Toxic work environment, sexism and harassment: Cast, crew open up on what’s ailing Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah? – The Indian Express

Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah has many creditable records to its name — India’s longest running show, a show that has retained its spot at the top of charts over the years and has quietly but surely entered popular culture. However, the TRP spinner has been in the news for all the wrong reasons — cast members exiting the show amid claims of toxic work environment, allegations that those who left the show didn’t receive due payments, and even allegations of sexual harassment against producer Asit Kumarr Modi. 
So, what is really happening on the set of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, a show that is ironically about residents of a housing society finding unity in diversity. To find out more, we spoke to a cross-section of people involved with the show.
Priya Ahuja, who has been part of TMKOC since its inception, is today heartbroken. The actor, who played Rita Reporter, is married the director of the show Malav Rajda. After the director quit the show earlier this year, Priya says the team broke all ties with her. Her issues with the production started way back and escalated in 2020, after shoots resumed post the lockdown.
Speaking to, the actor said the team never called her after the shoot resumed. Given her child was young, she wanted to returned to TMKOC instead of taking up a new show. A number of calls and messages to Asit Modi and the team went unanswered or got cold replies. “Once Malav left the show, they seemed to have ended all ties me too. I waited for some time but had to take up work, and thus signed a new show (Ghum Hai Kisikey Pyaar Meiin). After giving so many years to the show, I should have been given that basic respect.”
While Priya shared that she never faced any kind of misbehaviour or harassment from anyone on set, she said that there’s no smoke without fire. She also confessed that most actors do not get leaves or permission to do other work. They are even forbidden from posting too many BTS photos and videos on social media. “These are small issues but a constant restriction can sometimes be frustrating. With so many opportunities right now, every actor wants to do more work, and to get them to sign an exclusive contract or not give leaves is a form of harassment.”
A post shared by TMKOC_Neela Film Productions (@taarakmehtakaooltahchashmahnfp)
Priya Ahuja confessed that she was the only artist without an ‘exclusive contract’ or ‘MG’ – she was paid monthly and not in 90 days as others. Other sources said actors like Shailesh Lodha and Raj Anadkat quit Taarak Mehta because of their inability to work outside. While Shailesh wanted dates for his poetry events, Raj was offered music videos and reality shows. Others like Munmun Dutta were also said to have shown their displeasure towards such rules. However, Asit Kumarr Modi’s strict contract does not allow them to explore other avenues.
Defending his exclusive contract deals with artists, the producer in an earlier interview with said that it’s his way to keep the audience connected to the part. “Yeh contract isiliye hota hai ke agar aap sab kuch karte rahoge… Audience ne jo pyaar diya, woh isiliye ke exclusive iss character mein dikhne mile. Yeh show yaha tak pahucha hai ussi ke karan. Agar yeh sab jo kalakar hai woh sab kuch karenge to show ki value nahi rahegi (Audiences have loved the show because they want to see these actors in these characters only. If they start doing everything, the show will lose its value),” he shared.
Another former cast member, who didn’t want to be named, shared that things have taken a turn for the worse in the last few years. They said that after Disha Vakani left, the series saw a dip in numbers, and that’s been the case for a long time. “Honestly, the content has deteriorated over the last few years. Many fans have even called out the makers to shut the show or take a break. With so much pressure to deliver, you cannot expect them to be nice with the cast and crew. It’s always a blame game on the set, with everyone trying to keep their position safe,” the actor said.
They also revealed that as for issues with final payment or increment, it’s the case with most production houses. They added that while things at Taarak set are bad, no TV set is a happy place, given the work pressure. “It comes as a shocker because they try to paint such a happy picture. Also, because it’s a family comedy show, people expect everyone to be like a family, but it’s not. Also, the people in authority do not want to adapt with time. Who can be happy in that scenario? Neither are they happy and that negativity passes on to the team too,” they added.
A post shared by Malav Rajda (@malavrajda)
Former director of the show Malav Rajda decided to quit the show as he was dissatisfied with the work. While he shared that he never had a major issue with the producer, they would often have creative clashes. In his own words, he gave the show his ‘youth’, only to wake up unhappy every day. “It was my dream to be a director and here I was dreading to go to work every day. That made me feel that something was not wrong. The negativity on the set was affecting my personal life and I realised I need to leave if I have to grow,” he told us.
The director shared that they do not have any direct access to what happens between an actor and a producer. Without commenting on the ongoing issues, Malav said while everyone is struggling, but if people are speaking out, they need to listen and retrospect. He said, “I may not have had such issues with the makers but we cannot ignore what others are saying. I, personally, never interfered in actor-producer matters, even when I was married to one (Priya). That was my professionalism.”
However, he did add that he was left to ‘manage’ things because of these troubles. Sharing that he did not know Shailesh Lodha had quit until they were on the set, shooting. “I often tell people that we are not directing a TV show, we mostly manage it. Shailesh bhai’s phone was unreachable and we waited and managed the episode somehow. Later, we got to know that things were not right between him and the producer.”
A public relations executive, who has handled Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, previously shared that the set is off-bounds for everyone. They also shared that the claims of male chauvinism and sexism on set are also true, as the team has a very patriarchal thought process. “As you would see at family events, the men gather together and chill while women are at home. Similarly, on the set, the men are often hanging out together without bothering about the female cast members. The ones in authority are also mostly men and have an attitude that goes with it. Most male actors thus also get preference because of this bro-bond while women do not have any perks,” they added.
A post shared by Malav Rajda (@malavrajda)
Priya Ahuja shared that while she did not face any kind of sexual harassment, casual sexism is prevalent on the set. “Every time I would ask Asit ji for my track, he would say Malav is already earning, why do you need to bother? I didn’t come to Mumbai to be Malav’s wife, I came to be an actor. Also, I was on the show even before he joined it, or we married. What’s our relationship got to do with work?”
The former actor also shared how the producer would behave, “There have been times when they have said ‘we have done this for you, and that for you’. We made you all stars. How can they forget they are what they are today because of the cast and crew? If no one worked for them, there would be no show, there would be no Neela Telefilms. They have no respect and love for their team. It’s just exploitation,” they said.
Priya Ahuja also discussed how people have been questioning the actors about speaking about the issues months later. The actor said that given Malav was still part of Taarak mehta team, she did not want to complicate things for him. Secondly, she was already working and secure. “And most importantly, I didn’t want to disrupt my peace. I knew if I would confront them, they would gaslight me. That would have troubled me further.”
The production house has refused to talk about the matter citing legalities. After the TV actress’ claims hit headlines, Asit Kumarr Modi called her allegations baseless. Issuing a statement, he said, “We will take legal action as she is trying to defame me and the show both. Since we terminated her services, she is making these baseless allegations.”
Head of Operations Sohil Ramani and his assistant Jatin Bajaj also added, “She regularly misbehaved on the show with the entire team. While moving out from the shoot, she rashly drove her car at a very high speed, not caring for people in her way. She even damaged the set property. We had to terminate her contract because of her bad behaviour and indiscipline during the shoot. During this incident, Asit ji was in the USA. She is now trying to defame us and the show by making baseless allegations. We have already filed our complaint against these baseless allegations with the concerned authorities.”
For the unversed, the said actor alleged that Ramani and his assistant insulted her and asked her to leave the set on March 7. Later, the makers sent a notice to her saying they were losing money because of her absence on the set. This is when she decided to approach her lawyer, and sent them a legal notice.
The TV actor, while speaking to, said she has proof to back her allegations. She alleged that the producer of the show, on many accounts, passed sexually suggestive comments. She added that she did not speak about it earlier as she feared consequences. “He would compliment me in a sexual manner, ask me to come to his room. I tried not to pay much heed to it and would shrug off his comments. I know he is very powerful but I am ready to fight now. I am already getting calls to take back my case. My colleagues are telling me to apologise but I will not stop now. I don’t want other women to go through this. It’s important to speak out,” the actor said.
As per her, the three men mentally harassed her multiple times over the years. However, as she is a breadwinner, the actor said she continued working amid the negativity. She added, “I have had enough and my husband was by my side, and thus I decided to speak about it. They treat everyone like their slaves and the world should know about their real faces.”

Sana FarzeenSana FarzeenSana Farzeen is a senior copy editor at Indian Express Online and cove… read more


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