Although Bollywood films are famously chaste, now one star is coming forward to talk about the realities of the "Casting Couch."
Suchitra Krishnamoorthi, now a Bollywood star, recently wrote on her personal blog about her experiences as a young woman trying to break into the industry. "I remember many years ago, while still in my teens, I had gone to meet a very successful producer regarding a film role at a plush suburban hotel.… They were looking for a new face to launch." He asked her about school and family, the producer instructed the teenager to inform her parents that she'd be spending the night in the hotel with him. When, instead, she left, he said, "I know you are a good girl but if you want to become an actress you have to do it! So and so and so and so (he named some of the top league actresses of that time) … do it. She do it and even she do it! They are my discovery. Everybody has to do it."
Whereas the "hard audition" is a Hollywood cliche, apparently it's always been a somewhat taboo subject in the more conservative confines of Indian cinema. Says Bollywood reporter Rajeev Masand, "I have always known about the casting couch. Every single person who enters the industry doesn't necessarily make it into the industry through the casting couch. However, the casting couch does exist though it is spoken about in whispers." Added India Daily,
It is all there and very common. The policy is do not ask and do not tell! No body forces any one. It is just an understood norm in Bollywood to keep every end happy for smooth sail to the top!
Perhaps as a result, it was considered a major scandal when Shakti Kapoor, a prominent actor, was caught on tape compromising a reporter posing as an aspiring actress.
Krishnamoorthi writes on her blog that the experience "scarred" her. But acknowledging the hierarchy of power and the fact that the system is very much in place is important - as is demonstrating that one can be a success without it.
I Experienced Casting Couch: Suchitra [Times of India]
Bollywood's Casting Couch [Bollyspice]
There Is No Casting Couch In Bollywood: Shakti Kapoor [Apunktachoice]
The Casting Couch [India Daily]