In the wake of #MeToo movement in India, an actress has accused Pyaar Ka Punchnama director Luv Ranjan of sexual harassment during the audition of a film.
The actress said that Luv Ranjan asked her strip down to her bra and panties and eventually asked her if she uses a condom or masturbates. She narrated her account to Mid-Day.
"It was 2010. I was 24, and had done two small roles in big movies opposite well-known actors, and was in the auditioning phase. I was called by Vicky Sidana, a casting director, who said that the auditions for Pyaar Ka Punchnama were on, and a very short list of girls had been called for them. I trusted him and hence, went for it," she told the daily.
"The dress code was a short skirt and a tight top, which was fairly common, and wasn't a problem with me. There were seven to eight girls there, and the strange part was that they didn't give us dialogues as they would usually ask you to enact the scene. This was supposedly only a look test," she added.
After auditioning a few girls, the actress went in and she was asked to give an introduction. She continued, "Luv Ranjan said there were a kissing scene and bikini scene in the movie and asked if I was fine with that, to which I said yes. He said he wanted to see what I'd look like in a bikini. Later in life, when I gave another audition for a movie, there was a female stylist who gave me a bikini to do a look test in the presence of lots of people."
She added, "Luv asked me to strip down to my bra and panties. He said he wanted to see my body so he could check if I needed to lose weight. He said they were not recording anything and the cinematographer would also leave the room, so I needn't worry. After that, it all gets blurry. My heart was pounding and I rushed out saying I had to leave and wasn't comfortable with it. I went home and tried to forget about it."
After a couple of days, she got a call from Vicky saying that she had been finalised for the role. She decided to forget the episode and get on with the film only to make her experience even worse.
Later, when she kept asking for a script, Luv told her, "If a script decided the fate of a film, then even Amitabh [Bachchan] would have never given a flop. What will you understand from a script? I will make you look hot, you will have songs, I'll make you a star."
After giving a weak narration to the actress, Luv asked her to go to another room with him and said that a director and an actor should be friends.
"You need to draw from your experiences and when you can't, I need to know you so well, that I can help you," said Luv. He asked me about my schooling and family, so I relaxed. Then he asked me if I had a boyfriend, to which I said yes. Then he asked, 'Are you a virgin?' I was shocked. He said, Arrey, we can talk like this, we're adults."
"Then he asked me if I used condoms. The last straw was him asking me if I masturbate. By then, I was scared and asked if I could leave. He said I shouldn't misunderstand him, and called the three guys into the room and asked them, "Do you trust me enough as a director, that if I were to ask you to drop your pants, you would?"
"They all said yes. I don't blame them. They were also young and wanted to make it in the industry and had no idea in what context they'd been called in and asked this question. He then asked them to go back to the rehearsals. He told me to relax, and that it wasn't [because] I was a girl; that's how it worked. I still said I needed to go as my parents would worry, and left. I went and sat in my car and started shaking and crying. I'd escaped," she said.
Later, Luv kept calling and messaging the actress for about a month, saying she had misunderstood him, but he never apologised.
"It stayed with me after all these years and even when I told people about it, they said, "The casting couch is a reality in the industry. You just have to learn to live with it and toughen up. He didn't rape you, na, you got away, na." They question your story, and that's why it takes so long to talk about it. I hope people come out with their own stories about this man," she concluded.