It took a minute for the then teen hot teenager Malhar Rathod, a 65-year-old Indian filmmaker, to decide what to ask her to do and walk away. “He had a piece for me and then asked me to lift my top. I was very scared. I didn’t know what to do first,” the now-up-and-coming television star Rathore told AFP in Mumbai.
Her experience, known as the “casting couch” culture of Bollywood, highlights the challenges faced by anyone wanting to venture into India’s massive, interior-only film industry, where the #MeToo movement has had some success. After the collapse of #MeToo Hollywood’s top power brokers, many women in Bollywood have spoken out about their experience of sexual harassment, breaking a longstanding culture of silence.
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Movie-mad India is the world’s largest film producer, releasing over 1,800 multi-languages annually, easily overshadowing Hollywood’s production – but creating a career in the independent industry can be a challenge.
Unlike celebrity children who attend Stardom and Tyler Made Debut, outsiders must avoid irrelevant men and fight the rigors of auditions and rejections.
The dream has come true
It is very difficult to crack Bollywood if you do not have connections. No one is going to launch you, you have to make small parts and get your work done, ”actor Paras Thukral told AFP.
I’ve done all kinds of jobs to survive. “I have worked in call center, corporate gifting and marketing, you name it,” said Thukral, who moved to Mumbai in 2008 and has since appeared in two TV shows and two films.
The alternative career was certainly easy … but being an actor was a dream come true.
#MeToo in Bollywood
Rathod was one of the lucky ones. After her initial brush with Casting Couch, she is now a familiar face to an Indian audience, appearing in global skincare brands including Garnier and Dove. Breadwinner, the only breadwinner for a family of five, including two younger sisters, made her television debut as part of the hit show “Hostages” on the Indian-owned Disney-owned streaming platform Hotstar.
Filmmaker Preity Zinta, who started her Bollywood career with advertising, is following in the footsteps of Deepika, and the 25-year-old hopes to translate that success into silverware.
But she knew very well that all this would disappear in a flash.
Waiting to hear back about the characters has given me sleepless nights, ”she said, turning to prayer and meditation recently in an attempt to calm her mind. “You can’t have too many expectations, otherwise you’ll be constantly disappointed.”
For every success story, there are tens of thousands of actors who fail to get into the big leagues. However, more and more people are reaching their ranks for auditions in Mumbai’s northern suburbs, where Bollywood’s main studios are.
The thrill of acting
Cast director Girish Hule told AFP that the number of actors competing for roles in the ads he manages has doubled since 2014. “I’ve seen doctors and engineers who have left stable jobs because they want to act,” he said.
Years pass by waiting for a big break. People return home or take other jobs in the industry, either as stylists or assistant directors or in casting. “In some cases, people spend five years, appear in about 500 auditions and never get an acting job.”
From fighting sexual harassment, to being out of work for months – finding success in Bollywood comes with many challenges. “Initially, I was too scared to even tell my mom when someone misbehaved, because I thought my family was blocking me from acting,” Rathod said.
I’m very happy #MeToo is here – before that, it’s happening and no one is talking about it, “she said, referring to sexual harassment in the industry. For Skral, who is well aware of the ups and downs of the business, the risks to acting’s thrill are secondary, he likened to a.
My parents don’t understand how I live – they want me to settle down and run their business. “Part of me wants it too. It will be an easy life,” said the 34-year-old, who returned to his hometown of New Delhi this summer.
But he added, “I’ll be back when I get some money.”