It’s been quite some time since the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in Hollywood and triggered many Bollywood actors, too, to admit that casting couch exists in the Hindi film industry as well. However, addressing the larger issue about why nobody is naming the culprits, actor Sana Khan, who was part of movies such as the Salman Khan-starrer Jai Ho (2014), Wajah Tum Ho (2016), and the Akshay Kumar-starrer Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017), says, “You cannot be in the sea and fight with sharks.”
She explains that by naming and shaming, a lot of actors don’t want to kill their chances of getting work. “It’s not that there are only cheap people; there are some nice ones too, so you often ignore and move on with hope. You don’t want to take a name and get into controversy, because then, people will talk less about your acting and more about the incident. And unfortunately, even good people will run away from casting you in films,” says Sana.
Asked if she ever has been in such a situation, Sana says, “Obviously, there have been many times when people [in the film industry] made such advances. I feel it happens more with people who are complete outsiders in this industry — people like me, absolutely alien. You meet coordinators and they take you to these hotels and ask you random things. It took me months or maybe a year to understand that there are so many cheap men out there who would ask you to ‘compromise’ or ‘oblige’. Kitni funny baat hai na ki humne school mein jo in words ka meaning padha tha, woh toh kuch alag hi tha (Funny how we were taught some other meanings for these words in school).”
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Sana admits that initially, she would get confused. “And I even used to ask them (coordinators) what they are talking about. I used to wonder how one word can be used in so many different contexts. I was talking to one of my fellow girls that do we have more such words or are we done? I also heard things like ‘you should build a relationship for work’, ‘you should go out and meet more people and tell them you want to work’,” quips Sana.
The actor feels that a lot of times when you don’t succumb to these ‘demands’, you end up not getting work. “Lot of times you get to hear ‘sorry, we couldn’t do anything because you didn’t do this’. So, irrespective of your talent and professionalism, a lot of people don’t want you because you’re not giving them what they want and hence, you move at a tortoise’s speed,” she adds.