Here's another #MeToo story. TV actress Sonal Vengurlekar, who has been the lead actress of shows like Yeh Vaada Raha, Shastri Sisters, Saam Daam Dand Bhed has accused Raja Bajaj (Rajesh V Bajaj)- photographer by profession- and father of famous actress Sheena Bajaj- for sexually harassing her in 2012 under the pretext of helping her to bag roles. The actress had filed a police complaint then. SpotboyE.com got in touch with Sonal who is now willing to talk. Here's our conversation with her:
It’s shocking to hear that you also have been a victim of sexual harassment?
I never thought that one day I will discuss this in public. That time, I was not even a TV actor. I was just auditioning for work. But since this #MeToo movement has started, I am proud that several girls are coming forward and this has given me the strength to talk. Honestly, I had taken action against Raja Bajaj 6 years back by filing a police complaint- but nothing happened, still only hearings are going on. That man is easily working in the industry with no stress, as no one knows what wrong he did to me.
It is extremely difficult. Whenever, I go to the court for hearings, people around him force me to step back. They have tried their best to convince me to withdraw the case , mainly by saying, ‘Aap ladki ho, aapka naam kharab ho jaayega’. But I am going to pursue it.
Did you ever think of stepping back?
At one point, I did. All that I was getting was a date from the court at every hearing. Being an actor, we shoot almost 30 days for a show- and it becomes really difficult to get time for all this. Moreover, the law says that if you have filed it under Section 354 and want to drop it for any reason- then you have to give a statement saying that 'nothing like this ever happened or my complaint was misconstrued'. Mera dil nahin maan raha tha that I should drop it when I had suffered so much. Anyway, my next hearing is now on December 1.
Raja claims that they wanted do a counter FIR but the police didn’t take it as they didn’t know Marathi...
Silly. If someone does not know Marathi, can't he/she file a complaint in this city? By saying such things, he is questioning the police. One can easily check at the Kasturba Police station- the truth lies there.
Okay, so what exactly happened between Raja Bajaj and you? Did you know that he is Sheena Bajaj's father when you went to meet him for the first time?
No, but when I went there I saw Sheena Bajaj’s pictures in the hall. Firstly he took my audition and I wasn’t very good at it as I was very new. So he was guiding me- talk this way, act this way. After my audition was done he told me, "I feel you are nervous and it is showing on your face. But your face is very good, so don’t get demotivated. And then pointing towards Sheena’s photo he told me, see she is my daughter. And currently she is earning Rs 50,000 per day." And then he said that I could leave. He promised, "I will call you, I am doing a project and I will take you there. I will show you how things work and all. You can assist me there, so you will build your confidence level, so that next time when you go for auditions you will not hesitate". And I had grown up seeing Sheena Bajaj in many popular shows. So, somewhere I developed a certain trust in him.
So when did he call you next?
On March 5, he asked me to meet at Hiranandani Powai and said that we will be going to Lonavala for a shoot. He met me there around 8:00 am and a female model was already sitting in his car when I entered. I felt quite relaxed that some other girl was there with me. But he took us to Khopoli and not Lonavala.
He told us on the way that the shoot is going to happen in a Khopoli resort. But it wasn’t a proper resort.
What was it like?
It was like a farmhouse with a pool and a garden which people usually take for a holiday and it was quite a bit under construction. After sometime we all had breakfast and then he started shooting with that model who had come with us in the car.
What happened after that?
After a while, he asked me to wear a certain outfit. While I was heading to change, he stopped me and gave me a cream. "Apply it on your b***s" he said. When I asked 'why', he simply said, 'all models do it to acquire a good shape'. I refused to apply that cream arguing that I was not a model. But he took the cream and started applying it on my b***s. Maine uska haath jhatka and I came out. As that moment, I didn’t even realise how to react. I was just 19. But after coming out of the room. I started keeping a distance from him. Then I saw him ordering that model that she was not capable and so should leave. I started wondering what I should do next to get away from there.
Raja Bajaj is not accepting what you are saying. He has denied that he sexually harassed you...
Yes, I have read his side of the story. But let me tell you I have a FIR copy with me where he has given his statement accepting what all he did to me. Also, he was locked up in that police station for one full night. They even beat him up. Why would the cops do that if he was innocent?
What justice are you expecting?
He should get a proper punishment (sentence) for what he did. I leave it to the judiciary now. But I want to be the voice of those girls who have faced such incidents.
Are you afraid that consequently, it may get difficult for you to find work?
If every person will think like that, then justice will never be done and such incidents will never stop. And let me tell you that the entire TV industry is not bad. I have worked with several people who respect talented women. Everyone is not into cheap antics. Anyway, now I have spoken and I am not going to remain quiet hereafter either.
Image Source: instagram/sonal_vengurlekar_ ,cinespeaks.com & instagram/sonal_1206