The so-called "sting operation" by INDIA TV, where actors Shakti Kapoor and Aman Varma were showed on camera asking for sexual favors in return for roles, has generated a heated debate in the industry about the invasion of privacy and the ethics of prying surreptitiously in to their private lives, through clandestine cameras. But it has also brought into focus the issue of the casting couch that has long heckled the industry for years. A section of people in the industry voice their comments on the subject.
Tanuja Chandra (Director)
"When I first saw the Shakti Kapoor expose on INDIA TV, I felt it would caution young girls who are na?ve and prone to exploitation. Later I realized that it was orchestrated to reach to a certain conclusion in order to boost up the TRP ratings of the channel.
"I don't see why it should generate shock value. The reality is that it has been in existence way for years before Shakti Kapoor came in to the picture. Besides, it is not confined to the film industry alone. It happens in all the echelons of power, even in religious institutions.
"I admit the casting couch is a psychological power play, giving the man the upper edge but it is totally subjective, as long as it does not amount to force. If a particular woman feels that it does not involve trading too much in return for what she is getting, it is entirely her look out and prerogative. All the same, if people were to go places in life by trading sex, there would have been a lot of undeserving people there on the top. Sex cannot get you anywhere as much as talent and hard work can."
Purab Kohli (DJ and television turned film actor of 'Vaastushastra' fame):
"I have been told that Aman Varma made a remark saying he had to go through it too and I am sure he must be right. The truth is that the casting couch is not restricted to female artistes alone, it is applicable to the boys as well. I have known male actors who have had to make compromises in order to bag roles. There was also a friend who was asked to oblige but refused. I think it must be rampant because there are so many aspiring artistes who want to get into the television and film media and there are those in power who expect sexual or at times other favors to help them reach their destination."
Ayesha Takia (Actress):
"I don't think the issue is so much about the casting couch as the invasion of an artiste's privacy by a satellite channel. In both the incidents that have happened the concerned satellite correspondent is as much responsible for abetting the outcome. Besides, the so-called casting couch does not just happen in the film and television industry, it happens in every field including the media. But it is again a decision entirely between two people, where both agree to those kinds of vibes and entertain them. I also feel that it is about individuals and not the industry as a whole. It definitely does not exist among the 'A' grade makers in the industry. The top directors and actors purely bank on talent and hard-work to climb up the ladder of success."
Priya Rai Chowdhary: (Upcoming actress of 'Vaastushastra' fame):
"I have never experienced it nor have any of my friends in the industry being subjected to sexual overtures. Casting couch can be better referred to as 'sexual politics', which happens in every walk of life, depending on the way a person projects herself and the willingness of the actress to go those limits."
K.D. Shorey: (General Secretary, Film Makers Combine):
"I would be a liar if I were to say that the casting couch is not prevalent in the industry but I would be a bigger liar to say that it exists in every section of the industry. While I do feel that the casting couch is a deplorable means of achieving a certain end, I also feel that it is not the right of any third person to pass judgments when two consenting individuals take a decision. I also condemn the manner in which INDIA TV went about exposing it. In fact it cannot be called either a sting operation or expose, since a deliberate effort was made by the satellite channel to seduce both the victims and arrive at a deliberate conclusion."
Pahlaj Nihalani: (President, AMPTPP):
"I am bit upset about the film industry and its image has been conveniently tarnished just to shoot up the TRP ratings of channel. The reality is that casting couch is not just confined to the film industry, it happens in all places of power. There may be so many things that may be happening behind the closed doors of corporate houses, but choosing the film industry and its people is very convenient to attract instant attention.
Considering that the industry is currently going through the process of corporatization, the channel has badly played with the image of the industry."