Mumbai: The Hindi film industry’s worst kept secret is out: the casting couch. The term refers to the sexual exploitation of a woman who wishes to enter the industry. For the past 48 hours, media is agog with the story.
The Sirf News story on a relative of Jeetendra accusing him of sexually exploiting her had invited a huge army of trolls from across the world.
Actress Kalki Koechlin had complained recently that a producer had asked her out for a late dinner, luring her with the offer of a film. She said she refused to oblige the producer.
Actress Kangana Ranaut had first claimed actor Aditya Panscholi abused her physically when she was a 17-year-old. During the shooting of Tanu Weds Manu, a member of the shooting crew asked for sexual gratification, Ranaut alleged.
Swara Bhasker said she lost quite a few projects because she refused to compromise. About a director, Bhasker said, “He stalked me during the day and called me through the night. I was asked to go to his hotel room on the pretext of discussing the scene and would find him drinking.”
Bhasker had earlier complained that she had been groped during her film Anarkali of Arrah. She said she was targeted with catcalls during the shooting.
Director of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz Kushan Nandy had asked Chitrangada Singh to prolong a kiss sequence with actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the actress alleged. “We finished the [intimate] shot and Kushan said that he didn’t like it. He wanted me to lie on top of Nawaz. Now let me tell you that I was wearing a petticoat for that scene,” says Singh.
Singh added that Nandy would also use foul language in the sets.
“We had already shot a montage where Kushan wanted me to do something similar. Nawaz and I had also kissed in that montage, and now Kushan wanted a 7-second kiss in the intimate scene.”
Chitrangda left the project after the incident. Kushan did not call her back.
Sherlyn Chopra has alleged that the maker of Kamasutra 3D had made sexual advances towards her. He asked her, Chopra alleged, to rehearse some intimate scenes with him without the camera on. The actress later filed an FIR against the producer of the film.
Payal Rohatgi said one-night Dibakar Banerjee had dropped by her apartment for a chat, asking her to pull her shirt up under the ruse that he needed to check whether she had put on some weight. Rohatgi claims she ousted the filmmaker from her house. She claims she was supposed to feature in a subsequent film by Banerjee, from which the director kicked her out after that incident. The director refuted the allegations.
Retired actress Mamta Kulkarni had accused filmmaker Rajkumar Santoshi of curtailing her role in China Gate because she had refused to oblige him sexually. Some film industry magazines had, however, challenged her claim, saying that she did not deserve even the small role she ended up with, in the said film.
Suchitra Krishnamoorthi said she often heard people say, “Suchitra, you want to be an actress, you must do…”
Tisca Chopra, who was seen in Taare Zameen Par and Rahasya, went on record saying a well-known director was ‘reptile-like’. “They said, but you know, agreeing to do a film with him is like agreeing to be his pet squeeze for the duration of the shoot. Are you okay with that?” she said her friends would offer her this advice early in her career.
Surveen Chawla of Hate Story 2 and Parched fame said she faced the casting couch when she moved from television to films. However, she gave Bollywood a clean chit and damned south Indian film world. She said, “I feel very great that I have not encountered this (casting couch) here (Bollywood). I have faced this (casting couch) down south and of course, I refused to give into that…Honestly, I can only comment on it if I had encountered it in Bollywood. I don’t know if I should call it sheer luck.”
Choreographer Saroj Khan stirred a controversy when she said sexual exploitation had existed forever in society; it does not happen with aspirants in Bollywood alone. She said, “यह चला आ रहा है बाबा आदम के ज़माने से. हर लड़की के ऊपर कोई न कोई हाथ साफ़ करने की कोशिश करता है. Government के लोग भी करते हैं. तुम film industry के पीछे क्यों पड़े हो? वो कम से कम रोटी तो देती है! Rape करके छोड़ तो नहीं देती! (This has been going on for ages. Everybody wants to try on a girl, even the government employees. Why are you after the film industry? At least they provide a livelihood. They don’t leave someone after raping them.)”
Almost justifying the comment of the choreographer, INC’s former Rajya Sabha MP Renuka Chowdhary agreed that the “casting couch” is a reality “not just in the film industry but everywhere”, even Parliament!
“It is not just in the film industry. It happens everywhere and it is the bitter truth. Don’t imagine that Parliament is immune or other workplaces are immune to it. It is time that India stood up and said ‘Me Too’,” said Chowdhary.
Chowdhary did not elaborate whether the ‘couch’ surfaces at the stage of filing of nomination papers for Lok Sabha elections or those who sexually gratify their seniors in the party are given entry to the Rajya Sabha.