Actress Payal Rohatgi who’s known more for her affair with Rahul Mahajan than acting skills has accused Khosla Ka Ghosla filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee of asking sexual favours from her. The reality TV star was recently discharged from a nursing home where she was treated for depression. Payal Rohatgi says that she has faced casting couch before, but never from a friend. She told a leading Indian daily, “This must have happened to me before. But never from a friend. You can’t f**k your buddy, if you are giving her a role!”
The actress who has done small roles in films apart from few item numbers says that she considered Dibakar Banerjee as her mentor. She introduced herself to the director few months ago through an SMS and asked him to meet her. “I spoke about my problems (split with Rahul Mahajan), and he’d talk about his marriage not working. He advised me to see a psychiatrist from Bombay Hospital, someone whom he sees to discuss his inability to be monogamous and his need for multiple affairs,” informs Payal to the news daily.
Things took an ugly turn when Rohatgi asked for a role in the director’s next Shanghai. He asked her to audition for the role and got her in touch with Atul Mongia, his casting director. “The scene required me to react to the news about my husband’s murder. I think I gave my best because I cried my heart out. After the audition I messaged Dibakar, and he asked me how I was feeling. I told him I was very low because to portray the grief I’d imagined my mother dying,” she continues.
The filmmaker then invited Payal to his home. “He’d been over before and we’ve hung out but he never misbehaved with me. So, I agreed. When he came, he commented that I had put on weight. I was puzzled. He then asked me to lift my shirt and show him my stomach. I got pissed-off. I told him not joke around as I was feeling low. I said to him, ‘Let me be, and please leave.’ And he left.” The actress adds that despite the positive feedback to the audition, Dibakar didn’t revert to her despite several calls and messages.
When contacted Dibakar Banerjee dismissed all the claims saying, “Payal contacted me first around March 2010 through many texts and phone calls of an over familiar nature. She said she wanted to act in meaningful films rather than do item numbers. Upon her repeated insistence I met her at a Business Centre of a Five Star hotel in a business environment. There I impressed her that the only way to act in my film would be to pass a screen test. Because her texts were flirtatious I clarified in a frank and forthright way, that if I were to ever cheat on my marriage, I would rather have an extra marital affair with a non actor than ask for sexual favours in return for a role as that would really go against my deepest principles. After that there were many calls and texts asking for professional advice. I learnt other directors had got similar calls too. However giving her benefit of doubt I referred her to my casting and workshop director whom she contacted.”
The director claims he took psychiatric help when Khosla… was not releasing and there had been a death in the family. He says, “This is no secret. Many of my friends, colleagues and my wife know about it. This was told to Payal as a way of telling her that all bad patches can be overcome if one is determined.”
The director also clarified on the meeting at Payal’s house, “When I reached her place, she asked me up as she would take five minutes. I was barely there for a few minutes and my driver can affirm that. Nothing of any sexual, exploitative or suggestive nature transpired, I’m willing to swear in court to that. After which I escorted her to the studio, where an hour-long happy interaction with people present, while I withdrew to work. This is where the conversation about her weight took place! My colleague remembers it! And there was no request to lift her top, but a discussion on the weight of the character she was testing for! She started texting me shortly after this, asking about the screen test results. I texted her to please check with my casting director, as is my policy. Upon which the texts again became insistent and troubled. This time I took a call as this repetitive pattern of help-anxiety-help was taking its toll. I decided to end communication.”