There was no MeToo back then. If there was, things would have been different for Sushmita Sen who while shooting for Chingari with director Kalpana Lajmi had to face a situation of abject harassment from her co-star.
Chingari was the story of a tussle between a prostitute and a priest. Sushmita found herself to be at the receiving end of a massive conflict with the well-known actor who played the villain. The legendary actor, made her life a living hell, so much that shooting the sexual scenes with the villain was an ordeal, as he made sure she was uncomfortable in them.
This is what the late Kalpana Lajmi had said about Sushmita’s ordeal during Chingari. “She did something remarkable. She asked me to let her do an entire take without rehearsals. I agreed. When she gobbled up her co-star he didn’t know what hit him. That stunned look on his face was real. After the shot the co-star was livid. He called me to a corner and abused me in graphic language. You don’t know what I’ve gone through. Half the time he was drunk. I had put my foot down. He didn’t like it. For the last five days he didn’t touch a drop. Hence the inconsistent performance. He never expected Sushmita to be so gifted. They have equal footage. The minute he realized her potential he froze. For the confrontation scene between them my brief to Sush was, ‘The predator becomes the prey, and vice versa.’ And she took off …She gave me tonal variations that even the awesome Shabana didn’t give me in Ek Pal. I made her do unbelievably long shots, which pissed off her co-star. She completely ate him up. Sush had to suffer quite a lot. But she did it. I gave her cues two minutes before a shot, and she delivered. Somewhere the friction between them helped their performances.”
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