mid-day Impact: Anu Malik told to step down by Indian Idol
Even as show source reveals that Indian Idol judge Anu Malik will not report on set, another woman calls him out. NY-based producer Danica D'Souza recounts witnessing harassment
Another woman has outed veteran music composer Anu Malik after four women have accused him of sexual harassment in the last two weeks. Danica D'Souza, 30, a Mumbai resident, now stationed in New York as Design and Operations Director for The Laura Flanders Show, said she knew of at least two women who had similar experiences with Malik when she was assistant producer with FreemantleMedia India on reality singing show Indian Idol's season 5. D'Souza's LinkedIn profile states that she worked with the firm from February 2010 to August 2011. The firm was producing the show for Sony TV, and Malik had been a judge since season 1 in 2004.
"It was one of my first big assignments in the reality television space. I was an assistant producer on the show and the first incident involving Anu Malik I came across was during the audition rounds held somewhere around April-May 2010," D'Souza told mid-day in a telephonic interview, after reading this paper's exclusive report dated October 19 about two singing aspirants accusing Malik of harassment.
"This incident occurred in Kolkata. One of our colleagues from the production crew was travelling with a cameraman and Malik in a car to get sound bites. When she returned, she looked traumatised and told us of the unfortunate incident. She said once they had wrapped up their work, Malik touched her thigh in the car, and felt her up. She was startled. The cameraman who was sitting in the front seat wasn't aware of what was going on behind him."
D'Souza said that while reports of Malik's exploits were commonplace, what was disappointing was to see higher-ups in the show's team ignoring the complaint. "They [women on the team] sympathised but quickly swept the incidents under the rug. In closed circles, we'd talk about Anu being a tharki. When this colleague reported the incident to seniors in the production house, some of the women, they turned a blind eye. They knew he abused power but nothing came of it. In fact, they told us all to take precaution by not meeting him alone. He was often extra-friendly on set with women crew members, casually putting his hand around them, or pulling them towards him," she said.
D'Souza narrated an incident when she had to visit Malik's home for a costume fitting session, and she was accompanied by a male staffer. "His wife and daughter were present, too. While he didn't try to act smart that day, he would often refer to me as 'darling', 'baby' and 'sweety', which I was uncomfortable with." D'Souza hopes the channel and production house take a stand against Malik following multiple complaints. "They are well aware of his behaviour with women. I don't know why they are still quiet," she said.
Singers Sona Mohapatra and Shweta Pandit were the first to out Malik. Pandit said she was 15 when she met him at an Andheri studio, where he demanded a kiss in return for a song with Shaan and Sunidhi Chauhan.
After Pandit's tweet, netizens wondered if the show producers and the channel would take a stand against harassment by asking Malik to step down as judge. They cited examples of Sajid Khan and Subhash Kapoor, who had been ousted from their directorial ventures following sexual harassment allegations.
On Saturday, in a report published in this paper, two women who wished to remain anonymous accused Malik of harassment. An aspiring singer said he lifted her skirt and dropped his pants. Another survivor said he asked her to meet him wearing a chiffon saree, and hugged her in a recording studio.
When mid-day reached out to Malik, he called the allegations "false and per se defamatory". He said, "I want to give a detailed reply after ascertaining the correctness [of the account]."
While Sony refused to give an official statement, a source from the show said that Malik has been told to not report on set and will not be shooting.
Also Read: #MeToo: Two More Women Expose Anu Malik
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