Sangeetha Bhat is the first woman from Sandalwood to join the ongoing #MeToo movement. She has joined the group of people from arts and media who have named and shamed sexual abusers. The actress has narrated a few incidents from her 10-year career in the film industry.
In a series of social media posts, Sangeetha Bhat stated that she is neither opening up about the incidents to gain publicity, but wants the people to know about the reason behind her decision to quit film industry.
Without naming anyone, Sangeetha Bhat claims that a casting director harassing her in 2008, a hair-dresser touching inappropriately and actors expressing their desire to sleep with her.
The incidents have caused a lot of mental stress to the actress, who has worked in the movies like Dayavittu Gamanisi, Preeti Geethi Ityaadi, Eradane Sala and Mamu Tea Angadi.
Here, we bring you the complete text of her three-page letter:
I have been thinking about sharing this for a while now.
I have bid goodbye to the film industry a few months back.
As I took some time off, I started thinking about all the good moments of this ten year journey of mine in the film industry...I found just a few of them. What kept coming up, were just those dark bad memories. With the t4metoo movement, I guess it's time I shared my experiences as well. I have found courage in sharing these moments, which have haunted me every night before I shut my eyes. Here are experiences after a lot of mental depression (which I'm currently undergoing a treatment for), weeping, sleepless nights that I go through...
I am not doing this for any attention or sympathy or media coverage or throw allegations on people who have hurt me, as I don't want to stoop down to their level of cheapness and small thinking and achieve some limelight coz as I said before, I am out of this field of entertainment. I am sharing this just to let people know why I have decided to move on and quit the film industry. I hope people understand my journey before judging me or forming assumptions. This is just another human being's experience. I am aware of the after effects of this write up. I'm sure the media is going to reach out to me to get more details. I only hope that this would make others more aware and careful. That's it! I request the media, family and friends not to have a further discussion around this with me.
My dad passed away when I was in 10" grade. At that age, with all the responsibility on my head, with no one to pay for my studies. Acting was my passion, and the only way to earn and make a living at that age was by getting into the film industry. I was completely unaware of its true dark inside stories.
In 2008, I auditioned for a Kannada movie. It was being produced by the ex-husband of a well known serial artiste. One day, the casting director took me in his car to have my costumes checked at their office in Vijaynagar (after promising and assuring my mother that he'd take care of me like a brother). He stops the car halfway in a deserted area, starts forcibly touching me all over and ends jerking infront of me. I was a 15 year old kid then. I didn't realise what was happening. He then says in Kannada, "this is a normal thing here in the industry. I didn't even touch you. I just touched myself"...and then tries to assure me and act like everything is just normal. The same day, I reach the office to try out costumes. The main director locks me up and sits infront of me to see me dress. He then walks up and starts touching me all over. I ran outside in trauma. The movie never went on floors.
In 2009, I acted in my first film. A well known actor was its lead. After the movie, my mom had invited the director and two assistant directors of this movie for dinner, as they always said they wanted to have home cooked food. But these guys turned up at my house, completely drunk. They barged into my room and tried to manhandle me. Me and mom ran out of the house and hid in the terrace until they left. This movie got completed. But never got released.
In 2010, while working on another Kannada film, a hair dresser...yes a woman... tried to touch me all over and started running her hands inside my clothes while resting at the hotel. I opposed this and went out of the room. She then apologised. But later tried to take revenge in a different way! She referred me to a movie, which was supposed to have a big star, directed by a famous director (who was recently in news for casting couch!). The director called me up...instead of speaking about the script or my role or even asking about my acting experience...he says in Kannada "come to the hotel, I'm at room no 206". When I questioned him, he says, "the hairdresser has told me about you, "stop acting innocent". His daughter is currently an actress as well! I hope she doesn't go through such incidents.
In 2012, I was staying with a few other struggling actresses. A famous producer who made a super hit police film was dating my roommate. I always tied rakhi to him and considered him to be a brother. But he always kept mentioning to me, to not call him a brother! One fine day, he asked me if I could jerk him off. Not just that, he said that if I was ready to sleep with him just 'once', he would cast me along that big star in his upcoming project. He also said, he can make me rich by pimping me out, coz he had some great connects with business tycoons. When I told this to my roommate (his girlfriend) about all this. She asked me to leave the house!
The remaining years. I was lucky enough to meet good teams or rather, I would not be a part of teams that had a negative vibe. Until...
In 2015/16, I was a part of a Kannada film directed by a famous director. He used to send me messages in the middle of the night that said "I need some inspiration to write, please send me your pictures, no matter what you're wearing". The same year, in another film, I did a kissing scene. A well known actress goes on a very famous 1V show watched by almost all Kannadigas and says—"they had to rehearse 'many' times to get it right". She being a woman, makes fun of such professional things and tries to slut shame ...wonder how she would have spoken if it was her own scene.
In 2016, I signed a Tamil film. A well known TV comedian was playing the lead. From the start, he kept having sleazy conversations. I kept avoiding them with a smile. One day, while filming a scene....) had to sit behind him on a bike. He slams the brake and goes on to say, in Tamil "aah you're wearing a padded bra! ... why? you don't have anything inside?". Not just that, the movie was a romantic one. The script demanded a kissing scene. As a part of my profession of an actor, I agreed for it, as it was a part of the climax twist and seemed an integral part of the script. But on set, every time we did a romantic scene, he used to force himself on me and force the director infront of the entire crew to add a kissing scene to 'enhance' the script. I raised this issue with the director, saying I am uncomfortable doing such scenes where it is not at all necessary. I cried to him. He apologised to me, but acted helpless as the Hero was the main decision maker through the filming process! They even promoted the movie in tabloids saying, it has more than 10 kissing scenes.
In 2017, I signed a Kannada film (which stopped production unceremoniously, almost one and a half years now), a remake of a famous Telugu film. The lead of the film, a star, messaged me on Instagram and took my number. We started speaking to each other, just to build a rapport. One day, he calls out of the blue, and the first thing he says in Kannada is "can I ask you something, are you a virgin?" ...I was shocked and I ridiculed his question. His next response was "no, I asked, coz you could help me lose mine". I held myself together, and tried to handle this calmly and told him, I am already in a relationship. He quickly hung up. I think it runs in the family. As one of his family member (a famous actor as well) also had sent some messages years ago, asking me to sleep with him, meet him in the night at a hotel on St Marks road. When I rejected his offer, he defends himself saying , "do you have an idea how many actresses I have slept with, when I just give them a missed call?! ...they come running to me". I told him, I have a different identity and blocked him. Damn! I grew up watching his movies In another incident, the same movie director, during shoot abused me using words like 'What the fuck is wrong with you, cant you fucking understand' front of 200 people. I ran crying to my caravan. The director later comes in and says "these thing happen in work related tension and I need to take these things". He never apologized. !sot this a matter of respect. What if this would have happened to his daughter?
And after this many people from the sets may have perceived that I could be taken for granted and started sending sleazy messages. All these stories are true and still very clear. There are many more, which are tough to be jot down in words. It keeps replaying all the time. I haven't taken any names here, because I have no proof for any of them, except the trauma I have been through. And also because, I care about their families who were no way involved. I are sure the people reading this would realise their mistakes.
These stories have always hid inside my head. I never spoke about them outside. I was always scared — fear of my career, fear of being hurt by such ppl, fear of losing loved ones, fear of the society, fear of being judged. I even hid the fact that I was married, just to 'save' my career in the film industry (that surprisingly doesn't give much opportunity to married ppl!). My husband has been very supportive through this entire journey and held me together during these tough times. Most of the time, I was paid peanuts..and the movie used to go on for two/three years...and sometimes don't even release! ...On an average, I would earn less than 8k a month! ...Imagine the survival. It was just the passion for acting that kept me moving ahead.
I have finally decided to unmask myself and live free. Quitting the industry has bought some peace. Acting is a passion which I will definitely continue through theatre or short films that I'd do for my own soul satisfaction.
I'd like to thank all my well wishers being supportive so far.
Moving on ...