Iranian actress and model Elnaaz Norouzi has accused director Vipul Shah of sexual harassment, saying he would touch her inappropriately every chance that he got and even tried to kiss her. Elnaaz, who stars in Netflix India’s first original show Sacred Games, said Vipul had asked her to appear for an audition for a part in his film Namaste England, but would never confirm her role.
The actress, who revealed the ordeal she went through in an interview to Mid-Day, said that she met Vipul during the pre-production of his film Namaste England, and that her manager had informed her that she could be cast as the second lead, a role which had previously been offered to Jacqueline Fernandes, who had let it pass. The lead role was being played by actor Parineeti Chopra.
Elnaaz said when she met Vipul she was surprised when he behaved like he had already considered her for the role and was ready to sign her for the part. “We just need to do a look-test, and sign papers,” she recalled him as telling her. She said she found it weird because she had not auditioned for the film as yet.
“A few days later, he made me do an audition with (casting director) Honey Trehan, which wasn’t even for an actual scene. I woke up at 6 am, reached Versova beach; was made to do a few natural scenes, just being myself. The casting director, it seemed to me, had not even been briefed,” she told Mid-Day.
Photo Courtesy: Instagram/_iamelnaaz_
She said Vipul got back to her saying that it was not what he wanted, and she went back to his office again to talk.
“This time, when we were saying bye, he came on to me. It was too close for comfort. I didn’t get the right vibe. He gave a peck on my face. I didn’t expect it. I called up my manager after this to say, ‘Vipul is serious. He wants to sign the papers. Get in touch with him and go ahead.’ For days, I kept chasing my manager, who told me that Vipul wasn’t getting back,” she recalled.
Elnaaz said she went through six rounds of auditions for the film, and he made her feel like the planet’s worst actor leaving her confidence shattered.
“I kept feeling like I was auditioning, and not cracking the part. It was only later I realised that this was his way of calling me to his office, over and over again, to get closer to me,” she said.
Photo Courtesy: Instagram/_iamelnaaz_
“The next time we met at his office, he tried to kiss me. I backed off, said, ‘What are you doing? We are in your office!’ I pushed him away, being affirmative; but careful enough not to come across as rude, because I really wanted the film,” she revealed.
“We did another set of auditions. Again, he said he needed to look at them, see if he can do workshops with me, after which, I would be ready for the role. During this meeting, once more, he tried to touch me inappropriately. I said I was unwell, and that I had to leave. I left the country thereafter to promote a film of mine.
“When I returned, and got in touch with Vipul, he called me over to Patiala. It was a five-hour drive from Amritsar. I did another audition there, in his presence. We were staying on the same hotel-floor. After the audition, we went up together. I asked him about when I could hear the (film’s) story. He had always avoided narrating it thus far.
“This time, he said, ‘Come to my room. I will make you hear the script.’ At this point, he touched my butt, and dragged me towards himself. I dodged him, went to my room, and sat there wondering if I should just give in. When I got a message from his assistant to come down for dinner, I thought everything was normal. But I felt there was something weird about him at the table,” she added.
Elnaaz, who revealed she did not take the matter to the police because she is a foreigner, said the only reason she is sharing her story is because she wants people like Vipul to stop misusing their power.