Exclusive: Payal Ghosh On Star Kids, Me Too Movement And Upcoming Films

Actor Payal Ghosh gets into a candid conversation with Lehren as she talks about her upcoming films, politics and Me Too movement.

We are in the middle of a pandemic. How are you contributing?

I am using my social media platform so that if anybody needs anything, I come to know about it and use my personal contacts to provide whatever help I can provide. I find myself lucky to help people and save lives, even if it is very small in number. Every single life matters. I am trying my best.

How do you keep yourself motivated when there’s so much sadness around?

We are living in a very depressing time. I feel weird if I have to step out for some work. The streets are empty. Never thought that a city like Mumbai would come to a halt. But this pandemic is scary. People should be at home.

I keep myself busy. I am trying to coordinate with people to help in whatever way I can. Apart from that, I watch films or read books. The premises of my society is quite big, so I go for a walk.

On one hand, everyone says that we should stay at home and shouldn’t step out until necessary. And on the other hand, we see celebrities going on vacations and posting pictures and videos on social media. How do you perceive this?

In this situation, how can one feel to go for a vacation. People are having scary experiences. Some are not getting oxygen, some are not getting hospital beds especially in Delhi NCR. When people are struggling to breathe, how can someone go for a vacation. I don’t know if people can enjoy, but I cannot.

You signed a film titled ‘Red’ alongside Krushna Abhishek. What’s the status of the film?

We still have to shoot one schedule. We had to shoot it in April but it has been delayed due to the lockdown. Once the lockdown is lifted, we will complete the film then. Only 5-7 days of shoot is left.

What is your role in the film?

I have three different shades in this film. I am playing a college girl, a housewife, and then I have one more character that I don’t want to reveal right now. So, it will be a surprise for my fans.

Will it be released on OTT or in theatres?

We had earlier planned to release in theatres. But seeing the current scenario, I don’t think it will be possible. So, maybe, we will have to release it on OTT.

How was your experience working with Krushna Abhishek?

It was a great experience. He is a nice guy. Very sweet, helpful, jovial and cooperative. He cracks a lot of jokes. Whenever he is there, we enjoy a lot.

Have you signed any other project?

Yes, I am doing another Hindi film. We will announce it soon. I have two south movies as well. Apart from that, there are a few more films that are not confirmed yet.

Last year, you joined the Me Too Movement and shared your story of harassment by Anurag Kashyap. Mostly, the girls don’t share these incidents as they are afraid that they won’t get work in the industry if they speak up.

Exactly, Exactly.

But you are getting a lot of work. So, is this perception changing?

Yes, definitely. The girls who are scared and decide not to speak up, live with a lot of mental pressure. Why should they torture themselves when it’s someone else who did wrong? So, I think, women should not keep quiet and they should come forward and talk about it. They should not think that what would happen to them. When you’ll speak about it, I am sure you will feel much better.

I was harassed many years ago. But I couldn’t come out and speak, because, at that time, I was also scared. And when I tried to speak, my family and my manager stopped me. When the Me Too movement started in 2018, I tried a lot to come out and speak, but I wasn’t allowed to say anything. Finally, I shared my story without consulting them because my family was not endorsing this decision. But after that day, I feel relieved. I feel good and positive to let this burden go off me. So, I think, instead of going through this mental torture, every woman should come out and talk about it and live a peaceful life.

What is the status of investigation in your case?

The investigation is still going on. But there is no progress. The case file is on the table of policemen, this is all in the name of investigation.

Do you think that the system has failed us?

Yes, the system is at fault. There’s no doubt it that. If there is a middle-class person, the policemen arrest them without saying anything. But when it comes to influential people, the system bends. The law changes for powerful people.

Last year, actress Malvi Malhotra was stabbed by a film producer after she rejected his proposal. So, is this industry becoming unsafe for women?

No, it was unsafe earlier as well. Just that, women didn’t speak up before. They used to feel scared and they still do. But now, few girls are coming forward and talking about it. Things will change only when people start to speak up against it.

What is the real problem here? Being a woman or an outsider?

Of course, being an outsider is the real issue. These directors can’t even dare to touch the star kids. Rather, they will fall into their feet. But when there’s an outsider, the new girl doesn’t have a support, so they think that they can use them by making false promises to give work. And they think, that all the girls that are meeting them are easily accessible.

Last year, you also joined Ramdas Athawale’s political party (Republican Party of India). You are now the Vice President of its women’s wing. So, how are you balancing acting and politics at the same time?

I am not very active in politics at the moment. Ramdas Athawale Sir told me that I wouldn’t have to be an active member. He said that if I join, it would be an inspiration for other women in the party. So, that’s why I joined. He said, ‘Whenever you have time, you can come and work for the party. There won’t be any pressure from our side’.

So, I said ‘yes’ to the offer because he had helped me a lot when I opened up about my harassment story. I had no intentions to join politics. But when he offered, I took some time to think and I realised that it would be a platform for me where I can help people. I like to do social service. So, I am more like a social activist in the party, rather than a “politician”.”

Do you see yourself being more active in politics in the coming time?

I haven’t thought about it. But if there comes a day when I would quit acting, then I would actively devote my time in social activities and serve the people of the country. If this would mean being active in politics, I would definitely think about it. But right now, I haven’t taken any call.

So, your entire focus is on acting right now?

Yes, definitely. But if I see anything wrong around me, I speak about it. I don’t feel scared thinking that what would others say or think. I don’t care about all that. I clearly say things that are in my heart.

If you get a chance to change one thing about the industry, what would that be?

First of all, I would try to change the mentality of people where they percieve the outsiders in a different manner. They first harass them and then give work. I would want them to give work on the basis of talent and not on basis of anything else.