NEW DELHI: Former Miss India and actor Niharika Singh opened up about her #MeToo experiences in entertainment industry calling out Bollywood biggies Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sajid Khan and Bhushan Kumar.
The "Miss Lovely" actor's account was shared on Twitter by journalist Sandhya Mennon.
Niharika said she decided to write the piece "to expand my own understanding of what constitutes abuse, who we choose to punish and whom we are willing to forgive".
The actor said she has dealt with various forms of exploitation throughout her life and her main struggle started once she decided to move to Mumbai to make her name in the modelling and movie business.
Soon after her Miss India pageant win, Niharika said she was signed by Raj Kanwar for her Bollywood debut but the project got shelved and Bhushan Kumar decided to launch her.
"Bhushan Kumar asked Kanwar to release me from his contract as a favour so I could be cast in his other film. Bhushan Kumar called me to his office to sign 'A New Love Ishtory' where he gave me an envelope as a signing amount for the film. It contained two 500 Rupee notes."
"I got a text from him later that night- 'I would love to know you more. Let's get together sometime'. I wrote back saying- 'Absolutely! Lets go on a double date. You bring your wife. I'll bring my boyfriend. He never wrote to me again," she wrote.
The film got delayed and the actor claimed she never got paid for her work on the project.
The actress wrote that she met Nawazuddin Siddiqui in 2009 for an indie film called 'Miss Lovely'. While she allegedly began to get closer to Nawazuddin, she began to "discover one lie after another" about him. He had apparently married a woman and was sued for dowry demands. She cut ties with him after that.
She again met Nawazuddin in 2012 at Cannes, and she became friends with him when he was apologetic about his earlier actions. In 2013, when they acted together in a film called 'Anwar ka ajab kissa', Niharika alleged, "He tried to re-engage me sexually, begging me to be with him but I refused, saying I was happy to be his friend and nothing else."
Once again during the promotions of 'Miss Lovely' in 2014, Nawazuddin apparently tried to grab Niharika, but she just walked away.
In 2017, Nawazuddin wrote a memoir in which he claimed that he was in a relationship with Niharika, which the actress refuted.
She says: I wasn't sure what to make of this relationship. He told me it was his dream to have a Miss India or an actress wife, just like Paresh Rawal and Manoj Bajpayee. I found his little confession funny but endearing. He often complained about how he was judged on his looks, skin colour and that he wasn't fluent in English. I tried to help him deal with his insecurities, but he was stuck in a state of victimisation."
In the post Niharika also called Nawazuddin a "sexually repressed Indian man whose toxic male entitlement grew with his success is hardly surprising. What is interesting to note that despite not identifying as a Hindu, he carries deep caste prejudices since he chose to protect the honour of his 'Brahmin' wife after their names came in CDR scam, while he felt very comfortable painting me as a seductress wearing faux fur in his book, who he could sexually exploit, for public imagination."
She blasted Nawazuddin's frequent collaborator, director Anurag Kashyap for continuously supporting him.
Mayank Singh Singhvi
Niharika Singh also spoke about the abuse she experienced with a man named Mayank Singh Singhvi, who is the husband of a female flight attendant, who allegedly committed suicide in July. She alleged the man of being a “sociopath” and “physically violent” when they were briefly engaged in 2011.
Anissia Batra, who worked with a German airline, had allegedly jumped from the terrace of her house in July. Her husband Mayank Singhvi was arrested on the charge of dowry death, and her in-laws were also arrested earlier this month.
In the post, Niharika said she had met Singhvi at a birthday party.“Within two months of meeting me, Mayank tattooed my name on his chest and told me that he loved me."
“I didn’t feel the same way about him but he managed to get into my social circle and develop a bond with my family and friends who insisted ‘I settle down’. In 2011, on my 29th birthday, he gave me a ring and asked me to marry him,” Singh said.
“I found out later, that Singhvi was a sociopath, and I broke off my engagement at the end of 2011. His ego was completely bruised and his anger was uncontrollable. He got abusive and physically violent. I went to a friend’s house to protect myself and left Mumbai,” she said.
"Violence against women may be a common feature faced by all women in India, but there is no denying the fact that certain kinds of violence are customarily reserved solely for Dalit women," Niharika said.
She said patriarchy has no gender nor does abuse.
"We can't forget the role of mothers and wives who are equally responsible in covering or enabling their sons' and husbands' crimes. It's time to realize that the pompous, neoliberal, savarna feminism is not going to liberate anyone," she added.
Niharika concluded her post by sharing her encounter with Sajid, who was recently dropped as the director of "Housefull 4" following sexual harassment allegations by multiple women.
"Filmmaker Sajid Khan, who I met a couple of times while he was dating an actress I knew years ago, made a few predictions when a close friend of ours was opening her second restaurant - 'This place will shut down within a year, mark my words. To his actress girlfriend he said, 'She won't survive a day without me in Bollywood'. 'And, this one', looking at me straight, 'will soon commit suicide'.
"My restaurateur friend is opening her fourth restaurant. It is difficult to get a table at the other three. The actress' career skyrocketed after she dumped the filmmaker and I, have managed to stay alive," she wrote.
(With inputs from Express News Service and PTI)