In the closely-knit television industry lewd passes and indecent proposals are commonly accepted as a part and parcel of the workplace norms. TV actress Shilpa Shinde who rose to fame with her Angoori Bhabhiji act in the series Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain found herself thrown out of the series for her “unprofessional” behaviour.
More than a year after she quit the show Shilpa Shinde has come out with sexual harassment charges against the show’s producer Sanjay Kohli.
Shilpa finally spoke up about why she chose to come clean a year after the incident. “The incidents happened more than a year back. I was shocked and confused. I shared my anguish with ny female co-star(SaumyaTandon). But she told me to just ignore it on move on. I found that very strange.”
Before she knew it Shilpa was sacked for being unprofessional.And then when the ratings began to sag she was asked to come back. “They(producer Sanjay Kohli and his wife Binafer) wanted to throw me out of the show. But they couldn’t. So they called me back. I said, ‘No I am not coming back. I am not your puppet.And I am not a football to be kicked around at your whim.’ Just because my character was popular and they couldn’t get anyone else they asked me back.”
Getting emotional Shilpa says, “From the start they treated me so badly I sometimes feel like going and expressing my agony to them….People want to know what took me so long to take legal action. But these things take time.”
Also perhaps Shilpa was being advised to not take this so seriously as any action would impact her career.
“Absolutely , a hundred percent,” she replies. “And there not just one incident. There were several issues also. Also, the team from the Channel that was there when I was signed changed completely. Initially the team got me into the project and made me feel comfortable. If you remember, I was not supposed to do this role. RashmiDesai was supposed to do it. She backed out , I don’t know why.(Sarcastically) Suddenly all versatility needed for the part was seen in me. They were with me with till 3 am convincing me to do the role, offering me whatever money and other incentives I needed to take up the offer.”
At that point of time, Shilpa was not interested in the money or in a career. “I didn’t want their money. I wanted to prove myself. After I lost my father I realized nothing remains except the work that you do. Nothing is permanent. I am okay with whatever life has to give.I was never very interested in working. After my father, my interest in working fell even more. Agar kuch ttha toh theek hai, nahin tab bhi theek hai.”
She finally took up the offer to do Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain. “I liked my role. I liked the set-up in the beginning.Sarey log achche the. Even the co-stars were not new to me. I had worked with Asif Sheikhji and RohitashGaud before. Now after all this has happened I am surprised how they’ve reacted. When you don’t know what has happened , when you don’t know the person well enough to whom it has happened, then please don’t talk ill of her.Not once did any of them pick up the phone and ask, ‘Hua kya, Shilpa?’ I felt bad. Rohitashji called me and asked me to come back to the show. I was shocked. I asked him, ‘Aap kaise keh sakte ho ke aa jao? Ask them(the producer Sanjay Kohli) what has happened. Tell them they are doing wrong to me. Tell them them not to do it.And I’ll come back.’ It was our show, our team. I asked Rohitashji to tell them to stop behaving badly with me. But….It was a terrible experience.”
Was there ‘bad behaviour’ continuously?
Says Shilpa, “This thing happened twice.Look, it isn’t easy to define offensive behaviour. Women have an instinct about these things.If someone hugs you innocently to congratulate you, you know it’s a good touch. On the other hand, even a simple brush of the hand can make your skin crawl.”
So is she saying , a woman knows when it’s a lecherous touch? “Yes exactly I told my co-artiste SaumyaTandon that this is how he behaved. I asked her if she had experienced anything similar. She didn’t respond. Instead she advised me to let it be, ‘Issko mat badhao.’ I told her , ‘Main badhaa to nahin rahi.’ I just wanted to know. When Saumya asked me to be quiet I said , okay. But wohsaara dosh mujhpar pad gaya(the entire blame fell on me). Saumya went and snitched against me to the producers. I got a call from Binafer Kohli screaming at me. ‘What the hell do you think of yourself. How dare you talk like this about my husband? Tumhein kya lagtatumhi ek hoor-pari ho duniya mein?’ Instead of them saying sorry I had to say say.
Shilpa said sorry? “Yes, I was so rattled by Saumya’s behaviour I didn’t know how to react. Forget about supporting me , she instigated the producers against me.This is when I decided to quit.”