Navratri brings along a heady invention of backless cholis, late night revelry, drugs, alcohol and a strong undercurrent of sexual intimacy. It is in the air of the smoky yet starlit city sky; it is in the music and the attires; it is in the sensuous dance, as the Raas – a form of Garba performed only by the unity of ying-yangs. From teenage girls who bank on Navratri for escapades with boyfriends to some young girls who make a quick buck out of the mood to middle-age married women willing to pay a bomb for teenage escorts – the forbidden fruit is omnipresent and basks in the glory of the nine festive nights of Navratri. On the other hand, those strugglers in the film and modelling industry get lured in flesh trade; they become contractual partners for outsiders who land up in glossy cities to spend their celebration nights. While none of this is new, this year the Navratri won’t be much visible. This year, people have to control all their thrill cravings and get in a private event zone. Public events would follow the guidelines of Maharashtra Government and that won’t be much fascinating.
Many middle-aged women get young men to escort them for the night at private parties. Lockdown and unemployment in the modeling and film industry guided many strugglers to escorting business. While this happens around the year under wraps, during Navratri, this clan gets the gusto to wear their ‘able-bodied’ acquisitions on their sleeve and flaunt them. These models are paid 500 to 50000 depending on their body, fame and performance. And unabashed fun is not limited to the elderly. For the young ones, Garbha provides a good excuse to sneak out and have fun. But sadly, they have to control their cravings this year.
Whereas the glamour industry is concerned, many aspiring actresses, struggling models and side dances have pushed themselves to flesh trading. Many have joined those friendship clubs where the choices are picked for one-night stands in the name of friendship. Navratri used to be the earning event for these girls and guys, because they were hired by rich celebrities and business tycoons to escort them. This year even the wedding season was a low key affair, so the business of attending weddings as paid hosts was also a remote chance. Well, the narrative of dark side won’t stop here, but many models and small-time artists have got in 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. It’s not for the first time but in the recent past Mumbai police have rescued Bollywood strugglers lured in sex racket by the Models themselves. Film industry has its glitter but the story also has a very different, dark side. Earlier Bollywood was a completely male dominated industry and Women were given trivial or insignificant roles in the movies, but were also underpaid. With the changing time heroin centric movies have proven that the films can very well fetch market without a Hero, Vidya Balan is one great example. She has worked in many films that were Heroin oriented and Hero had very minor roles to do. Young men hardly have anything in hand; apart from a few web series they hardly have anything to their kitty.
These youngsters walk in to Bollywood and its colourful fringes — being clueless. They knock various doors; some get some work, some get some role and maximum land up doing what they never thought of, because returning becomes a dilemma. Young boys and girls with starry dreams arrive by the dozens every day. Only 3% 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 film as long as they find some way of earning. In the struggle for perceived stardom and the mirage of megabucks, ethics and so-called societal values have no place. They call themselves aspiring models or aspiring actors as soon as they disembark in Mumbai. Bollywood’s sordid underside is not news anymore and is a matter of great concern.
Those who genuinely want a career in film and those who want to use their looks to make money. Most of the youngsters come here to make more money than the career. The struggle for the ‘strugglers’ begins right at the beginning — finding a roof in Mumbai to feed them and commute three big challenges. Their needs increase as the pockets get stretched, to fill this gap they force themselves to work in all those zones where money can be earned. Given this parallel industry, for the genuine ones, it is often a struggle to ensure that one is not taken for a ride. Such as routine fake auditions, there are coordinators who come to offer help but with ulterior motives, auditions are sometimes euphemisms for ‘pleasure sessions’. Many moneyed people check out young, good-looking men and women through such auditions. Many strugglers are called often for parties and pleasure by some so-called socialists and film financers. 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 of these junior artistes. According to insiders, things have only become more rampant of late because of the willingness of starlets to give in. One has to seriously think about this on-going trend that has lured many youngsters in flesh trade for the extra perks.
The Indian media has played a major role in revealing instances of the casting couch in B-town, flesh trade and prostitution in the garb of fashion and celebration to maintain high standards of life. 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. 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 and male ones at that.