(Today’s column is a work of fiction, based on real stories culled from many actors from Bollywood)
This is my story, uncut.
I grew up on a staple diet of Bollywood movies in my native village somewhere in India. I still remember the first film that mesmerized me. Madhuri Dixit was yet to be the Dhak Dhak girl, but her “ek do teen,” in TEZAAB had me counting the days when I would be facing the camera for a movie.
I was still in primary school and coming as it is from a family of learned people, education was what was emphasized upon. Bollywood was hardly any option for my parents or any of my uncles or aunts. I studied hard, but secretly I nurtured a dream to one day make it to the city of dreams.
After my post-graduation, I got my chance; it was a big banner and a role alongside the heroine. The hero was a rugged man who had made his mark in the industry. To say that I was over the moon would be an understatement.
But from the first day of shoot itself, my nightmare began. I was being offered preferential treatment and I soon realized something was amiss. After inquiring, I was told that the hero had taken a fancy for me, and if I “complied”, I would make it big in the next two years. Producers would be breaking down my doors.
The person who came to me with this proposition was the hero’s secretary, who, I later learnt, had a daughter as old as me. I decided that the best route to take was to play dumb.
But the hero was not dumb, nor was the production house who did not want to get on the wrong side of him. Soon I realized that my role was chopped to smithereens. I was made to stand in the last row of a crowd for the entire duration of the shoot. I was not ready for humiliation of this sort. But I stood my ground. I was not about to sell my soul for a role.
Other rounds to production houses I made were even more frustrating. There was this time when I was called to meet a producer who was in his hotel room with just a towel wrapped around his waist. One look at his scary, hairy body and I fled. At other times, directors asked me to ‘compromise’ for a role, one even told me that I needed to work on myself and he would ‘help’ me!
I refused to succumb. Money was never a problem. By the grace of God, I came from an affluent family and my support system in the city in the form of my relatives was solid. I got my break and made my moves on my own terms, without having to “sleep around.”
I know you will hear actresses say that there is no casting couch. Ouch! That must be the biggest joke of the industry. Ask any girl and she will have her own horror story to tell. If she doesn’t, it’s only because she wants to survive here.
Even corporatization of the industry has not helped much as far as girls are concerned. Everyone thinks that if I give her a role, “sleeping with her is my birthright.” No one sees talent! I was even shocked when this young actor/director began messaging me in the dead of night requesting I join him for a party!
I survived. But it is not easy for any girl, especially for those who come from small towns. They are vulnerable to “shark attacks” from uncouth men with lots of money but no respect for the female body.
Shweta Basu Prasad is a National Award winner. I will not believe that she landed in a mess of her own accord. I feel she was systematically pushed over the edge by people who refused to look beyond her skin.
The electronic media too is a joke. I read somewhere that they did a sting operation on her. C’mon guys, you know of many ‘big’ names doing such things. Why don’t you stand up to someone your size? Not only your TRPs, but even respect for you will go up a hundred fold.
(This weekly column tries to be as honest as honest can be…)