When I wrote my last blog there was an uproar from a section of my readers who insisted the casting couch indeed exists in Bollywood.
Yes it does!
The rebuttals prompted me to issue a clarification with the earlier blog as an update to tell you that the casting couch doesn’t exist in A-grade Bollywood films – the films that everybody wants to be a part of.
Roughly any film that has a mounting cost of Rs 10 crores (the cost of shooting and post-production minus the actors’ fees and publicity budget) come under this bracket. Basically, all the Bollywood big releases come under this bracket and sadly, there is no way that you can get into these films through the casting couch route. But now that’s a different story.
Today we will talk about the casting couch that actually exists in Bollywood. All my dear readers, who have pointed out to the casting couch does exist in Bollywood, are right. It does exist in Bollywood but we have a very skewed idea of that world.
Today, I am going to present a real picture of the world of Bollywood’s casting couch which has an independent existence outside the world I have spoken about in my last blog.
There is another Bollywood that exists outside the popular notion of the industry which deals with big budgets, bigger budgets and biggest promotional exercises. We can call this the underbelly of Bollywood. The casting couch is rampant in this underbelly which is dotted with sex pests hanging around in the name of professionalism.
In this blog, I am going to pin-point how these sex pests operate and how they will approach you to ensure that you end up on the couch. It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, they have couch that fits all!
I just hope that after reading this blog, one gets to identify these sex pests who tarnish the image of Bollywood in the name of providing work to newcomers.
Here are the different avatars of sex pests who are likely to sexually harass you and you should be on your guard the moment, you see spot these people.
1) The casting agent: They are very active on social media and always on the lookout for girls or boys that ‘fit the bill’. Once a contact is established, they will first call you to their office which in all probability will be a dingy one-room apartment in a Mumbai suburb. They will politely ask for your portfolio photographs. In the course of the conversation they are most likely to boast about the big films they have worked for and they will tell you that they are casting for an even bigger film. Be on your guard and quickly leave the office the moment your work is done. In all probability none of them will act fresh in the first meeting and will tell you that they will call you for a meeting with the filmmaker or the assistant director. Don’t worry he is just fishing for his boss.
2) The assistant director: The casting agent will then pass you on to the assistant director who will then call you (usually) to another office. It is at this stage that you will be given hints that you need to sleep with him to do the role. He is also fishing for his boss but trying his own luck on the side too.
3) The manager: He is the guy, who will keep in touch with you after you have passed stage 2 and he will lead you to stage 4. He will operate on the phone and most of the time he will be doing his job. He doesn’t care about sex.
4) The assistant producer: This is one of the big fish who usually doesn’t care about what how you feel. He will lay his cards on the table right from day one. He will tell you that you need to sleep with him to get the role else you should look for somebody else. He will basically tell you that you are perfect for the role and if you sleep with him, you are going to get it.
5) The producer or the filmmaker: He is the biggest fish in whose bed a willing aspirant would land up after going through stages 1, 2 (and 3).
Now that you know the avatars of the sex pests, there are lots of ways to save yourself and still bag the role. Now, here is a checklist for all newcomers to bag the role without ending up on the couch.
- Try to go through stage 1, 2 and 3 in public places (or office spaces). You don’t need to meet them anywhere other than that. Always schedule and re-schedule appointments to ensure that you are in a public space.
- You can re-schedule the appointments to coffee shops but that has to be a work conversation. Casual dates are usually understood as the first sign that you are available. The first thing that you should try to find out is the exact project that they are casting you for.
- Research all about the project on the internet. Check for tweets and Facebook updates. Ask your industry contacts. Basically try to find out if you are meeting the right person. If you don’t find adequate information about him, be on your guard.
- Dress appropriately, not provocatively. I know you are entitled to dress the way you want, but remember that you need to be safe rather than sorry.
- Never show your desperation Show that you are eager, not desperate. You need the project, (delete the comma) but not at the cost of your self-respect.
- Compromise if you want (that is your call) but always ensure that nothing goes to waste. Never give in till you get to the actual producer of the film who can actually get you the job. Remember only the actual producer has some power to cast you, the rest are just fishing. Cut the crap and get to the guy who means business.
- The moment you reach the producer and he asks you to sleep with him, understand that there is a 50-50 chance of you getting the project. The moment he has slept with you, you are as good as trash. Till the point you have not given in, he will try to woo you.
- Remember that there is always a slip between the cup and the lip but the moment a producer asks you to sleep with him, he is actually playing into your hands. You have access to him now and you can play him.
- Always try to have some proof of the producer’s overtures. Remember, when you start screaming after not getting the role, nobody will believe you. Not even the media. If you have proof then the producer himself will be wary about you. You don’t need to shoot a sex-tape as proof. Proof can be in the form of text messages, recorded phone conversations, Facebook chats, chats, BBM and Skype etc
- If you have made up your mind that you will trade sex in exchange of a role then delay it as much as possible. It’s best not to give in unless you are sure of not getting conned on the couch.
Before I go, While researching I managed to find the earliest documented instance of the casting couch as reported by Jagran and The Old Indian Photos. The images were published in 1951 in the magazine called Life and was shot by English photographer James Brooke.
The article reports about scenes from audition that was conducted by reputed Bollywood producer A.R Kardar who was heading a production house at that time. The production house had produced such films like Shahjahan (1946), Dulari (1949), Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966). In this series of photographs, he was casting a new face for a big budget production. The girls in the pictures are aspiring actress and she was asked to undress in front of a lot of other ‘judges’ present in the room including the photographer. But, the bitter truth about the production house is that what all the girls have had done to get a role in the movie. So, this being the reason why Bollywood people never ever take a strong stand against the casting couch issue. If the set of photographs doesn’t appear scandalous enough, then remember that the year was 1951!
Disclaimer: Not everybody indulges in the casting couch. I have only spoken about people who do. The professional roles mentioned here is not an indication that all of them engage in this activity. It is, in fact, an indication, that this is now these positions of power are misused. Hope it is clear in the above article that I am pointing out towards a malaise and not trying to say that every casting agent or producer tries to sleep with newcomers. None of the content above, pictures or text or anything else represents or portrays an individual or a group of people. In some cases I am merely reiterated what has already been reported alongwith the source. I don’t personally verify or endorse the report. All I am trying to do here is to help newcomers who are desperate to get a foothold in Bloodywood…err…Bollywood.
The earlier post on the same subject was Jungle Mein Reshma Ki Jawani posted on August 14, 2013.
Short-link of the post -> http://bit.ly/129I0VT