Bollywood stars urged to become union members

By Jivraj Burman

Mumbai, Feb 17 (IANS) The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) has asked producers to boycott artistes who are not members of different associations affiliated to it. Several bigwigs in Bollywood do not have labour union cards, unlike Hollywood, where no one is allowed to work in movies without a union card.

Soon after the notice was issued Feb 11, two high-profile non-members, Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor, sent their forms duly filled, along with the fees Feb 14 (Thursday) to their respective craft associations, said Rajiv Menon, office secretary of the Cine and Television Artistes' Association (CINTAA).

More than Kareena and Shahid, CINTAA blames producers for hiring them without checking their association memberships.

"Producers who have been signing Kareena and Shahid know their associations have an understanding with us and they will only engage legitimate association members," Menon told IANS.

An office-bearer of the association said Shahid and Kareena have been careless by not seeking memberships of CINTAA all these years.

"It is not that they don't know that to work in movies they need to become members of CINTAA. If Shah Rukh Khan can find time to personally visit and deposit membership forms, along with the cheque at the CINTAA office, can't these two young artistes have their forms sent across to us?" he said.

In Hollywood, showbiz aspirants have to prove their credentials to their craft associations to get a union card, which at times is difficult. Though a similar rule is in vogue in Bollywood, it is not strictly followed. As a result, producers often hire non-members.

The list of non-members is star-studded. Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar, Bollywood's senior-most singer, is not attached to the Cine Singers' Association (CSA) even 60 years after joining the industry. Nor are fraternity veterans like Asha Bhonsle, Kavita (Krishnamurthy) Subramaniam and Suresh Wadkar.

The CSA life-membership fee is Rs.22,250. Ordinary member are charged an admission fee of Rs.5,000 with an annual subscription of Rs.500.

Membership fee of CINTAA is even less - Rs.10,000 for life and an annual fee of Rs.5,000 for ordinary members.

"We are ready to offer honorary life membership to Lata Mangeshkar and other senior singers, only if they respond to our requests and fill the membership form. But, till date, they have not done so," CSA president Himanshu Bhatt said.

The big names can afford to get work without union memberships, but for those working in the lower rung of the industry, finding employment in Bollywood is difficult without association membership cards.

On any given day, hundreds of young boys and girls queue up at the offices of the associations of junior artistes and dancers in Mumbai's northwest suburb of Andheri.

They come from different parts of the country and they want to be in movies, even if it is for a few seconds. Membership of their respective associations is their ticket to Bollywood and probably to stardom.

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