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The casting couch commonly known in the West as hard audition is becoming more and more common in Bollywood. The underworld demand favor, the producers, directors and even the technicians line up these days in the darkness of privacy.

Actor and small-screen superstar Shekhar Suman says all those who deny the existence of the casting couch in showbiz are lying. According to him, the Bollywood-underworld nexus is also a fact.

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!

Is there a hard audition or in local terms casting couch in Bollywood? Well Salman denied it, others kept quiet. But Mahima Choudury is crisp clear about it – it exists in Bollywood in plenty!

Mahima Choudary claims that film industry sure has a casting couch. She adds however that she was not a victim of it because she had made her entry into films through modeling and VJ-ing.

She also declares that casting couch exists everywhere. "But girls who try to take the short cut to the film industry usually end up becoming the victims of casting couch," she said.

Sources say, she was also a victim like Ash and all others. If you do not have your parents or close family members in the limelight or someone you know well, casting couch or hard audition is inevitable!

Like a pair of star-crossed lovers, the words “Bollywood” and “sex scandal” just can’t keep their hands from going down each other’s pants (or something like that). The latest hullabaloo erupted after the broadcast of famous villain actor Shakti Kapoor purportedly soliciting sex from a reporter posing as an aspiring actress:

A video clip, which the station said was taken earlier this year, purportedly shows Kapoor in a Bombay hotel room telling the undercover reporter, “I want to make love to you ... and if you want to come in this line (of business), you have to do what I am telling (you) to do.” Kapoor is heard on the 40-minute recording telling the woman that he will put her through acting and dance classes before introducing her to top directors. He also names three Indian actresses who allegedly had sex with top producers and directors in exchange for roles.

Indian film stars have a status that outstrips even their Hollywood peers and are treated like living gods by their legions of fans.

But when on-screen villain Shakti Kapoor was exposed as a real-life bad boy - after being secretly filmed asking for sex in return for making an undercover reporter a star - a national scandal ensued.

It seems roles are routinely traded for sex in Bollywood, and those who do it aren’t necessarily ashamed to admit it.

“It’s like give and take. I’d be lying if I’d say it doesn’t happen. It exists everywhere. So you don’t have, it’s no big deal, nobody is raping anyone.”, says Shakti Kapoor. And if a girl doesn’t want to “cooperate”, as he puts it, “Then she can say no and go back home.” Without a role in the film.

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt says the practice is outrageous, outdated, and should be stopped. “It has a stench of bygone days, it’s a feudal mindset. There are laws in civilised countries which protect women and men, from these humiliating situations.”

Change seems unlikely, however, with Kapoor’s career actually having been boosted by the revelations of sexual blackmail.

A LEADING Bollywood actor was embroiled in a sex scandal after being filmed apparently offering to promote the career of an aspiring actress if she slept with him.

An Indian television station broadcast footage of Shakti Kapoor, famous for playing movie villains, in a Mumbai hotel room propositioning an undercover reporter who was posing as the actress. Kapoor was also filmed naming Bollywood stars who he claimed had slept their way to success.

In the video clip, the actor said: "I want to make love to you ... and if you want to come in this line [of business] you have to do what I am telling [you] to do."

Kapoor has accused the television channel behind the sting of setting him up and denied any wrongdoing.

Bollywood, the Mumbai-based Hindu film industry, reacted to the scandal with a mix of faux outrage and weary resignation. While some demanded a boycott of Kapoor, others suggested his behaviour was commonplace in the Indian film industry.

Kapoor certainly seems to think so - in the video clip he names three leading actresses and claims they have had sex with top producers and directors to clinch roles. "So you have to do it just once," he told the undercover reporter.

Mahesh Bhatt, a producer, described sex for screen-time as "Bollywood’s best-known secret" and suggested Kapoor should be fined for his actions.

"The rot is within us," he said. "The casting couch is a reality. It is a power thing, to which vulnerable girls who want to join the industry fall prey."

But Kapoor, who has performed in more than 300 films and is best known for his portrayal of villains, insisted he had neither solicited sex nor made allegations against other celebrities.

He said the video had been tampered with by India television and threatened to sue the channel.

"The tapes have been doctored," he said after the first clips were broadcast. "I never touched her."

The woman had pestered him for months for a film role and he only went to the hotel to meet her when she threatened to commit suicide, he said.

Despite his denial, India’s Film and Television Producers’ Guild urged its members to boycott Kapoor.

"Kapoor has been completely irresponsible in his behaviour and utterances and must publicly apologise to all those whom he has insulted and slandered," it said in a statement.

"The guild is advising its members not to engage Shakti Kapoor in any work in any of their productions."

Preity Zinta, a leading actress who was one of those named by Kapoor, said: "The comment is made in very poor taste. He is truly a real-life villain and deserves to be banned from our film industry."

But many directors and producers preferred to condemn the way the channel had got the story.

Pehlaj Nihlani, the president of the Association of Motion Picture and Television Programme Producers, said: "The way the meeting was set up makes the media equally guilty. It was a well laid-out plan. It was a planned conspiracy to defame him."

In India, showbiz gossip revolves almost exclusively around Bollywood actors. Newspapers and television stations devote whole sections and programmes to celebrity tittle-tattle, a subject area known as "Page 3".

Kapoor seems determined to fight to restore his reputation. As for his career, according to anonymous Bollywood insiders quoted in the Indian press, it may already have been over for some time.

After the case of Shakti Kapoor making advances towards the ‘supposedly struggling actress’, now comes another similar case involving TV star Aman Verma .

In another sting operation carried out by TV channel India TV, Verma has been filmed making advances towards the undercover reporter and also trying to examine her ‘closely’.

The film shows the undercover reporter calling Verma naughty and he responds by saying, “I am always naughty”.

But when Verma discovers that all this is a sting operation, he first justifies his actions saying that casting couch exists and everybody does it and then falls at the feet of Suhaib Illiyasi sobbing.

But before this film was shown on TV by India TV, Verma, known for his role in serials like `Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' and `Devi', has filed a criminal case of blackmail and extortion against Illiyasi and India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma.

The complaint has been filed with Mumbai police, advocate Dipesh Mehta, representing Verma said.

According to the complaint, Verma was constantly being telephoned by a girl named Ruchi for past several months. On December 17, the girl came to Verma's Lokhandwala residence and initiated a conversation with him. After some time, the girl suggested that they should move to the bedroom.

Once in bedroom, the complaint alleged, the girl made suggestive advances and requested Verma to get her some role. Verma, however, rejected her advances and suggested to her that she should try harder for roles through honest means.

While he was escorting the girl out of the house, Verma saw Illiyasi at his door along with a cameraman, who claimed that they had caught him on tape in a "sting" operation. Since that day, Illiyasi and Sharma had been allegedly telephoning him for favours, following which the actor on Wednesday filed a complaint.

When contacted for comments, Illiyasi termed the allegations as "totally wild and baseless".

He said "after the Shakti Kapoor expose, people who have committed wrongs in the past, are apprehensive that they too would be exposed in the coming days and are therefore taking pre-emptive steps.

Ram Gopal Varma on the Casting Couch

The casting couch. Some admit it. Some don't.

Actors, Actress, wannabe stars, newbies, starlets practically everybody have had tales to tell about their 'brush with the bed'. The recent Preeti- Madhur Bhandarkar case may have eaten a lot of newsprint. But the casting couch phenomenon is nothing new to Bollywood. Insiders insist that it always existed. The skeletons are now out of the closet, and Bollywood has stopped shying from it.

The casting couch instance has now become so rampant, that it almost goes as an unwritten rule. And Bollywood is very casual it its reaction. No more is there the expected 'O My God…!” expressions that hangs big on celebrity faces. Neither are eyebrows raised. It is a norm that is as accepted as the morning cuppa coffee.

When the media did the rounds of filmstars and celebrities for their reaction to the much in-news favor-and-fame cycle, the reactions were explosive to say the least…

The captivating Isha Koppikar makes a surprising candid confession throwing everybody off-kilter, “Of course it exists. There's no doubt about that. But luckily, I have never been propositioned, but I have heard and seen enough. These things happen, and I don't want to judge the people involved. Everyone has their own priorities in life, and mine is acting,”

Bong beauty Bipasha Basu holds shoots back saying, “You don't have to be provocatively dressed, or made up to be misbehaved with. You don't even have to be a celebrity. You just have to be a woman.''

The Mohabbatein hottie Kim Sharma takes a more moderate stance, when she says, “If you are open to such things, people will make advances, not otherwise.” And that “sexual harassment is a part of every field. I could be a secretary working in an office and my boss could harass me. It happens everywhere.”

So who are these people who call the shots at the couch. Or better, who are the couch cats we are talking about?

Couch cats

These primarily comprise of middlemen in the glamour profession. They could be secretaries, casting directors, model coordinators, agents all or any of these are in an advantageous position to flout the weak link…and the victims invariably fall prey. Who are these victims? Easy… these are glamour struck men and women who want to climb the fame ladder. And they are given to understand that these middlemen are their ticket to success, fame and recognition.

And who are people who fall victim to this lame system…?

The starry eyed soft spots

Wannabe artists, aspiring stars, newbies, small town guys and girls dreaming to make it big are all are definite targets to the lustbag. These aspirants often have no clue about the right production house or director and even the concerned people that they need to meet. This is the perfect loophole that the middlemen plug on.

A British wannabe Bollywood actress narrates an interesting incident, which confirms the existence of the casting couch to the core. Anna Edwards felt it unbelievable when she was informed that she had landed herself a role in this mega budget bollywood movie. But what followed almost threw this 23-year old into a tizzy. On the next meeting in the producer's office, he darted the question, “I have given you a role in my movie, what will you give me?” The girl at once realized the situation at hand and fled in good life. She is now a popular television star in UK and opines that Bollywood isn't the dreamland that it is made out to be.

But when it's Bollywood, there has to be an equal amount of drama quotient to it. So, if you have this Bollywood aspirant returning disillusioned, there's the rags-riches story of India supermodel Helen Brodie. From being a assistant in small time store, the beautiful Brodie dominated fashion scene until she decided to let go and walked down the aisle with her firang husband.

So, if you have a dream that dovetailed, the same bollywood also gives a fairytale to take home…!

Shirt it out…!

The latest thing to heat up the couch is men being asked for sexual favors. With large number of gay men circulating in the glamour circle, men are having to 'shirt it out' too.

Model/ Actor Aryan Vaid when probed about the topic du jour admitted that he had been asked for favors too. But refuses to disclose further stating that "I would not like to talk about details. It would create enmity within the industry," he says. Just on the verge of launching a big-time Bollywood career, Vaid is hardly going to do a Manoj Prabhakar on the male casting couch.

The gay club seems to be swelling with the hours. Industry sources swear that the top brass of film directors, producers, ad executives, and fashion photographers are compulsively gay. Ditto Hollywood, they have now formed a web of their own and operate in a highly discreet fashion. They create their particular muse and aggressively promote their chosen pet faces, which dents competition around. A few actors and a bunch of film-makers are part of this gay clique. They are all whiz kids, all fast-selling names at the box office.

Model Sameer Soni who debuted with China Gate records an interesting instance "I have been propositioned but I have never been through it (the casting couch). Such offers are often made by middlemen who just try to exploit the situation. In my case, someone threatened to ruin me but ultimately turned out to be a nobody."

Super model Milind Soman is once reported to have told Humsafar, a gay magazine that he is not averse to the idea of having relationships with men. Even actors like Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan and Bobby Deol, the epitome of the Bolywood hunks, have gone on record saying that they find praise from a man a "compliment" to their macho image.

Favor and fame

While one diagnoses the casting couch hitch at length, there is also a huge industry community that insist that it is more of a give-and take formula that has been working in the undercurrent.

An industry source agrees that the new mantra is 'you scratch my back and I scratch yours'. It is an understood and well-rehearsed message that unless there is a return, work won't push ahead. There's hardly a break with no strings attached."

Hawas hero Shawar Ali adds "Those who are desperate to make it big resort to such methods."

All are aware of the nasty couch. Some test it while others prefer to safely pass it off. But this still doesn't seem to prevent glamour hungry, fame high aspirants who keep trooping in to taste their 15 minutes of fame in tinsel town.

So, couch or no couch, Bollywood is still lusted after!

The recent ‘sting’ operations by the news channel India TV, so far nabbing two people from the entertainment industry has certainly created a snowballing effect.

Would the fact that a journalist posing as a star aspirant managed to create a potentially embarrassing situation for Shakti Kapoor and Aman Varma have a bearing on the future of newcomers? Would this incident discourage filmmakers from meeting newcomers, thereby creating an even more cloistered and clannish atmosphere within the industry?

I spoke to Bollywood’s most prominent star-discoverer Ram Gopal Varma who has discovered or re-invented the careers of such known names as Urmila Matondkar, Manoj Bajpai, Fardeen Khan, Aftab Shivdasani and Vivek Oberoi.

As usual Varma had his own take on the subject. “The so-called sting operations don’t really seem to make any sense to me. I don’t know what they hoped to achieve beyond getting people interested in the news channel. Suddenly everyone has become aware of India TV. As for the repercussions of the sting operations, I don’t think producers would stop meeting aspirants just because someone has laid a trap for a couple of unsuspecting victims."

"The film industry constantly needs new talent to keep going. I’m introducing Mohit Ahlawat this year in James, and Randeep Hooda. I feel both have the potential to beome stars. In fact Ahlawat will shock the audience. As long as I need new exciting faces for my film I’ll continue to cast them. Such absurd scandals (India TV’s sting operations) don’t have anything to do with me. People say I’ve installed cameras in my office to make sure newcomers don’t make nasty accusations."

"That’s completely false. There’re no cameras anywhere in my office. I’ve full confidence in my own conduct. I don’t need to pre-empt some desperate newcomer’s behaviour and start acting paranoid. Scandals and accusations are a part and parcel of the entertainment industry. It’s how you conduct yourself that matters.”

But isn’t it a fact that Varma has stopped seeing aspirants? There was an incident recently where a young man tried to get the star-maker’s attention by telling the cops that he had over- heard a murder plan being hatched against Varma. Have such desperate strugglers put him off new talent?

Ramu demurs. “Not at all. I’m still as open to new talent as I used to be. I had to put an end to newcomers crowding outside my office for security reasons. Too many people with too many dreams began to believe I can make them come true. I’m neither a magician nor a star-maker."

"I don’t know why aspirants believe all they need is a film with me to become a star. I’ve only cast those newcomers whom I’ve found suitable for my films. Isha Koppiker for instance, shot to fame with the item song `Khallas` in my Company. I saw her in that number. I didn’t accommodate her just to make her a chance. I’m too selfish to give anyone a chance out of sympathy or for the future of Indian cinema.”

Does Varma think filmmakers are gravitating more and more towards talent from inside the industry? “There’s nothing wrong with a star-kid if he happens to be as talented as Abhishek Bachchan. Beyond a point contacts links or pedigree can’t take a newcomer anywhere


Ash may be in deep trouble unless she is a double agent!

According to the tape that revealed Ash and Salman using worst kind of abusive languages and referring to the underworld shows how the Bollywood really works. You got to sleep with them to come on top no matter who you are!

According to the tape Salman and Ash both knew that are being SURVEILED by RAW and other Indian intelligence media because of Ash’s and Salman’s connection to underworld.

According to sources, Ash may be in deep trouble if the tape is true. Some are saying she was a double agent working for the Indian Government. Some are saying she was in total connection with the underworld and compromising with them to come on top of Bollywood.

Again the ghost of casting couch in Bollywood is come out from the bottle but this time charges are made by a male and the star singer Sonu Nigam against Subhash K Jha, who is a very famous Journalist and Media person in Bollywood.

Those days are gone when newcomer girls face this casting couch because many Gays in this industry ruling like Karan Johar and Suresh Menon.

The war between Sonu Nigam and Jha came out in the public when Jha started writing against the singer very often in various leading newspapers. Sonu Nigam said in an interview with the news channel that he received many sms of Subhash K Jha for sexual motives.

Sonu Nigam says "There was a time when women were under constant sexual subjugation but now it’s the turn of the men to bear the brunt." Sonu Nigam is busy in the USA regarding some shows. According to him he is receiving threatening calls to kill him when he returns to Mumbai.

Journalist Subhash K Jha said that he will go to court and file a case against the Sonu Nigam. But frankly speaking I think this Subhash K Jha is a Gay and this can be prove by his girlish behavior and the way he talks :D

After Sonu Nigams allegations, a chain reaction has started in the Bollywood and many models and actors accept that once in his career they faced such incidents. Like Aryan Vaid also got such offers in Page 3 parties and sometimes from big bollywood directors


If you want to see your face on the silver screen, outsource yourself to India. Bollywood's casting agents are scrambling to find foreigners to give their films a cosmopolitan feel.

Without a stable population of Caucasian faces to populate imaginary discothèques, ranks of British soldiers, and Hare Krishna converts, casting agents and film crews often find themselves scouring the city for anyone who looks Western. Some people who had never given a thought to being in films have discovered potential acting careers.

"It's a natural result of globalization; as more Indians travel, do business and settle abroad, the plots of Indian films become more international, and require more foreign characters," says Joel Lee, an aspiring Bollywood actor who is in India on a Fulbright scholarship.

Lee has been living in India off and on for eight years, but didn't know of the opportunities for Westerners until a friend was cast as an extra in The Legend of Bhagat Singh. Soon, Lee was playing a British soldier in the blockbuster period piece The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey and hobnobbing with Aamir Khan, one of India's most sought-after stars.

Based in Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad, the Indian film industry releases 900 feature-length films a year.

Some casting agents troll the streets in tourist meccas like Collaba in Mumbai or Mamallapuram in Chennai, looking for tourists, who make about $25 but usually do it for the novelty of being in a film.

But filmmakers pay well for actors who will commit to sticking around for a little longer.

"An actor with a couple lines of dialogue could easily bring in $5,000 for a couple weeks' work," says Vijayan, who like Madonna has only one name. Vijayan is general secretary for the All India Film Employees Confederation, the Indian equivalent of the Screen Actors Guild.

"There is a demand for foreign blood, but just being white isn't enough, you have to be prepared to work hard," says Vijayan, who has acted in more than 400 films.

"You always get asked to be on films if you are a ghora," says makeup artist Virginia Holmes, who uses the Hindi slang term for a light-skinned foreigner. Originally from England, Holmes knew she wanted to work on films but couldn't make up her mind where to go. "It was either go left to Hollywood, or right to Bollywood. Somehow I ended up here," she says.

Filmmakers in India have always been wary of India's powerful censor boards, and until recently it was taboo to show kissing or drinking alcohol in general-release films. Even when filmmakers thought they could make it past the censors, they often had trouble casting local actors for potentially career-destroying scenes. The answer to the problem: Cast a foreigner.

embarrassing one for Bollywood, with two of its leading lights tainted by a sex scandal. A crusading TV programme, India's Most Wanted, has sought to "expose what it said was Bollywood's casting couch culture," and in two gripping episodes busted Bollywood legend Shakti Kapoor and Indian Idol host Aman Verma for "demanding sex from an undercover reporter pretending to be an aspiring actress... in exchange for helping her break into Bollywood." The Bollywood elite has since thrown their weight behind Kapoor (after numerous apologies) and Verma, and some luminaries have even attempted to deny the very existence of the Bollywood casting couch. Bollywood leading man Salman Khan, for instance, has argued:
"These are well-planned traps by the channel to malign us and, in the bargain, increase its viewer ratings. There is no casting couch in Bollywood. How is it that this reporter... goes only to actors for roles and not producers when it is well known that it is the producers and directors who offer roles, not the actors?"
Former Miss World and Bollywood starlet Diana Hayden, however, begs to differ:
"People should just wake up and smell the coffee. There is a casting couch in almost every industry, from the corporate world to journalism. Just because we are public figures, we are in the glare of the limelight, that's why there is all this fuss... Shakti Kapoor was abusing his position as a film star. In this situation, the public has the right to know."
Media observer Amrita Shah, in the meantime, notes that the hullabaloo over the sting operations has unfortunately overshadowed a genuine social problem:
"How did a feudal, undesirable practice that should have died out with time, modernisation and the growing emancipation of women and other formerly weaker sections of society, grow and gain such widespread acceptability?
"Sex as currency, whether volunteered or not, is incompatible with the ideals of a liberal, merit-based society. It is a pity that the lesser issue of sting journalism and its potential abuse has derailed any possible discussion on this more serious social issue."

In the meantime, the casting couch crusaders have promised to reel in more big names: LOOKOUT 4 casting couchES from various angles. There are more names in the pipeline. out!"

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