Bollywood no cakewalk for starry-eyed youngsters

By Radhika Bhirani

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) Waiting to be noticed, searching for the right contacts, looking for a shelter - thousands of starry-eyed youngters instantly identify with Konkona Sen Sharma's character in "Luck By Chance" as they go through the grind in Bollywood every day.

In Zoya Akhtar's directorial debut, Konkona plays Sona Mishra who struggles for three years doing bit roles in Hindi films and finally switches to the small screen.

"Konkona's story in the film just shows reality. I've been in Mumbai for two years now and though I have done a few TV shows and several ads, my Bollywood break is yet to come. People keep offering side roles in films, but that's not what I'm here for," said model-actor Gautam.

Actor-turned-filmmaker Deepak Tijori had a similar story to tell.

"I remember how I used to wait in the office of all these producers for hours together without getting a single movie offer. I had to struggle for three years in Bollywood to get my major break in 'Aashiqui'. Before 'Aashiqui', I made small appearances in movies like 'Krodh', but it was just one shot, so no one remembers," Tijori told IANS.

And this feeling is restricted to Bollywood aspirants. It also spills into the small screen.

According to TV show producer Rajan Shahi of "Sapna Baabul Ka...Bidaai" fame, young girls and boys line up outside his office every day to seek a role.

"About 30-40 people are present at my office to get a break. Lots of people send us photos through our e-mails and we get at least 15-20 calls from aspirants every day," said Shahi.

Unlike other industries, filmdom doesn't offer a platform where the requirements of a filmmaker or other openings are advertised. Everything depends on contacts. The situation, therefore, is grim for outsiders who come without prior training or the right contacts.

In such a scenario, industry insiders feel models have an edge over others. For instance, Anushka Sharma, John Abraham, Bipasha Basu, Preity Zinta and Aishwarya Rai.

"I think models are exposed to the glamour world and are camera-friendly, so at times they do have a better chance to be selected. They are also easily noticed and accessible because of the exposure they get through modelling. But no one is good enough without training," said Bhavana Sresth of Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment.

Zoya, who has previously worked as a casting director for many films, agrees and says it's easier to enter the industry if one is "naturally good-looking and talented".

"These are two basic requirements for an actor. It can get very hard to get a break even if one is a model unless there's some tag like a Miss India, Mr. India, Gladrags supermodel or something," the filmmaker told IANS.

The predicament of aspirants doesn't end just there. The cost of living and housing issues too are major hurdles in their success stories. Zoya's film throws light on that aspect of strugglers' life as well.

"Mumbai is an expensive city. It is very tough for struggling actors to survive here without a regular income. The house rents are no less than Rs.15,000-20,000 a month and a lot of people don't rent out houses to bachelors. And if one is associated with the glamour world, it's like an icing on a cake of troubles," said aspiring actor Abhishek Jain.

However, industry insiders claim the selection procedure has become more streamlined over the years and as a result the struggle period for aspirants has reduced too.

"I have worked as a casting director for long and I can say that it is getting better now. The entire casting procedure has become very streamlined. But for those who have no idea as to who they should contact, it is still very tough," said Bhavana.

According to Zoya, the rise in the number of films being produced every year has also led to more opportunities being created for newcomers.

"So many films are releasing now and roles are not just confined to the leads now - there's so much more to do. The multiplexes have multiplied, corporates are pushing in money and the demand of films has increased. Considering this scenario, we have just about seven actors who are saleable. And all those people can't act in all the movies, thus creating more opportunities for youngsters," she said.

However, like many filmmakers and actors have said, in Bollywood luck is really about being in the right place at the right time.

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)

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