The Marathi production house, Panorama Productions,is yet to write to Mane. They have not followed the Vishaka guidelines stipulated by the Supreme Court of India regarding sexual harassment at workplace and sent the complaint to the committee it is bound to have under the law. There is no clarity either about the nature and timing of the complaint made by Shravani Pillai. What has added to the controversy is the fact that Pillai’s husband, Unnikrishnan Pillai, is an office bearer in the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“I have not been told what is the complaint against me or given a chance to explain,” grumbles Mane. Political parties and the industry appear to have been quiet because of the complaint by Pillai, unwilling to get dragged into any controversy around personal, professional or sexual misconduct. When this journalist sent a message to Amit Deshmukh, the minister of cultural affairs, he replied rather diplomatically, “Will examine”.
However, Maharashtra Women’s Commission registered Mane’s wife’s complaint and has sought a response from the production house.
The four female co-stars claim Mane has never used even a single cuss word on the sets. “Bantering, arguing and even teasing and taunting each other is common on any set; but there is no way Mane has misbehaved with anyone at any time,” said Prajakta Kelkar. She is worried of the fallout on the industry and other actors. The viewers will be the losers, she warns.
Shweta Ambikar, another co-star, also frowns on tarnishing the actor’s reputation. “He has never behaved inappropriately. We all are together on the set and he has not abused anyone. He is a thorough professional and we were shocked after these allegations were made. It has not been easy for us to speak up, but at the end of the day, we wanted to be clear to our conscience,” she said, conceding that all four have risked their own career by sticking their neck out.
They are already feeling the heat in view of silence by industry veterans. “We do sense the tension on the set and we can feel the pressure as only four of us women have come out to speak the truth,” she admitted.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)