Swara Bhasker is now an established, award-winning actor in Bollywood, the Mumbai film industry. Late one evening he knocked on her door while drunk, she says, and demanded she hug him. In a bombshell move in July, police arrested a major Mollywood star, an actor known as Dileep, for allegedly orchestrating the kidnapping and assault. His organisation has received nearly 50 formal complaints of sexual harassment in the past two years, he says, compared with 12 in the three years before. She raises the recent furore around Padmavati , a film about a legendary Hindu queen whose release was indefinitely postponed after protests and death threats against the cast. In February in Kerala state, centre of Mollywood, the Malayalam film world, a prominent female actor was bundled into a car and sexually assaulted for several hours before being dumped on the street. But she was fairly new to the business when one director started incessantly texting her on set. But what is endemic, they say, is a deeply entrenched culture of actors — mostly women, but some men — being pressured to exchange sexual favours for roles and the promise of fame. They are unlikely to be unmasked any time soon, she says.
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