Two former dance students allege one of India’s biggest celebrities, Shiamak Davar, is a sexually abusive and controlling leader of a sect called VRRP Spiritual Learning group, according to two lawsuits filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
Shiamak, 53, teaches dance in six countries and has sold millions of albums. His choreography has gone from Bollywood to Hollywood blockbusters such as Mission Impossible 4. He’s rubbed shoulders with everyone from Bollywood stars like Shilpa Shetty to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
Percy Shroff, 40, and Jimmy Mistry, 33, both of North Vancouver, say they endured years of unwanted sexual touching at the hands of Shiamak, who they say abused his authority as their spiritual leader to control all aspects of their lives.
“I used to believe that his word was god.… I just wanted to please him,” said Shroff in an exclusive interview with CBC News.
Shroff claims the star, known simply as Shiamak, began grooming him for sexual exploitation when he was 16, and he is suing now to protect his young son.
Denies all allegations
In a written response to the lawsuits, Shiamak claims the allegations are not true and that the two former dancers are trying to ruin “his character, reputation and affiliated organizations.”
Shiamak, who splits his time between Mumbai and North Vancouver, says he is the “custodian” of VRRP, not its leader, and that if the two men believed he was their spiritual guru, that was their personal view.
“In India, your guru, your teacher, goes way up there in respect, almost, if not more than your parents, so you don’t think he can do anything wrong,” he says of the man he once believed received messages directly from God.
VRRP follows the teachings of Khorsheed Bhavnagari, who wrote The Laws of the Spirit World, in which she claimed her two dead sons communicated with her.
Shiamak says he also does what’s called “auto writing” to receive messages from spirits.
Members do what they are told, says lawsuit
“You have to do what you are told,” he says, explaining why he complied when he was 17, with a request to visit Shiamak in Mumbai.
“He started kissing my neck, then he told me to lie down on top of him, and he told me to grind my crotch into his crotch,” says Shroff, who claims he told Shiamak he would never do that again.
The lawsuit claims Shiamak punished him, claiming his soul would not progress spiritually if he didn’t submit.
Shroff claims he lost roles in dance performances, and was left behind on an out-of-town performance.
“He was just publicly humiliating me … because I wasn’t giving him what he wanted … which was reciprocating to sexual acts,” claims Shroff, who says he moved from Mumbai to North Vancouver to help Shiamak run the VRRP after Bhavnagari died in 2007.
Shiamak says he “has never had inappropriate sexual relations” with any dancer in his company or used his spirituality to manipulate, control or threaten anyone.
Alleged rules of spiritual group
The lawsuit claims VRRP members in Canada must reside between 17th and 22nd Street near Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver, because the group believes the area was safe from an imminent apocalypse.
Shroff says he was told when to marry and have a child, and that Shiamak then ordered him to tell his wife he was gay, claiming he was conveying a message from one of Bhavnagari’s dead sons.
Shroff says he complied and they separated, though he claims Shiamak ordered them to stay married.
The claim says Shiamak warned Shroff that choosing to be gay would “destroy his son’s spiritual mission on earth,” but Shiamak denies that, and says members are free to live their lives as they choose.
Worried about son still in group
“It was a very scary situation for me, because you think it’s the spirit souls in the world talking through him,” says Shroff, who is now openly gay and requesting a court order to prohibit Shiamak from having contact with his son.
He shares custody with his ex-wife, who is still in the group.
“I am extremely worried that … my son will be touched the same way I was as he grows older.…. that he will be influenced by the radical philosophies [of VRRP],” he says.
Mistry says he was 18 when Shiamak invited a few male dancers to watch TV in his bedroom, wearing only his underwear, according to the claim.
“It got to the point of him grabbing my hand, putting it on his genitalia … while another dancer would kiss him or touch him,” says Mistry, who soon joined Shiamak’s spiritual group.
“I really got sucked in to that at that point in time, and also it started to get more physical,” he says, adding that Shiamak often kissed him on the mouth, once gave him a hickey and made unwanted sexual advances.
Shiamak says there was never any sexual or physical interaction between him and Mistry.
Sex with students alleged
Shroff claims he confronted Shiamak about having sex with young dance and spiritual students.
“I said Shiamak, you need to stop because … these are your dance and spiritual students who come to you for advice.”
He claims Shiamak said the students “had more to lose by speaking out about it,” but Shiamak says that conversation never happened.
Shroff and Mistry are claiming damages for psychological injuries.
“Going up against him is like going up against a prophet,” says Shroff about his decision to sue.
“I am not doing this out of revenge, I am doing this to help my son” he says.
None of the plaintiffs allegations have been proven and Shiamak has asked the court to dismiss both lawsuits, with costs.