PUNE/MUMBAI: On Tuesday morning, a fresh argument around casting couch in Bollywood began after veteran choreographer Saroj Khan made a strong comment on the practice. Khan said that casting couch provides livelihood.
But well-known casting directors from Bollywood informed Sakal Times that they have launched an initiative called ‘No to Casting Couch’ because small-time casting directors have been misusing their names. A host casting directors from the industry has joined the initiative including Mukesh Chhabra, Honey Trehan, Shruti Mahajan, Anmol Abhishek, Vicky Sidana and others.
Mahajan who has started the initiative with Chhabra and Trehan said that it was Ashoke Pandit’s idea who got in touch with them. “The aim was to put an end to the casting couch apart from giving more dignity, credibility and professionalism to casting directors. Actors should also know whom to contact and who are the right people. There was a lot of chaos happening and we wanted to bring an end to that.
Casting Director Vicky Sidana added, “People are misusing our names. In small cities, there are so many casting directors who do fake auditions on our names.” A casting director on request of anonymity said, “Every year, fake auditions are conducted in Delhi claiming that they are done on behalf of well-known casting directors like Shanoo Sharma or Mukesh Chhabra. There are several other cities where such fake auditions take place.”
Since the initiative has started, a host of directors have joined it, said Mahajan.
Sidana said that they want to create awareness among the people that all the auditions that happen in their names are actually fake. “If people are promising them something, it’s all fake. Personally, I reply to all messages I get on Facebook because people are using and misusing the medium. We are being careful that people don’t use those who come to the city to make a career in films. But there are many who get fooled by such fake people,” he said.
He added that those who are desperate to make a career in films without knowing about the business, fall prey to such traps. “When I have discussions with young boys and girls, I ask them, ‘what’s the guarantee of you getting work after falling prey to casting couch? No one can guarantee both work or success in the industry,” he said.
Bollywood reacts to Saroj Khan and casting couch
Saroj Khan said, “Taking advantage of a girl is done with her consent. Women are not sexually abused and dumped. They are given livelihood,” she said. She justified the casting couch - the exchange of sexual favours for work in the film industry at a press conference held in Mumbai on Tuesday, describing it as ‘age-old’ and asking ‘why the entertainment industry alone should be targeted?”
Reacting to it, singer-actor Sophie Choudry tweeted, “WTH?!!!! So much respect for Saroj-ji as a choreographer but this is how she uses her position to protect girls?!!! If I didn’t come from a financially sound background I would have returned to London within a month of being in Mumbai cos of ‘industry folk’ who think like that. Can’t begin to think what thousands of girls go through in the hope that their ‘dreams’ will come true! Nobody wants to sleep with someone for work. But they are made to feel it’s the only way ‘acceptable’. And for those who don’t, it’s a tough road! This has to stop! #TimesUp.” Actress Sayani Gupta said that though she isn’t aware of the statement made by Khan nor has she faced casting couch in her career, casting couch is disgusting. “If you have talent, you do not have to do any of this. I never faced anything like this because I carried off myself in a certain way and I have the talent.”
“Taking advantage of a girl is done with her consent. Women are not sexually abused and dumped. They are given livelihood,” Saroj Khan said. She justified the casting couch - the exchange of sexual favours for work in the film industry at a press conference held in Mumbai on Tuesday, describing it as ‘age-old’ and asking ‘why the entertainment industry alone should be targeted?”