girl.
She was not interested in him.
He was an alcoholic, shameless and obnoxious but he was also the television star of that decade, so not only was he forgiven for all his bad behaviour but many of the guys would egg him on to be his worst.
My lead female actor was being harassed by him.
He would mess with her on the sets and everyone would be silent.
When she complained to us, we decided to let him go.
We needed one last shot between them and soon after it had been taken we had planned to let him know that we didn’t want to work with him any longer.
He had become aware of our plan and on that day, he came drunk on our sets.
He continued to drink till the time he was called for the shot.
When the moment came and the camera rolled, he felt up our female lead and very viciously.
My lead actress slapped him.
We asked him to leave the sets and told him that he was not going to be on the show any longer.
Life went on without him on the show and common friends intervened to patch us up as friends.
The ratings of the show kept soaring but the management at the channel changed and it started asking us to change the lead actress.
We said we could not do it but then the management demanded a change of generation story to start and asked us to cook up a younger Tara, who was to appear out of nowhere and was to be later revealed as the original Tara’s daughter, born out of wedlock to her or some such thing.
This also meant that our original Tara would continue with us.
We agreed to go ahead, not that we had much choice, but a day before we were to shoot the new generation story, we were told that the lead actor who had been asked to leave the show was to be brought back.
We did that because there was no room left for protest under so much oppression that we had by now been subjected to.
We had four more shows running on the same channel, all big on ratings and our refusal to do as we were being told to do meant jeopardising them.
The new generation story went on air and ran for a week.
We were called by the newly appointed CEO of the channel on the Monday of the following week and told to shut down the show, along with all our other shows.
I was insulted and humiliated by the CEO, asked to get out of his office and told that women like me should be thrown out of the country.
All our shows went off air with immediate effect and my production company was made to shut down.
Now is when the worst happened.
I loved my life, I was a successful woman, I smoked and I drank.
I was a liberated person.
I was invited to a party to this mans house, his wife, my best friend was out of town.
It was usual for our group of friends from theatre to meet regularly so there was nothing unusual about my going to the party.
As the evening flowed, my drinks were mixed and I began to feel strange.
Then at around 2 am I left his house.
Nobody followed me or offered to drop me home, which was what was rather unusual.
All I knew at the time was that I had to get home. I could sense it wouldn’t be right for me to stay there any longer.
I started to walk home on the empty streets although the distance to my own house was long.
Midway I was accosted by this man who was driving his own car and he asked me to sit in it and said he would drop me home.
I trusted him and sat in his car.
I have faint memory after that.
I can remember more liquor being poured into my mouth and I remember being violated endlessly.
When I woke up the next afternoon, I was in pain.
I hadn’t just been raped, I was taken to my own house and had been brutalised.
I couldn’t get up for my bed.
I told some of my friends but everybody advised me to forget about it and move on.
My company was closed but I got a job to write and direct a series for Plus Channel.
The man found his way through the casting route and became one of the lead actors on the show.
He created an environment in which I was made to feel threatened so I asked the producers to release me from directing the series because I didn’t want to be around where he was.
I continued to write the show.
Here’s the most difficult part, the main reason why I have taken so long to come out with the truth.
While I was working on this new series, he asked me to come to his house again and I went to allow him to violate me.
I needed the job and didn’t want to leave it as I needed the money.
It was after this that I quit.
I was completely shattered by then. It was a nervous breakdown I was going through, but I was trying to be brave.
I tried to pick up the threads of my life but channels and networks and sets and rehearsals started to freak me out.
I continued to write, but the couple of times that I pushed myself and found the courage to pitch for shows, I would break down during meetings.
Finally I gave up.
Almost 20 years later, I’m totally fine now, healed and reunited with my own self again.
I’m afraid of speaking to an audience.
For someone like me who was fearless and could talk to large audiences for hours, it is something that bothers me so I’m working on it.
The only reason I’m telling this story now is because I don’t want that any girl should ever fear holding the truth back.
What followed because of my silence was even worse.
I became easy prey because the message had been put out that I was afraid and so I would not open my mouth.
The couple of times that I wrote about what I had gone through created more complications because I stopped getting work.
To deal with all the fear and shame I drank myself silly almost every evening and even flirted with drugs.
I had friends who rallied around me and helped me clean up and restart my life in 2009, which meant that I had lived my trauma for 10 long years.
Social Media also saved me.
I had been done, dusted and buried as a professional but I was back in the face of the world on Facebook and soon on Twitter as well.
I had tremendous support from some friends including their trust, so I became emboldened and bounced back.
I have waited for this moment to come for 19 years.
I shout out to each one of you who have suffered at the hands of predators to come out and say it aloud.
Don’t hold yourselves back.
This is a moment for change so your silence will only hold barriers to its evolution.
Speak out.
Shout out from the top of the roof.
My friend Nutan who is no more took me to the back road of Lokhandwala Complex in Andheri where she made me break a 100 empty bottles and I threw them into the mangroves and shouted out all my anger and frustration.
I never looked back after that day.
Irony is that the man, the predator in question here is the actor par excellence who is known as the most Sanskari(Cultured) person in the film and television industry.

In the wake of these sexual harassment accusations the Producers Guild of India are forming a committee within the guild and are determined to stay the course till workplaces in the industry are safe.

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