This Old BBC Documentary Around Casting Couch In The Film Industry Is Still Sadly Relevant

Manya Ailawadi

TW: The article has mentions of abuse. Reader discretion is advised.

We can keep brushing women’s safety under the carpet as something that should not be talked about, because talking about THAT brings us shame. Of course, the truth is that women aren’t safe anywhere – not even in workplaces. The association of ‘casting couch’ with the film industry is just more proof of the truth. An old BBC documentary apparently did a deeper investigation into this around five years ago – and the fact that not much has probably changed is appalling.

The exposé featured a number of women actors who spoke about casting couch and it’s weird ‘normalcy’ in films. An actor who wanted to remain anonymous, talked about an incident where a director made it sound like a “part of the process”. While talking about the incident, she mentioned that the director abused her, while constantly telling her to be comfortable with it. That in saying “no”, she was doing something unprofessional. To even imagine the lengths to which professionals stoop is almost scary.

“He told me, that as an actress, you should be happy to have sex, as and when [required]. He said, ‘come on, remove your clothes I want to see your assets.’ He started removing them.”

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Usha Jadhav, who’s known for her performances in Dhag and Firebrand, talked about facing sexual harassment in the industry. She shared an incident with a director: “He said bluntly, that if you’re going to say no then I’m not going to cast you in my films.” The actor added that even after receiving critical acclaim for her work, she still faces it. Directors and producers even tell her that standing up against ‘casting couch’ will leave her with no work in the industry.

The documentary also featured Radhika Apte, given that the actor has always been vocal about the industry’s flaws. She said that everything for women boils down to how they look and what they are “ready to do”. She also pointed out that when MeToo happened across the world, both men and women joined hands to fight. It’s something that did not happen in Bollywood.

Kalki Koechlin was another actor who came forward to add to the discussion. She said that even when women come forward, these incidents only become headlines. She added that the thing with these headlines is that they only target the victim, and not the person at fault. So it all ends in people hurling opinions at the one who has already gone through something bad.

The expose was not an eye opener, because for that to happen one needs to oblivious to what is happening in the first place. We know that casting couch exists, the industry knows that sexual harassment in Bollywood exists. The industry chooses to stay oblivious, and not act upon it. The worst part is, that this stems from power, so even coming forward has repercussions. People who are the problem don’t face the consequences of it, and women end up being called “difficult to work with”. Given that the industry requires connection to find work, actors also lose projects because nobody takes a stand.

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Watch it here:

We have seen men in the industry getting work even after they were reported, so clearly, we know how the power play works there. Sadly, things have remained the same, after all this while.

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