Debonita Sur is the latest in the list of actors who have accused casting director Vicky Sidana of sexual misconduct.
Sur first met Sidana in 2014. Having already made a name for herself in Kolkata TV industry and theatre, the actor was referred by her theatre group to the casting director for a film. Sidana then had films like Special 26, Pyaar Ka Punchnama and Bodyguard to his credit.
The first meeting, however, was the beginning of a series of unpleasant experiences. “It was the first disgusting experience I had in my entire life. I was shocked at how people functioned here in Mumbai and how it’s considered so normal for people to abuse women,” Sur said.
Debonita Sur met Vicky Sidana at his Lokhandwala office. The actor recalled, “The meeting went fine. He told me to come for an audition the next day. So, I decided to leave. He told me that he was also going out, so we can go together. We both were in the elevator and while talking to me, his eyes were only fixed on my b***s. He was blatantly staring at them. I just wanted to get out.”
Sur got a call from Sidana’s office a few days later for another project. “He told me, ‘You are very hot. What kind of work are you looking for?’ I told him that I was looking for good roles, even if they are small. So, the next thing he asked me was if I would be comfortable with everything. I understood what he was getting at. I mean, who hasn’t heard of casting couch? So, I told him that I wasn’t serious about such nonsense.”
Few more days passed. On a day when the actor was in the middle of a dubbing, she saw multiple missed calls from Sidana. Expecting it to be a work-related call, she called him back. “He told me that a director was looking for a dusky, hot Bengali girl for an art-house film and it was an important role. I thought it was cool and asked Vicky when I could come for the audition. He, instead, asked me to send him my hot pictures, saying the director wanted to have a look at them,” Sur said.
The actor added she did not understand what the casting director meant when he asked her for ‘hot pictures’. “When I asked him what did it imply, he shot back at me, ‘Don’t you know what hot pictures are?’ Assuming a few pictures from her photoshoot would suffice, she sent him those photos.
“After a few minutes, he called me and told me, ‘These are not hot pictures. I want your pictures in your undergarments.’ I was shocked. I told him I did not have a bikini body and I was never comfortable with it so, I hadn’t got any such picture done. I requested him to get my audition fixed with the director and told him that if in the audition, I needed to wear any costume, I would because that would be for my role,” the actor said.
Vicky Sidana told Debonita Sur that he will talk to the director but also asked the actor what would she do in case the director did not agree with her. She said, “He then started asking me questions like where do I stay and if I stay alone. Then he suggested, ‘If you don’t mind, can I come to your house tomorrow morning when no one would be there and click your pictures in undergarments?’ How dare he make such a proposal to me? I told him I wasn’t comfortable and cut the call immediately. It made me feel so small that how can a guy talk to me like this.”
Sur stopped contacting Sidana thereafter, but her friends advised her against it. The actor said, “I was new. I was desperate for work. My friends told me that if I react on things that people say here, I will make a lot of enemies. They told me to get back in touch with him and drop him professional texts so that I don’t alienate work. I listened to them.”
In 2015, Sidana made a call to Sur and in an approximately half-an hour conversation, explained to the actor how it is important for her to be “comfortable with everyone in the industry, even if she doesn’t want to sleep with anyone.” “I didn’t say much to him and listened to him only because I didn’t want to upset him, but this enabled him to harass me more.” The casting director, apparently, would then make several video calls to her at odd hours, which freaked her out.
“I never received any of his video calls. I was so sick of this behaviour. Just because I listened to him, he thought he could get friendlier with me. He would ask me to go on long drives with him or have lunches/dinners with him, very well knowing we had a strictly professional rapport. Once I was at a market with my friend Sumit and Vicky made a video call. I broke down. I have had it enough.”
When indianexpress.com reached out to Vicky Sidana for his comment, he first alleged that Debonita Sur was not “a right girl.” On being asked what is the basis of his inference, the casting director said, “You know. The kind of people who you meet and just know that they are not right. I met her once or twice and I knew I had to stay away from her and so, I never entertained her.”
After the conversation, the casting director sent us a screenshot of Sur’s WhatsApp message to him dated August 23, 2017, in which she has asked him to meet for a project. The screenshot did not show Vicky’s reply to her.
“She said I have indecently behaved with her two years back. I have sent you the screenshot of 2017 August. So after what I have done allegedly with her, why is she messaging me or asking people to refer her name to me. It just doesn’t add up. As you can tell from the snapshot that I sent you, I did not entertain her hence, there is no question of misbehaviour,” read Vicky’s response.
When we checked with Sur, the actor agreed that she had sent him a message. She said, “So, once I was talking to a writer-producer (kept anonymous on request) who told me to get in touch with Vicky for a certain project. I told her that my experience with Vicky had not been good and so I wasn’t sure about it. So, she spoke to Vicky and told me he was okay with it and I could text him. That’s when I messaged him and also mentioned her reference. He did not reply to me. We have never interacted after that.”