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The casting couch commonly known in the West as hard audition is becoming more and more common in Bollywood. The underworld demand favor, the producers, directors and even the technicians line up these days in the darkness of privacy.

Actor and small-screen superstar Shekhar Suman says all those who deny the existence of the casting couch in showbiz are lying. According to him, the Bollywood-underworld nexus is also a fact.

It is all there and very common. The policy is do not ask and do not tell! No body forces any one. It is just an understood norm in Bollywood to keep every end happy for smooth sail to the top!

Is there a hard audition or in local terms casting couch in Bollywood? Well Salman denied it, others kept quiet. But Mahima Choudury is crisp clear about it – it exists in Bollywood in plenty!

Mahima Choudary claims that film industry sure has a casting couch. She adds however that she was not a victim of it because she had made her entry into films through modeling and VJ-ing.

She also declares that casting couch exists everywhere. "But girls who try to take the short cut to the film industry usually end up becoming the victims of casting couch," she said.

Sources say, she was also a victim like Ash and all others. If you do not have your parents or close family members in the limelight or someone you know well, casting couch or hard audition is inevitable!

Like a pair of star-crossed lovers, the words “Bollywood” and “sex scandal” just can’t keep their hands from going down each other’s pants (or something like that). The latest hullabaloo erupted after the broadcast of famous villain actor Shakti Kapoor purportedly soliciting sex from a reporter posing as an aspiring actress:

A video clip, which the station said was taken earlier this year, purportedly shows Kapoor in a Bombay hotel room telling the undercover reporter, “I want to make love to you ... and if you want to come in this line (of business), you have to do what I am telling (you) to do.” Kapoor is heard on the 40-minute recording telling the woman that he will put her through acting and dance classes before introducing her to top directors. He also names three Indian actresses who allegedly had sex with top producers and directors in exchange for roles.

Indian film stars have a status that outstrips even their Hollywood peers and are treated like living gods by their legions of fans.

But when on-screen villain Shakti Kapoor was exposed as a real-life bad boy - after being secretly filmed asking for sex in return for making an undercover reporter a star - a national scandal ensued.

It seems roles are routinely traded for sex in Bollywood, and those who do it aren’t necessarily ashamed to admit it.

“It’s like give and take. I’d be lying if I’d say it doesn’t happen. It exists everywhere. So you don’t have, it’s no big deal, nobody is raping anyone.”, says Shakti Kapoor. And if a girl doesn’t want to “cooperate”, as he puts it, “Then she can say no and go back home.” Without a role in the film.

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt says the practice is outrageous, outdated, and should be stopped. “It has a stench of bygone days, it’s a feudal mindset. There are laws in civilised countries which protect women and men, from these humiliating situations.”

Change seems unlikely, however, with Kapoor’s career actually having been boosted by the revelations of sexual blackmail.

A LEADING Bollywood actor was embroiled in a sex scandal after being filmed apparently offering to promote the career of an aspiring actress if she slept with him.

An Indian television station broadcast footage of Shakti Kapoor, famous for playing movie villains, in a Mumbai hotel room propositioning an undercover reporter who was posing as the actress. Kapoor was also filmed naming Bollywood stars who he claimed had slept their way to success.

In the video clip, the actor said: "I want to make love to you ... and if you want to come in this line [of business] you have to do what I am telling [you] to do."

Kapoor has accused the television channel behind the sting of setting him up and denied any wrongdoing.

Bollywood, the Mumbai-based Hindu film industry, reacted to the scandal with a mix of faux outrage and weary resignation. While some demanded a boycott of Kapoor, others suggested his behaviour was commonplace in the Indian film industry.

Kapoor certainly seems to think so - in the video clip he names three leading actresses and claims they have had sex with top producers and directors to clinch roles. "So you have to do it just once," he told the undercover reporter.

Mahesh Bhatt, a producer, described sex for screen-time as "Bollywood’s best-known secret" and suggested Kapoor should be fined for his actions.

"The rot is within us," he said. "The casting couch is a reality. It is a power thing, to which vulnerable girls who want to join the industry fall prey."

But Kapoor, who has performed in more than 300 films and is best known for his portrayal of villains, insisted he had neither solicited sex nor made allegations against other celebrities.

He said the video had been tampered with by India television and threatened to sue the channel.

"The tapes have been doctored," he said after the first clips were broadcast. "I never touched her."

The woman had pestered him for months for a film role and he only went to the hotel to meet her when she threatened to commit suicide, he said.

Despite his denial, India’s Film and Television Producers’ Guild urged its members to boycott Kapoor.

"Kapoor has been completely irresponsible in his behaviour and utterances and must publicly apologise to all those whom he has insulted and slandered," it said in a statement.

"The guild is advising its members not to engage Shakti Kapoor in any work in any of their productions."

Preity Zinta, a leading actress who was one of those named by Kapoor, said: "The comment is made in very poor taste. He is truly a real-life villain and deserves to be banned from our film industry."

But many directors and producers preferred to condemn the way the channel had got the story.

Pehlaj Nihlani, the president of the Association of Motion Picture and Television Programme Producers, said: "The way the meeting was set up makes the media equally guilty. It was a well laid-out plan. It was a planned conspiracy to defame him."

In India, showbiz gossip revolves almost exclusively around Bollywood actors. Newspapers and television stations devote whole sections and programmes to celebrity tittle-tattle, a subject area known as "Page 3".

Kapoor seems determined to fight to restore his reputation. As for his career, according to anonymous Bollywood insiders quoted in the Indian press, it may already have been over for some time.

After the case of Shakti Kapoor making advances towards the ‘supposedly struggling actress’, now comes another similar case involving TV star Aman Verma .

In another sting operation carried out by TV channel India TV, Verma has been filmed making advances towards the undercover reporter and also trying to examine her ‘closely’.

The film shows the undercover reporter calling Verma naughty and he responds by saying, “I am always naughty”.

But when Verma discovers that all this is a sting operation, he first justifies his actions saying that casting couch exists and everybody does it and then falls at the feet of Suhaib Illiyasi sobbing.

But before this film was shown on TV by India TV, Verma, known for his role in serials like `Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi' and `Devi', has filed a criminal case of blackmail and extortion against Illiyasi and India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma.

The complaint has been filed with Mumbai police, advocate Dipesh Mehta, representing Verma said.

According to the complaint, Verma was constantly being telephoned by a girl named Ruchi for past several months. On December 17, the girl came to Verma's Lokhandwala residence and initiated a conversation with him. After some time, the girl suggested that they should move to the bedroom.

Once in bedroom, the complaint alleged, the girl made suggestive advances and requested Verma to get her some role. Verma, however, rejected her advances and suggested to her that she should try harder for roles through honest means.

While he was escorting the girl out of the house, Verma saw Illiyasi at his door along with a cameraman, who claimed that they had caught him on tape in a "sting" operation. Since that day, Illiyasi and Sharma had been allegedly telephoning him for favours, following which the actor on Wednesday filed a complaint.

When contacted for comments, Illiyasi termed the allegations as "totally wild and baseless".

He said "after the Shakti Kapoor expose, people who have committed wrongs in the past, are apprehensive that they too would be exposed in the coming days and are therefore taking pre-emptive steps.

Ram Gopal Varma on the Casting Couch

The casting couch. Some admit it. Some don't.

Actors, Actress, wannabe stars, newbies, starlets practically everybody have had tales to tell about their 'brush with the bed'. The recent Preeti- Madhur Bhandarkar case may have eaten a lot of newsprint. But the casting couch phenomenon is nothing new to Bollywood. Insiders insist that it always existed. The skeletons are now out of the closet, and Bollywood has stopped shying from it.

The casting couch instance has now become so rampant, that it almost goes as an unwritten rule. And Bollywood is very casual it its reaction. No more is there the expected 'O My God…!” expressions that hangs big on celebrity faces. Neither are eyebrows raised. It is a norm that is as accepted as the morning cuppa coffee.

When the media did the rounds of filmstars and celebrities for their reaction to the much in-news favor-and-fame cycle, the reactions were explosive to say the least…

The captivating Isha Koppikar makes a surprising candid confession throwing everybody off-kilter, “Of course it exists. There's no doubt about that. But luckily, I have never been propositioned, but I have heard and seen enough. These things happen, and I don't ...

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