They say that there are two worlds in Bollywood – one where the A-listers reside. This world is full of charm, money, and gossip…. It’s a reality show that unfolds in front of us every day through the media. It’s utopia.
The second world consists of those who want to be a part of this utopia. This is an underworld that is hidden away from our eyes. This is an underworld where darkness has no limits. Here, harassment, slave labour, workplace harassment, unpaid assignments and depression abounds. This is a world, which is scary and leads you to a zone of no return. But still the inhabitants of this world continue with their life in the hope that one day, they will get that one life changing ticket into the first world of showbiz.
They wait patiently…. This wait period is what we call ‘struggling in Bollywood’.
THE WAITING GAME
Nobody in Bollywood has empathy for people who are in the waiting room. A few established names are ready to exploit people in there in the hope of making more money.
The saddest part: Even though we frequently get to see incidents of people giving up or being forced to give up, there’s still no help at hand for these Bollywood strugglers.
There are times when I meet people from Bollywood for no particular reason. Recently, we were discussing the murder of a struggling actress in her small apartment in Andheri, Mumbai and what could be the possible reason for her death.
This leading filmmaker was very categorical about the professional environment of these strugglers today which he feels are driving a lot of them towards death. “The established stars have so much nakhra that you will get pissed off every minute while talking to them. They know that they sell the movies and they make no bones about it. If you want to make money, you need to work with stars. Content is not the king in Bollywood, the ‘star’ is. On top of this, stars are busy and the wait period for a star project may extend to even three years. So, what do you do in between to make some fast money?”
Struggling actors go through hell and back at auditions (image: Shutterstock)
To make a quick buck, this leading filmmaker says, one turns to these strugglers because they are the ones who would do anything for that ticket into the first world of showbiz. “All this talk about filmmakers taking advantage of actresses or actors is passé. It’s not a big deal. If two people want to be together– whether it is for gain or for love – they will do it. The issue is about their professional world. The main intention of a lot of filmmakers is to make money by exploiting them. They are made to do objectionable scenes early on in their career and not paid for their work. So, it is just a matter of time before they get frustrated,” he says.
This viral tendency of filmmakers to exploit a new talent is what is turning this industry into a vicious death trap, according to my filmmaker friend.
“Look at the composition of Indian online audience, a whopping 84% of the audience who log on to the net, come here only to surf adult sites. If you further analyse their viewing habits, then you will notice that the videos where the girl’s face is clearly visible, gets the most number of hits. So, if you serve them adult entertainment, they will lap it up like there’s no tomorrow,” he adds.
As I frowned, he goaded me to try an experiment on my own platforms. “Put up great content on your platform for five days in a row and on the sixth day, put up adult stuff with a struggling but pretty actress in it. Mask it as a short film and market it as edgy content. Now see the difference in views (page-views). You will know why many among us are trying such themes. We also got a nice name for this genre. It is called ‘bold’ content,” the filmmaker added.
With many international video platforms crowding the online space in India, the demand for such videos made in the garb of short films have shot up and the platforms too are ready to pay a premium because it guarantees them views and hits. Hence more money.
BOLD VS OTHER CONTENT
Remember, this is not the problem. Bold content should stay in Bollywood. A filmmaker or an actress should have the freedom to work and churn out the kind of content that he/she wants to associate himself/herself with. The problem is the rampant exploitation that goes with it.
The newcomers who are made to act in these films are more often than not, not paid at all. They are treated like slaves in their workplaces because some filmmakers behave as if they are saving their careers when in reality, the filmmaker is just earning more money by showcasing their bodies.
“Remember the exploitative Malayalam adult entertainment industry in the 1990s? Today, it has come in a different avatar. They are more refined. You have fitter and more polished actresses ready to do what it takes. But the exploitation associated with it hasn’t changed a bit,” he pauses while he takes a sip from his latte in the coffee shop.
This director – when he was struggling – lost his girlfriend to acute depression. She died under unusual circumstances after battling depression for two years. Just months before her death, her semi-adult film released in the market and it was a big hit. The actress was immediately flooded with ‘offers’ and she knew what she had gotten into. A few months later, in a bid to earn more money, she started immoral activities on the side and from that moment on, she took a road that ultimately led to her death.
The filmmaker was trying his best to hide his emotions but even today he can’t resist crying when he speaks about her. It’s been a long time but he admits that her smiling face still haunts him in his sleep. He feels that she is still watching over him when he is sleeping.