With veteran writer-producer Vinta Nanda accusing Alok Nath of raping her twice, Sandhya Mridul accusing him of sexual harassment, a female crew member of Hum Saath Saath Hain sharing her nightmarish experience of working with him, Alok Nath's screen daughter Renuka Shahane thanks her stars. "My God! I am so glad I wasn't on any outdoor with him ever," says Shahane.
"My experience working with Alok Nath has been very good but I have heard that he has two faces. People say that he can't really handle his drinks. When he is drunk, he becomes a totally different person. His Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde personality is known to his colleagues. I heard many such incidents after I had finished working with him in Hum Aapke Hain Koun and tele-serial Imtihaan, in which he played my father," says the actress.
"In Imtihaan, our father-daughter bond was so strong and it was so wonderful working with him, but then I started hearing stories that he harasses women when he is drunk. It was so shocking for me because I couldn't put these two faces together. Deepika Deshpande (film and television actress) had mentioned about this to me when we were doing 9 Malabar Hill together sometime in the late '90s. Couple of other young actresses, 17 or 18 year olds, had mentioned that ki party mein badi badtamazee karte hain (he misbehaves with them in parties) and one has to keep away from him. That he misbehaves does not come as a surprise to me now but the extent to which he went (referring to Nanda's case) is really shocking. What Vinta has gone through is heart-rending. There are many others who must have been harassed but they are not coming out in the open," says Shahane.
"But yes, there are some people who are crass even on the sets and they may be great actors. Let's put it very clearly. Just because you have played a saint, have been principled on screen, doesn't mean you are principled in real life. You are just acting the part. We are taken in by that image. But I want the men also to speak up. Even the best intentioned men¦ Why can't they come out and say, Yes, this happened'. The least one can do is listen to the other side," she adds.
Amita Nangia, who played the character Sheena in tele-serial Tara (written by Nanda), supports Nanda wholeheartedly. "I was shocked. I knew of Alok's drinking problem but I wasn't aware of (alleged) rape incident. Though I fully believe Vinta, I wonder why she kept quiet for all these years. She was so powerful at that time. She could have exposed him but I will always support her. It's brave of her to come out like this," said Nangia.
Coming down hard on Nath, Nangia said that he often resorted to abusive and rowdy behaviour on sets. "Alokji used to drink a lot, and a lot of times, he would just go out of hand. At times, he would start drinking in the morning. We had all seen him misbehaving with Navneet Nishan (who played the title role in Tara). Couple of times, he even got abusive with me and hence, I was scared to go anywhere near him. We could see a drastic change in his personality, he would just go mad after drinking," she said
Nangia further said that she has seen the senior actor losing control at a couple of private shows as well. "It happened in Dubai where it was widely reported, and then in another show in Daman and Diu. Once drunk, he would get very cheap and abuse people around. He has this image of a sanskari guy so back then, it was hard for people to see this side of his personality," she said
Recalling another incident in Dubai, where Nath got abusive with an airline crew, Nangia said, "He was drunk and got into a squabble with the crew and he even slapped a pilot, so much so that he was off-loaded from the flight. Navneet, Neha Sharad, Raja Bundela, Vinta Nanda, Alok Nath's wife were all on the same flight."
Nangia also said that Vinta and Raman Kumar (director, Tara) would try to control his "notorious" behaviour, but most of his colleagues got used to it. "Vinta was very friendly with his wife, so she would try to bring him in control. He was respected as an actor but after drinking, he was a different personality. He was terrible," said Nangia. Raman Kumar (who is currently shooting in the interiors), when contacted, said, "These incidents (with Nanda) happened post Tara. She was working with Plus Channel then. On the sets of Tara, it was the Navneet Nishan incident that occurred, and thereafter, Alok Nath was thrown out."
Actor-director Deven Bhojani, who had come into the show later, too, was stunned by the rape allegation against Nath. "I had joined the Tara cast when the younger generation track came into being," Bhojani recalled. "I played Tara's daughter's Devyani's best friend. My track was not with Alok Nath. But I had heard stories of how he was a nice guy by day but once the sun set, he was very different," he said.
Just like Shahane, for Bhagyashree " Alok Nath's screen daughter in Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) " it is all quite shocking. "I had no bad experience nor did I get those vibes from him. The atmosphere on the sets was so brilliant. It has also got to do with Sooraj ji (Barjatya) as the director. When you are placed in an atmosphere like this, it cannot allow you to think that way because everyone is on track," says Bhagyashree.
Shahane, too, was under impression that such incidents will not occur on the sets of Rajshri Productions. But that is not the case if one has to believe a female crew member of Hum Saath Saath Hain, who recently shared her nightmarish experience of working with Nath. In an interview with a leading daily, the woman recounted her horrific experience during the last schedule of the film in Mumbai. "We were shooting for a night scene and I had taken a change of costumes to him. Once I handed him the clothes, he started stripping in front of me. I was taken aback, and tried to make my way out of the room as soon as possible. When I tried to run out, he grabbed my hand and manhandled me. I remember yanking my hand out of his grip and rushing out of the room,' she alleged.
Even though she was "shell-shocked", the woman said she could not muster courage to speak up about his inappropriate behaviour to Barjatya, the director and producer of Hum Saath Saath Hain. 'He (Alok Nath) was extremely close to the Barjatyas and Sooraj sir would have taken it badly,' she was quoted saying.
The woman managed to get through the last schedule of the film somehow. 'I don't actively do movies anymore. The course of my career changed. But Vinta's post brought it all back,' she said.
As soon as Sara Ali Khan, Alok Nath's screen daughter from the daily soap, Sapna Babul Ka¦Bidaai, hears Alok Nath's name, she immediately puts the phone down, saying, "I don't want to talk about him."
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