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Fame Fatale

Ugly picture

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Mahesh Nair is a writer-director

Every month, hundreds of Bollywood aspirants pour in from Noida to Nashik dreaming of fame and glamour. Any of them could be a Karan Kakkar or a Meenakshi Thapa.


Recently a friend of mine had a request. A man, working with her father in one of India's biggest retail companies, wanted to write for films. Could I help him out? I met him. He was in his late 40s, married, had two kids, and earned a little less than 20, 000 per month.

He told me he was a writer. As I listened to him I realised he had stories in his mind, not a written script. He wanted to meet some directors and producers. I told him to write the script first.
He thought for a moment and asked, "Can I work as an assistant director?" "Do you know what an AD does?" I asked. He shook his head and replied: "I want to learn how movies are made. " I sighed and asked, "Are you ready to try your luck, maybe not earn anything for the next year?"

The man smiled sheepishly and left. He came with hope. Left with despair. Why do you think the man wanted to take a shot a Bollywood? Was it to become famous? To be rich? Because he had a creative urge? Was he bored with his job?
If you know the answer, you will not smirk or cluck disapprovingly the next time you read a newspaper headline about an actor being murdered or a wannabe producer getting involved with the likes of Vijay Palande.

Some months ago I met an Indian businessman who runs a successful software business in South Africa. He had wanted to produce Hindi films for over a year. I met him in his nicely done apartment in Andheri. A pretty girl joined us while I was narrating my film to him. Both of them liked the story. The businessman said we should be able to do the financial closure in a month's time, after he was back from South Africa.

I walked out happy and hopeful. I was impressed by the high rise apartment complex. Film makers Vipul Shah and Imtiaz Ali were amongst the people staying in it.
Six months have passed. I haven't heard from the producer yet. But I remember the apartment complex. It is the same building where Vijay Palande and his accomplices cut the body of wannabe producer Karan Kakkar and drove away in his BMW.
What you see is not actually what you get in Bollywood. The movies, stars and celebrities, parties, marketing blitz - all this is just the surface. But there is a whole subterranean world. It's like the gutter below Mumbai's streets. You can't see it and it stinks. But it's the vein of the city.

This "under world" of Bollywood is primarily driven by a desperate desire to be rich, an unstoppable craving to be famous and a lust for glamour. There are scores of people who come every year to invest in Bollywood. Most of them are from Delhi, Noida, Chandigarh, Indore, Patna, Jaipur and Rajkot. Many of them fit into the Karan Kakkar category.

Why does a newcomer want to invest his or her money in the risky business of films? Many are real estate businessmen who want to launder their black money - a lot of movies in the Rs 2-6 crore budget bracket still get made this way. But the primary reason is for fame and love of glamour. I know a bunch of business guys whom very few had heard of when they were dabbling in textiles and the stock market in Gujarat. But then they bought a sick, listed company, changed its name, entered the entertainment industry, and produced films most of which lost money. The businessman's wife is not complaining because she had a whole bunch of stars coming to wish her child happy birthday, captured for eternity on Page 3.

More than producers, actors have to trudge most through this subterranean world. If you wonder what makes a boy from Bareilly run from his home and loving parents to Mumbai to try his luck at being an actor, maybe you should turn to your neighbour's two-year-old daughter who everyone admires because she dances so well to the Chhamak Chhalo song. That kid has tasted the power of entertainment too.

All actors believe they are talented and hardworking. They think all you need is luck. In reality what saves their day is patience. While most pour into Mumbai without any training, every three months acting schools spit out hundred of actors. In Andheri and Oshiwara, you just have to walk into an audition for a commercial to see the serpentine queues.

I have a friend who came to Mumbai to become an actor. He met one of Bollywood's most famous astrologers. He was told that he had a wonderful future. He would make it to the list of top five actors. My friend was overjoyed.
He spent a mini fortune to make a portfolio and began his rounds of production companies and coordinators. He was offered many small parts but he turned them down. He wanted to be launched only in a leading role.
Eight years and many failed relationships later, he gave up his dreams.
He stepped out of the subterranean world.

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