Casting Couch

Time to call out the desi Weinsteins

11/1/2017 4:54:04 PM
written By : Shobhaa De Print

Bollywood is always in search of a great big Diwali dhamaka. I am hoping this year will provide a big bang!

Come on, all you Bollywood babes - you know who you are - speak up! Nail those vile men who have done a Harvey Weinstein on you. You can do it. No shame. The timing is perfect. All it needs is one top female star to open her gab - just one. If that happens, the dam will burst! And all those slimy Sugar Daddies of showbiz will have no place to hide. That is, if they have any sharam (shame) in the first place.

I have monitored the shenanigans in Bollywood for over 40 years. During my decade-long association with a popular movie magazine, the stories would arrive taaza taaza, straight from the horse’s - or mare’s - mouth. I have sat grim-faced and open-mouthed as a blousy star mother tried hard to peddle her nubile, underage daughter’s very risqué, half-naked pictures to our team. Before asking her to leave, I did question her need to pimp a young, possibly innocent, girl in this lurid way. The mother was brazen about her motives. Said she stonily, “My daughter is sexy. Nothing wrong in sharing...” That same young girl today is a much-admired, matronly mother to a highly-successful star son.

There are several stories from way back then of self-styled showmen and their upfront propositions to starlets looking for breaks. “Meet me in the make-up room...” came later after the girl had a make-up room to call her own. She knew in order to get that status, she would first have to “please” the showman. There were  hundreds like her waiting for “script sessions” in dingy hotel suites. Or even in the powerful producer’s plush office. I recall a young scion of a very influential movie moghul (in the mould of a Weinstein), telling me with a wicked smile, “My father has a couch in his office. He is an old man, and needs his post-lunch siesta. But the minute an actress walks in and spots it, her body language automatically changes. Some start undressing even before they’ve been asked to take a seat!”

If heroes in the bad old days, had their sidekicks to handpick back-up dancers for a quickie after pack-up - that goes on even today. If you notice, every top male star carefully chooses his ‘boys’ for secondary roles. These other fellows play villains or comedians - but that’s for the books. Their real job is to scout for ‘meat’ every day of the shoot - particularly at outdoor locations. Away from snooping, insecure wives and girl friends, the heroes have an elaborate arrangement with the entire unit. Things only get out of hand if the wife/girl-friend lands on the set for a sneak attack and catches the rake red-handed, as it were. These clinical strikes are generally orchestrated with military precision by a rival camp.

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