After Sri Reddy, Radhika Apte and Swara Bhasker, Mallika Sherawat is the latest celebrity to open up on the casting couch experience in the entertainment industry.
She revealed that her male co-actors demanded sexual favours off-screen as she didn't have inhibitions getting intimate with them on-screen.
"I was thrown out of projects because heroes would say 'why can't you be intimate with me? You can do it on screen, what's the problem in doing that with me in private?' I've lost so many projects. It's very reflective of the society, what women deal with in our country," Mallika Sherawat told PTI in an interview.
Mallika Sherawat shot to fame with her bold role in the 2004 erotic thriller Murder but her popularity came with a price. People started judging her character for doing lovemaking scenes with co-actors and wearing short clothes on screen.
"There were so many accusations and judgements on me. If you wear short skirts, kiss on screen then you're a fallen woman with no morals. Men tend to take liberties with you. This happened with me too," she said.
With her bold and unconventional film choices, Mallika became Bollywood's ultimate sex symbol for exuding inhibited sensuality and appealing personality. But little did she know that her choices would incite film directors to make sexual advances.
"I'm a very headstrong woman, I can't compromise. I've a lot of pride and self respect. There were times when directors have called me and said 'come to me at 3 am.' I was so scared to talk about it because I thought they are going to blame me, that I must've behaved in such a way that prompted the director to say this. There is that victim blaming mentality which exists in our society and I always felt scared to talk about these things," she said.
She also opened up about how she felt insecure when people overlooked her struggle as an actress and focused only on how many kissing scenes she had done in a film.
"My story, where I come from and what I battled, was overlooked, and it was all about how many kissing scenes I had. It made me insecure because I thought I had so much more to offer. But there was only one aspect of mine being highlighted and I really suffered because of that," she said.
She added, "When people judged me, it made me very insecure, overtly critical of myself and question everything I did. It's not a healthy space. At that time, a large section of the media was antagonistic towards me. They were always interested in sensationalism, which hurt me."
Recalling her bitter experience with a senior journalist who asked her "horrendous, overtly sexual questions", Mallika said, "I cringe when I watch it today. I had just begun my career, Murder had released and I was so intimidated by this lecherous old man. There was no support for me, I felt so lonely, that was so painful."
In a recent episode of web series ZEE5's The Story, Mallika shared one of her traumatic experiences of how a crazy stalker from Haryana was obsessed with making her wear a sari.
"He used to tell me, why do you wear short skirts, you're giving Indian culture a bad name, why can't you wear sari. I thought why are you telling me what to wear and is this an invitation for you to misbehave with me? I thought, 'let's do this episode', even though it was traumatic to relive that again. In the episode we talked about self defence. I had to put my story out there," she narrated.