The #MeToo movement has brought to light many stories of victims of sexual harassment. Showbiz has been a big part of this. Producer Amir Jaffar, whose shows Tujh se hai Raabta and Meri Hanikarik Biwi are on air, has something to say about casting couch and money scams that happen in television.
He says, “I want to say that all aspiring actors and actresses who come to this city with hopes and dreams in their eyes to not fall prey to the two cons, the casting couch and money scam. Though enough has been said and seen about the casting couch, the role of money is another menace that many strugglers fall for. Some casting directors promise actors roles in exchange for money and the latter get duped in the process. The amount can run in lakhs.”
“Alternatively, an actor too, often out of desperation, makes such offers to a producer, casting director or a model coordinator. I’ve had people offering me money in return for a role on my shows and my reply to them was that you can have the role for free, as long as you fit the part – in fact, I’ll pay you for it instead!” he adds.
The producer further explains the process of casting. “Let this be clear please, there is no one, not one person in the television industry who can decide which role goes to whom. The selection of primary characters is a collaborative process between the network and the production house. The person that best suits the character gets selected after thorough scrutiny. It’s never a single person’s decision. Yes, there are a couple of very influential producers who take final casting calls, but they will hardly do it for money or sexual favours. Only an idiot will jeopardize his or her multi-crore television show by casting a wrong person in exchange of a dubious arrangement. If you fit the role, chances are you will get it without having to resort to these supposed shortcuts because no one on this side of the fence will let go of a good casting opportunity either,” he says, adding, “A casting director or coordinator’s job is to shortlist you from amongst the crowd. His job ends there. He cannot influence the network or the production house for your selection in any manner, period. Finalizing a person for a role is a tedious process, and trust me, no one wants to go wrong in casting as too much is at stake for all parties concerned.”
The same holds true for casting couch as well, says Amir. “The casting couch is an older, more evil cousin of the money for role scam, but follows the same pattern. If someone makes you an indecent proposal, can you really trust the intelligence or work ethics of that person or company? Why would you want to work with them in the first place? It’s a mess that will be tough to get out of if you do.”
In fact, he says that the #MeToo movement will help eradicate this evil. “Thankfully, #MeToo movement is a great initiative to filter out those who have been getting away inflicting sexual harassment on vulnerable people. It will also prove to be a big deterrent for other incubating predators. I really don’t blame those who have responded late or even years later. It takes immense amount of courage to admit being sexually victimized. Because when you do, other people’s immediate response is to not look at the accused with disgust, but to view the victim as gossip or scandal. Yes, sure, people misuse anything good and some may even settle personal scores, but by and large, most of us can instinctively distinguish between a genuine and a fake accusation. I think if the movement keeps going in the right direction, it will eventually help create an amiable work environment for all. That will go a long way in protecting people from any harassment or even scams of any kind,” he concludes.