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Rajpal runs a grooming house for aspiring models in New Delhi. "No, Im sorry, we couldnt have. I was never at Rajpals place," Kochchar tried to tell the young man. "But I dont blame him for finding that hard to believe. At that party he was introduced to and later serviced someone who claimed to be me," says Kochchar.
The young man is not alone. If glamour circuit stories are any indication the lid is about to blow off the Indian fashion and entertainment worlds best-kept secret: the male casting couch.
Men demanding sexual favours from nubile young men in return for that crucial big break, that elusive walk on the ramp or that plum role in a forthcoming production or even just a role in an ad film. In many cases, the answer is: yes.
Circumspection is still the name of the game. A few weeks ago, during television talk show, babyface he-man Mr. Grasim International 2000 Aryan Vaid casually mentioned the time he was propositioned by another man. The anchor, actress Archana Puran Singh, did not bat an eyelid. She accepted it for what it was : a little discussed but well-known reality of their world.
But now, asked to elaborate on the "proposition he experienced, Vaid expectedly shies away. "I would not like to talk about details. It would create enmity within the industry," he says. Just on the verge of launching a big-time Bollywood career, Vaid is hardly going to do a Manoj Prabhakar on the male casting couch.
More and more people are ready to speak out though. "The male casting couch definitely exists in India," says writer and former film journalist Shobha De. "There is no gender bias any more.
The big players are influential film directors and movie producers, fashion choreographers and photographers and ad executives. There are gay gossip columnists who only promote their pets. Gay critics play favourites as well." Powerful gay men who select young men for sex and stardom.
The concept is not new. Hollywoods powerful gay mafia or Velvet Mafia has long been notorious. India now has none too. "A few actors and a bunch of film-makers are part of this gay clique. They are all whizkids, all fast-selling names at the box office.
So not many have the guts to expose them," says Bharati Pradhan, film columnist and former editor of Star and Style. On January 30, a website on Indian films alluded to the phenomenon revealing the names of some top actors and directors who have had close encounters with the male casting couch.
Former actress Asha Sachdev relates the story of Aftab Ahmed, a student at the acting school she runs. A big-time director-producer came up to Ahmed and said, "You want a role. Ill give you one." He was also very explicit about what he expected in return.
The scared Ahmed immediately went the reported this to Ashadidi as her students call her. Says Sachdev, "I called up the guy right away and told him to keep his hands off. Its crazy, the kind of demands my students have to put up with. A lot of them have complained to me about how they were approached by a director or a producer. Its disgusting. I always tell my boys to keep their distance. Its not worth it."
Not just top-bracket Bollywood film directors or a Bangalore-based fashion designer whole "harem of boys: has given the country some of its most famous male models, but even model coordinators, film "extras", agencies, hair stylists and almost anyone who liases between the model or the star, can play out his demand on the couch.
Take, for instance, an upper-end discotheque in the Capital well past midnight. The dance floor is crowded out with young, gyrating bodies. The opening beats of Freddie Mercurys I Want To Break Free throbs from the DJs console. One swarthy young man, lithe body perfectly outlined in a white turtle neck and red sweatpants, sways rhythmically and alone.
But his eyes are alert, darting quickly every few minutes to the long bar which runs through the disco. Almost an hour later, he stops mid-dance, a wide grin split across his face, as he pushes his way off the dance floor. He walks to the bar and through a small crowd that surrounds New Delhis famous drag queen hair stylist : Sylvie.
Dressed in faux leopard skin hotpants, Sylvie is surrounded by an admiring clutch of young, good-looking men, most of whom are waiting hungrily on the threshold of ramp modelling. Sylvie rumored to be close to some of the powers that be, runs the International Designer Training Academy in south Delhi, a grooming school for aspiring models.
The celebration more realistically the commodification, of the Indian male body is primarily a late-nineties phenomenon. In the past, there might have been a Dharmendra baring his torso in the sixties superhit Phool Aur Patthar or a macho Dara Singh flexing his muscles on screen.
But it was only with the arrival of a pumped-up Sanjay Dutt and the no-shirt Salman Khan that the Indian hunk became a sexual takeaway. Muscles were always macho, now they became sexy.
With contests like Graviera Mr. India, Gladrags Male Model of the Year and Mr. Grasim International all the rage, the market was never better for the pin-up beefcake. Strutting the ramp in skimpy briefs, or playing to the galleries with bulging biceps showcased in Hilfiger muscle-vests, these Samson look-alikes play for dizzily high stakes. And the casting couch is often the starting point.
Many actually believe the male casting couch is nothing new. According to gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi, "It is not a new development, it has simply become more institutionalized with so many gay men in films, theatre and advertising." De agrees. "It is more upfront and rampant now because there is greater social acceptance [of the gay phenomenon]."
Bollywood sources insist that at least four top filmmakers are gay. Super model Milind Soman is once reported to have told Humsafar, a gay magazine, that is not averse to the idea of having relationships with men. Even actors like Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan and Bobby Deol, the epitome of the Bolywood hunks, have gone on record saying that they find praise from a man a "compliment" to their macho image.
Bare all admissions are still awaited though. Most young men who have made it, appear to be like Mumbai-based model Samir Gill. Now a reasonably familiar face with his campaigns for Siemens, Videocon and Relispray, among other products, and happily married with two children, Gill recalls he early days in the Industry.
After being told by an advertising executive that he had been selected for a campaign he was taken to the office terrace and propositioned. "He told me the names of top guys in the industry and assured me that I was in, provided I obliged him.
It was so sudden I was not in the mood and that I would get back to him the next day. He called me the following day but I had left instructions with my family not to entertain his calls. He called a few times more but then backed off," says Gill.
Model Sameer Soni, who made his Bollywood debut with Raj Kumar Santhoshis magnum opus China Gate, relates another equally diplomatic anecdote:
"I have been propositioned but I have never been through it (the casting couch). Such offers are often made by middlemen who just try to exploit the situation. In my case someone threatened to ruin me but ultimately turned out to be a nobody." It would, however, be extremely naive" to dismiss such stories from lesser known or aspiring models as "quick recognition" gimmicks, says Kochchar.
Homosexuality is still too much of a taboo in this country for anyone to admit to even one brush with it. It was years before actresses could own up to the good old-fashioned sex-for-favours relationships.
In fact, many of the much-publicised pairings between male hunk start and beautiful actresses are well-orchestrated cover-ups because no one will come out in the open and say this big box-office actor has slept with the male director who gave him his first hit. "It is certainly less scandalous to the Indian psyche to say the actor is romancing his co-star rather than get into his homosexual relationships," says Kavi.
It is this shroud of secrecy which makes the male casting couch more violent and exploitative than its gender counterpart. "We have enough instances to prove that the exploitation of the male extras is as much if not more than woman," says Kavi. "But men being used in this way is such an invisible area, it is difficult to say anything."
Not everyone sees it like that though Film and fashion industry insiders see the trend as being perfectly quid pro quo. "After all, when most of these guys come into the business all of them are big, strapping men. They are also pretty much willing (to go through the casting couch) it is not as if they are raped or molested," says Kochchar.
Model Rahul Dev, who has just debuted in Bollywood as a long-haired villain agrees: "It is always voluntary. Nobody can even force you, if you are not ready for such a situation."
Mumbai-based designer Ashley Rebello goes a step further: "In fact, if any big film producer or director were to ask to spend a hour, day, week with an aspiring actor, I do not think anybody would refuse.
People are very practical nowadays. They do not make a big issue of such things," he says. De strikes a similar note: "The men involved treat it as a legitimate part of business. The men who are victimised (for not playing ball) are the ones who crib."
That the trading of sexual favours works to everyones advantage isnt wholly incorrect either. "Often these men (in the fashion world it would be a model, designer and fashion photographer) who get together sexually end up creating a formidable team, which gets them the best assignments," says Kochchar.
Of course there are also the losers. Like the young man who desperately wanted Kochchar to recognize him after the night at Rajpals; or the countless young men who cling to Sylvies every word in the hope of landing that one life-changing assignment; or the ones who stake out the hotspots waiting to be noticed by the all-important partying designers or producers.
And then there are the winners. But, as Kochchar says, it all works up to a point: "If you are good at your work you will get recognised. If someone is bad, it doesnt matter whom he is pleasing, he still wont get very far."
Now try explaining that to the glamour-crazed, 20-something young men with their pumped-up naked torsos and barely-there briefs as they paraded the ramp at the GladRags finals of the Mega Model and Manhunt 2001 contest, in the major metros last week.
Courtesy : The Telegraph
Gay casting couch victims of Bollywood
We all have heard of casting couch practice in Bollywood & fashion industry. It is no more surprising or shocking. If you don't have family connections or some godfather in film industry you cannot succeed.
Only way you can go up is by accepting the sexual demands or favors asked by big actors & directors.It has been alleged that many A-list heroines have gone through casting couch.
The rumor has it Ash, Rani, Preity have all been victims of casting couch. The tape released by India Today in Shakti Kapoor Casting couch case, Shakti Kapoor was shown saying that all the big actresses have slept with big directors to get good roles. He named Rani,
Ash & Preity.Now a new trend has crept up in industry & that is gay casting couch. People asking favors from male aspirant's in lieu of giving them a chance in the film.
Well now with homosexuality being legalized & industry being populated by gay people, such instances have started occurring & coming in light more often.
For the first time gay couching case came to light with Sonu Nigam. The war between Sonu Nigam and Jha came out in the public when Jha started writing against the singer very often in various leading newspapers.
Sonu Nigam said in an interview with the news channel that he received many sms of Subhash K Jha asking for sexual motives.
Sonu Nigam said "There was a time when women were under constant sexual subjugation but now it's the turn of the men to bear the brunt".
Sonu Nigam alleged Subhash K Jha of sexually harassing him.After this instance many models came out & related similar instances.
Model and actor Aryan Vaid boldly agreed to talk about his experiences. "I have been propositioned by one of Bollywood's biggest directors. I have been offered money to sleep with politicians by one of the biggest ever producers in Bollywood.
These things keep happening but no one forces you in the industry," he says. The director in question is famous for his top star cast and his movies almost always have an international element to them.
Dale Bhagwagar, who is publicist to the likes of Shilpa Shetty and Hrithik Roshan, says: "When people are in a position of power a world of opportunity is open to them. With beautiful people around, the couch is just another pleasure trip that many choose to take."
Next one to relate his experience was Sonu Sood."I still remember how a model coordinator approached me and kept calling me till I told him I was not his cup of tea", said sonu Sood, who played Abhishek Bachchans elder brother in Yuva and a parallel lead with Emraan Hashmi in Aashiq Banaya Aapne.
He played Aishwarya Rai's brother in Jodha Akbar.
Nigar Khans husband and actor Sahil Khan (who debuted in hit movie Style) was also approached by another coordinator during a party and promised a lead role if he compromised.
Model Sameer Soni who debuted with China Gate records an interesting instance "I have been propositioned but I have never been through it (the casting couch). He also worked in movies like Fashion & Baghban.
Such offers are often made by middlemen who just try to exploit the situation. In my case, someone threatened to ruin me but ultimately turned out to be a no body."
Many aspiring actors and models have had to engage in same sex activities with directors, model coordinators, fashion designers, producers and other Bollywood bigwigs in exchange for prominent roles.
While many in the industry continue to deny its existence, models Aashish Chaudhary and Rahul Dev, fashion designers Ravi Bajaj and Manish Malhotra and film columnist Bharati Pradhan have told media of the ubiquity of the gay casting couch.
Marc Robinson a model turned actor has suggested that many of the industry bigwigs like Shahrukh Khan, Karan Johar, Mahesh Manjrekar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali might be involved in gay relationships referring to their "proximity to male friends".
TV artist Pankaj Sharma aka Bobby Darling was also been accused of sexual harassment by model Surjit Jagdish Singh. The actor had said that Bobby Darling promised him a few roles in return for sexual favors.
World class designer Rohit Bal has a different take on the whole casting couch issue. According to Rohit , of course there is a casting couch but it's always the other way round.
Which means he's not propositioning anyone, it's the aspiring models who offer (more like throw themselves at him - I've seen it) their services and more in the hope he'll give them a break on the ramp.
Arjun Ramphal in an interview said that the question about casting couch has been asked billions of times. "Let me tell you, that I never succumbed to any such pressures.
Success doesn't come easy, so obviously like the female casting couch there is a male casting couch".So it is nothing surprising or out of way for him.
According to many people it's the price you have to pay for fame, name & money. If you have to succeed you have to this price & make small sacrifices.
The interesting thing to note is that whenever a person is asked about casting couch he accepts that it is present but at the same time denies succumbing to it. If all the people who made to the top denied it or didn't succumb to it then why does it even exist in the industry?
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Yuvraaj Parashar, 26, was one of your regular strugglers. He spent over eight years making the usual rounds of producers' offices before finally landing a film,Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyun in November 2010.
It was a pretty good project too, starring Hema Malini and Zeenat Aman, and by Bollywood standards, it even had an unusual subject ' gay relationships.
In the run-up to the film's release, as part of the promotional drill, Parashar spent a few months teasing the media about whether or not he was gay. Then he finally saw his film release and flop almost immediately.
Not someone to give up so easily, Parashar began knocking on the doors of reputed directors, a CD of his film in hand. Only a couple of filmmakers agreed to meet him and Onir Dhar, of My Brother Nikhil (2005) fame, was one of them.
Onir, in response to a message on Facebook, invited him over to his house for an "afternoon movie viewing session" on January 11, 2011. Yuvraaj came on record a few days later saying he had been molested by Onir after they had gotten drunk at the latter's house.
Onir also responded to the allegation saying that it was "sex by mutual consent" and that he had never forced himself on the guy. He even threatened to sue the newcomer and garnered a lot of support from the film community.
Parashar told the media, "I was molested by a reputed director simply because I went to his place to look for work. I wanted him to see my work and consider me for his next film. When I came back home, there were a few hickeys on my chest. Next day, Onir sent me a message asking me how my hickeys were. I just replied with a smiley."
Onir's version is somewhat different. "It was sex by mutual consent. I am just five foot something. It would be impossible for me to force myself on somebody who's so burly and much taller than me. I think it is just a cheap way of gaining publicity and maligning reputed directors like me. Everybody knows that I am comfortable with my sexuality and I have never done something like this in my whole life."
Whatever may have actually transpired, there is agreement on certain points ' that the newcomer had come to seek work from a reputed director, and that they engaged in a physical relationship after a few rounds of drinks.
While this episode is the first of its kind to come out into the open, industry insiders say that the male casting couch is by no means an unusual phenomenon in Bollywood. In fact, many believe that it is now as easy, if not easier, for boys to sleep their way into a film.
'Let's make it a night to remember'
Newcomer Maradona Rebello, who made his debut opposite Bipasha Basu in Pankh (2010) and also starred with Parashar inDunno Y' believes that the male casting couch phenomenon is not even worth commenting on simply because it is both "rampant and normal."
He says, "Several of my friends have gone through it, and a lot of people willingly or unwillingly have to go through it to reach in front of the camera."
A well known model who has earned his stripes in Bollywood as a character actor talks about the strange 'brush' he had with a reputed director. "It was supposed to be a regular story narration session. I was quite excited to be working with this national-award-winning Bengali director. It was like a dream come true for me. I was invited to a hotel in suburban Mumbai where the director was staying with his partner. I was called in the afternoon and when I came in, I saw the director sitting alone in his room. He had a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. What struck me was that he was a wearing a 'nightie', the kind that women wear to bed."
Of course, the story narration never happened, says the actor. "Instead, he started talking about world cinema. He lectured me on how Bollywood can match Hollywood. After I made my boredom apparent by yawning three-four times, he came to the point. He said he was going to check out an outdoor location and he expected me to accompany him. He also explained that a "physical connection" is very important for two individuals to bond.
"I remembered that he had asked me to get my own drink. When I got up to make it, he jumped up and said, "No, no, I will make it for you." In the process, he rubbed his body against mine, and started touching me everywhere. Then he held me close to his chest, and whispered, 'Let's make this a night to remember.' I stood there dumbfounded as he kept fondling my crotch.
"After a few minutes, I luckily got a call from my fiance. The director saw the phone ringing and said, 'just ask that b***h to f***k off for now.' I went outside the hotel room to take the call and never went back," says the actor about his experience.
Actor and model Kelly Dorjee also admits that there have been incidents where he was hit on by a guy who claimed to be a filmmaker.
"There was one incident where I had to meet a guy who said that he was filmmaker. But even after meeting me three times, he couldn't explain clearly what the film was all about. During the last session, he started making these loaded comments about how I was very attractive and he would do anything to be with me. It didn't take me long to realise what was going on. I politely excused myself and never allowed that guy anywhere near me," says Kelly.
'They are like rape victims'
Of course, in this sense, the predicament of a struggling male actor is no different from that of a struggling starlet. TV actor and reality show contestant Alina Wadiwala, 23, admits that it's painful for her to counsel her male co-actors when they are forced to get into relationships with their directors or producers.
"I have friends who've been trying to get into films. Desperate for a role, they allowed themselves to be forced into a homosexual relationship. And because they were straight, they just couldn't come to terms with the fact that they had slept with a man. They cry for days together, they seem like rape victims," says Alina.
So, why don't the victims talk about it? Well, according to most, it's to do with sexuality. Many models and casting directors don't want to come out of the closet even now. And if you are straight, you don't want the fact that you've slept with a man to become public knowledge, so most male casting couches prefer to keep quiet about it.
Says a fashion designer about an actor who is one of those rare male models who have managed to make a mark in Bollywood, "This friend of mine was in a relationship with a top Indian designer. It was this designer who successfully put him on the ramp and made him a super model. This model is today a successful actor and is even married with children. But till date, he has never spoken about the relationship that he had with the designer. It is mainly because he doesn't want to admit that he had ever been in a homosexual relationship in his life."
"Having a sugar-daddy in the film industry has never paid off in the long run because you can survive only if you are talented," sums up Shailendra Singh, managing director, Percept Pictures. "Even if you manage to take the casting couch route to a role, without talent, you'll just be another flash-in-the-pan actor that Bollywood has seen and forgotten so many times."
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