“The most senior superstar you can think of [in the Mumbai film industry] is one of the biggest whore-mongers around”
I chose this profession because I couldn’t stand the idea of sitting behind a desk. The first task I was given when I joined was a process known as ‘gym boy selection’. The film needed muscular men to spout lines and perform stunts, people known as ‘gym boys’, thanks to their bulky statures and where they got them. The irony is that I ended up interviewing a bunch of them—all sitting behind a desk.
Some other junior artistes required on set are ‘rich boys’, ‘rich girls’ and ‘models’. ‘Rich girls’ is film terminology for people who are fairer, usually north Indian, mostly Gujarati. They’ve lived here all their lives, and tend to wear more ‘modern’ clothes. The roles of a heroine’s college friends invariably go to these ‘rich girls’. ‘Models’ are a different category of extras. They’re not models. I’ve heard of certain directors, like Suraj, who call over 15 ‘models’ and end up just shooting with five. The others were for recreation. This is an industry replete with sexual escapades. It’s more rampant in Telugu cinema, though. Madras is a more sober, open-mouthed community, and these days, everybody is begining to get concerned with one’s image. Directors and actors are all trying to be classy, to dress better and lead lives away from the public glare. They feel conscious of the industry’s lack of sophistication, compared to Bombay.
I’ve worked in Bollywood briefly. In terms of the casting couch, let me tell you, it’s far worse than this; they just do it with style. The most senior superstar you can think of is one of the biggest whore-mongers around. He ends up sleeping with most of his co-stars, which, I have to say, at his age, is commendable. The only difference is he does it with such style, it’s not seen as crass behaviour. Another difference is that the Bombay industry tends to be much more professional, partly because they’re used to bigger films, and there’s more money on the line. But, I would say, the south gives you more value for money.
(He has worked in the Tamil film industry for five years)
As told to Shruti Ravindran
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