n the struggle for seeming stardom and the mirage of megabucks, ethics, and so-called societal values have no place in the Bollywood industry. Auditions are sometimes dysphemism for ‘pleasure sessions’. People with name, fame, and money, checking out young, good-looking men and women, film and trial is just an eyewash for small timers, more of a trade here. These Victims or most of the time the volunteers call themselves aspiring models or aspiring actors as soon as they disembark in Mumbai. Bollywood’s seamy underside is not news. It has been around since the industry began, but what is new is the attitude: do and don’t die. In the words of a producer, “There are two types of girls who walk into the office every day. Those who genuinely want a career in film and those who want to use their looks to make money. The struggle for the ‘strugglers’ begins right at the beginning — finding a roof in Mumbai. Anyhow, if they could manage the roof, the next struggle is having a roadmap to the film industry; many a times, to sustain with lifestyle, the girls land up as escorts to rich old men enroot to stardom. These girls will need a lakh per month to keep up their lifestyle. On the other hand, boys do private shows for rich women and become strippers or gigolos. Given this parallel industry, for the genuine ones, it is often a struggle to ensure that one is not taken for a ride.
There are many incidences where Mumbai Police have rescued Bollywood strugglers lured in sex racket by the Models themselves. The film industry has its glitter but the story also has a very different, dark side. Earlier, Bollywood was completely a male-dominated industry and Women were given trivial or insignificant roles in the movies, but were also underpaid. Time has changed so the industry, many youngsters and running towards the film industry to make their carrier. Here starts the saga of the dark side. These youngsters walk into Bollywood and its colourful fringes — being clueless. They knock various doors; some get work and maximum land in doing what they never thought off because returning becomes a dilemma. Young boys and girls with starry dreams arrive by the dozens every day. Only 3 per cent of these strugglers ever make it to the glitzy side of the real Bollywood, but this depressing statistic never affects the surge of hopefuls who finally don’t even care if they make it in the film as long as they find some way of earning.
It is not easy to break into big-time Bollywood if you are not born into a powerful and influential star family. Therefore, aspiring starlets feel the need to develop connections and get themselves a ‘sugar daddy’ in the business that will smoothen their ride to the top. With desperate aspirants willing to almost throw themselves at their mercy, Bollywood bigwigs are not shy of exploiting the scenario or these junior artistes. According to the insiders, things have only become more rampant of late because of the willingness of starlets to give in.
The Indian media has played a major role in revealing instances of the casting couch in B-town. In a sensational sting operation in 2005, India TV trapped famous Bollywood baddie Shakti Kapoor and TV star Aman Verma. They were caught on tape making advances to a starlet planted by the channel. Last year, actress Rani Mukherji’s brother Raja found himself in the thick of trouble when he was arrested for allegedly molesting a TV actor named Priya Mishra who had approached him with a script. However, the most famous casting couch scandal in B-town could well be a case where the man was wronged. Starlet Preeti Jain created a sensation in 2004 when she accused ace director Madhur Bhandarkar of raping her for many years after making false promises of giving her a film role. The case dragged on for years and finally in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Bhandarkar and rejected the rape charge. Actress Payal Rohatgi was in the thick of controversy in 2011 when she accused director Dibakar Banerjee of trying to sexually exploit her in exchange for a movie role. Banerjee’s friend, noted filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, jumped into the fray to defend his pal and dismissed Payal as being ‘mentally unstable’. In heartless B-town, it seems even established stars cannot escape persecution.
Well, the narrative of dark side won’t stop here, but many models and small-time artists have got in the sex rackets and flesh trading, they catch all those strugglers who are in rush to earn money, this industry has too many stories of human trading and compromises. Hopes rise and sink in every rented apartment housing ‘filmi hopefuls’. On any given day, Andheri’s coffee shops swarm with ripped bodies and girls in slinky clothes, all hoping to get discovered like Kangana Ranaut did. Markets stock Ranbir Kapoor T-shirts and Sonam Kapoor accessories. Every gali has a gym where you can rub triceps with a minor star. Every locality has an adda where young strugglers hang out. If you dream of the spotlight, it’s pointed at Andheri. For most hopefuls, it’s not just a struggle to get to the top, it’s a struggle to get by. Forget notching a role in the film, even landing for an audition is a task. One stands for hours before they register their name. But the strugglers have a theory.
The famous and name earned banners and producers have their own modus operandi to choose their cast; they mostly find options from film fraternity or star kids are their preferences. A newcomer, one in hundred, makes his/her way to cast. It’s every day gambling for these aspirants. Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that one is safe here. The scavengers keep their grip on those strugglers who have big dreams but no sleep. They lure them with various indecent proposals and finally, one who gets stuck never has returned. Filmy glamour has a very superficial layer of the bright side, beneath everything is deep dark.
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