[VoxSpace Exclusive] Trapped : A Confessional By An Actress Trapped Inside The Web Of Casting Agencies

Chapter One – May 2017 (Conversations With The Casting Agent)

“Can you send me some HD pictures where your cleavage is showing. Since it’s bilingual, we have to sell you to the audience all over. The Director is very particular about that..”

“Western Outfits? You mean western outfits?..”

“…Yes..Yes,..something which shows a good amount of your vitals. Don’t think too much about it my dear. Nothing will happen..”

“I have a few photoshoot pics..I can only send them..”

“Sure sure. But when you come to Mumbai bring, like western outfits too..You are very beautiful, my dear, but audition is audition”

“The audition is for periodical or like mythological serial, then western outfits..I mean why those?”

“Dear, we need to see. We need to see, how well you look. There’s another role also for you, my goddess. More than your Instagram, we need to know you. Otherwise, how can we understand you..”

“Ok. I will bring them”

“Where will you stay dear? I will arrange for the flight ticket, but you will need to arrange for accommodation. For a smart and intelligent person like you, this is not a problem no?”

“Once you confirm the audition date, I will come to Mumbai and stay at my cousin’s place. And take a cab from there”

“Oh, don’t worry. You can stay anywhere, my dear. I will come to pick you up. On the day of the audition. I know with your eternal beauty you will rule Bollywood, my dear. Just I want to give you a chance, out of so many people”

“Thanks. Goodnight”

“Goodnight to you too. Take care, my princess. I shall see you soon in Mumbai”

Editor’s Note

How many times? And how many more ways? Exploitation of talents in the name of Casting, Offers, Movies and Shows? Where is the end to this all? Not many days earlier, a reputable upcoming actress belonging to South Indian Film Industry, contacted us on Facebook to bring out her story and how she was trapped and tortured by those who made her promises of an incredible future. Her story, like a thousand others, was one of entrapment based on her private life choices. The people trapping her, or exactly the male co-stars who were bent on sleeping with her, had clicked her pictures and recorded her videos in highly compromising positions, and were now threatening to release them if she didn’t budge in. Her exact message to us was simple ‘Help me. Please’.

But we didn’t help her. Why, you ask? To start with, we were done. We were done getting ourselves involved with personal stories which the participants would walk off plainly, disavow them when the time came. We were fools to place our trust in fragile people. And our foolery had reached an expiration. We did not take up her story. She sent us emails, we never replied. She somehow got our number and called us, and we plainly told her that we just couldn’t run it. To be confessional about it, we told her, we would run the story only if we could use her name and screenshots directly, unfiltered and not anonymous. She feared for her life, she feared for her career, and more so she feared about her parents getting to know about this. She said she wanted the story out in an anonymous fashion. We declined the suggestion. We never heard from her again. After all, it wasn’t our battle to fight.

Months passed from that incident. We moved to topics which affected our living at a societal and a macro level. Personal stories, incidents were gone past. We finally found our peace in exploring, researching and presenting issues which were bigger than the sum of individuals. But as they say, Life comes a full circle when you least expect it. It came around for us, via a recent incident that happened in Hyderabad.

For those closely following the local news regularly, an arrest was made in a five-star hotel in Banjara Hills. A prostitution racket was busted with the arrest of four people, including two actresses from Bollywood. The remaining two in the accused were, Monish Kadakia, a casting director basing out of Mumbai, and D.Venkata Rao of Guntur District. In this article, the name you need to remember is the former, Monish Kadakia. Basing on this incident, we were again contacted through Facebook, by another actress who wanted to tell the world the crimes of Monish Kadakia. And now we were again faced with the question whether we needed to get into this or not. But as they say, sometimes, you just want to speak, not because someone will hear you out, but because it makes sense. Or perhaps the guilt that we literally brushed away the actress seeking help previously, played in. We couldn’t turn down another one now. And thus comes this article, about an actress, named Niharika, who still fights strongly against the sadistic world of starving casting agents, and who Monish Kadakia lured into a web of deceit. What do we want to achieve with this article? Nothing to be honest. But even if one aspiring actress can take precautionary measures in protecting her integrity basing on this, we shall have done something.

Chapter Two – The Lure Of Bollywood Ft Monish Kadakia

On May 16th, 2017 – The Initial Pretense

Niharika received a text on her Instagram handle, from a person who claimed to be a casting agent from Bollywood. He texted that he was involved in shaping up the careers of reputed actresses not only in Bollywood but also in Tamil and Telugu. But the weirdness of the text was observed in the way he showered praises on Niharika’s beauty, using the terms like ‘Fairy’, ‘Goddess’, ‘Aphrodite’, ‘Angel of Love’, ‘Eternal Beauty’, ‘Unparalleled Face’, and ‘a figure which could make or break a million hearts’. As the Instagram dialogue proceeded, Monish the one texting her, introduced himself to her on Facebook as well. He went on and on about how beautiful she was and that she could be a huge deal if only she gave him a chance to get her some auditions in Mumbai.

In the next two days, Monish asked for Niharika’s portfolio and pictures, which he said he’ll send to casting agencies, reputable ones, in Mumbai. He exuded fake affection, and closeness with Niharika, as his terms of calling her now included, ‘Dear’, ‘Honey’, ‘My sweety’ and more. Although in hindsight, Niharika confesses that she sensed a certain degree of discomfort with him, she was willing to trust him as he spoke of Bollywood and claimed to know famous personalities. Such is the ignorance of mind when it fixates on being somewhere.  Anyway, the conversations went on over the week, and Monish told Niharika that she would be having an audition in a week or two, for a bilingual mythological TV series to be produced by international media houses. She was also asked to come with western outfits since there was another audition scheduled that same day for another role as well. Niharika was also asked for ‘cleavage revealing’ photographs after she sent the details of her Vitals.

June 16th, 2017, The Mumbai Revelations

The Mumbai chapter started off with quite a bit of confusion and lack of communication for the actress. Niharika recounts the episode in her own words,

“…The auditions were being pushed back further and further. Initially, Monish told me that he was in US and would be returning very soon.  My career here was also not picking up since around four or five movies that I was associated with were still due to release (hopefully they will release in 2018). So you can see why I was willing to give this fucker the benefit of doubt. So then when he said he returned, he told me that the audition was scheduled on 16th and that he would pick me up directly from the airport. I declined the help and said that I will be staying at my cousin’s place in Mumbai, and would directly arrive from there. On the very night of this discussion, he told me that he was coming to Hyderabad only the next week and that we could have the audition here itself. He said he could arrange for the audition in some hotel in Banjara Hills. I could see what he was meaning to do, and said that I would much rather prefer giving the audition at the agency in Mumbai. He was a bit taken aback and stopped replying to my texts. The next day, he said that it’s better to have auditions in Mumbai itself, and mentioned the name of a nationally well-known casting agency and sent me their address. Thus, I arrived at Mumbai two days before the audition and called him to confirm the plan. He confirmed this, and asked me for the location of where I was staying…”

“…On the day of Audition, Monish came to pick me up in his car. He was a middle-aged man, with a balding head and a wrinkled face. As soon as we met, he hugged me. I told him that I was not comfortable hugging unknown people. To which he promptly said ‘Don’t make a scene here. This is very common here. Don’t embarrass yourself’. We got into the car, and he started calling me names. He confirmed that I had brought the western outfits. He did drop me off at the office of Casting Agency, and they gave me a script audition to perform then and there. Since I was totally unprepared for it, I found it particularly difficult to perform and since the scene was for a mythological serial made in Hindi, it added to my woes. There was the other audition which required western outfits and I performed it well. Even the casting agent liked my audition and congratulated me. It is when we got out of the offices and went to get a cup of coffee, that things turned to worse…”

Monish asked me blankly, ‘So what have you decided about commitment?’

June 17th, The Options Of Commitment

Niharika recollects the moment in which she was asked by the dual industry Casting agent Monish for a commitment, a colloquial jargon for the willingness to sleep.

“…I was taken aback immediately. It took me a while to understand what he was asking, and although I had a small inkling in the back of my mind that this would come to this, I still felt violated. But that’s hardly the worst part. He started taking names of stars, female stars, who had made careers out of commitment. He then started giving me options. He said – ‘if you sleep with the producer your career is set. It’s just a matter of one night. But don’t look so strange. If you don’t want that, will you at least blow him? Or will you have a sex with another woman, and the director and producer will sit and watch. That’s easy, right? You don’t have to compromise on anything. Or will you do it with someone your exact age? Is that cool with you? See I’m giving you options, so many of them, don’t be like that’. I had stopped listening to him from a minute earlier. I just could manage to say that I was feeling uncomfortable and wanted to go back…”

“…. While in the car, he started to pull my cheeks. He would purposefully touch my lips and pull my cheeks. When I shuddered out and moved away, he went on to say that I was like his daughter and everything was ok. As soon as I got out, he again tried to hug me, but this time I managed to get away from him. Of course, the calls followed with texts and more, but I eventually blocked him out. Then he started sending me apologies on Facebook and Instagram. I could block him there as well. But the issue was more complicated than that. It wasn’t that I didn’t know this was coming along. It was just that I decided to trust people once, and this is what happened. Experiences like this, really disturb your trust system and henceforth I was really careful of the people I chose to talk to or befriend. However, as it were, in a month’s time, I faced another incident which still, to this day, tortures me day and night. The incident originated this time from the city of Chennai…”

Chapter Three – The Irrefutable Offer Of Online Web Series

As the year passed slowly to the rainy half of it, Niharika brought herself to do projects which could challenge the talent she possessed while at the same time educate her into newer horizons. Around at the point of August, her life took a turmoil for the worst when she was called one fine day by the Assistant Director of Tamil film project.

“…When he took the name of the director, I was truly excited. This was since the director had earlier worked with the top names in the Tamil industry and was known to pick truly innovative storylines. I enquired about my role and was told that it was essentially a full time lengthy one, and the director had specifically asked for me and no one else. Skeptical as I was, I tried to keep at bay, and talk only about the project. But the Assistant Director kept on persisting that the Director loved my Instagram profile, and was sad to see me working in side roles of zero value. I could be a superstar, he said, in the Tamil movie industry. This line was enough this time around for me, to understand where the conversation was going. So I just said that my dates were packed, and I couldn’t accommodate the schedule. Then the AD said that he’d send me the script and just wanted me to have a look. It was a feature film script which was later on made into an app-based web series. So, the AD sent me a drive link, containing the script. This is where it went all horrible…”

“…The script link he sent wasn’t opening on my mobile. My mobile was connected to wifi, and the link was just ended me up at a red screen every time I clicked on it. I texted the AD saying that the link was not opening on WiFi. He said the link can be only opened on Mobile data. So I turned off my WiFi and switched on the mobile data. The link now took me to a Gmail login page, where I promptly entered my details. It was a phishing site, to hack my Gmail login details. That was it. My turn of bad events. By the next two days, around 40 percent of my photos and videos were hacked. I am an actress, yes, but I am a woman first. I have had my fair share of relationships, and all my pictures and videos with my exes were stored in my google drive. All gone. Once I ran this thing to one of my friends, he told me that my account was accessed from a non-local IP, for a period of 12 minutes in total..”

“….The calls started immediately. The voices uniformly said only one thing – ‘We know what type of woman you are? So don’t act like you are pure. If you can sleep with your boyfriend, what’s the harm in sleeping with us? You are not a virgin as it is’. Initially, I thought these were empty statements, empty threats, but something happened which terrified me to this day. They started sending me emails, attaching pictures and videos of my most private moments. They called. I ignored. Blocked. Then they called from different numbers. If I didn’t pick up, they’d send me a mail and threaten me that they’d send these to my parents. I come from a very conservative family, where me being an actress is in itself a huge thing to deal with. Now if they look at these things, or come across any videos of mine leaked online, they will be shattered. I’ll lose them forever. The problem with these abusers is that I know what they’ll ask me eventually. As of now, they are just taking fun in abusing me, torturing me through these calls. They haven’t told what they actually want from me. They just want to play around with me. But eventually, they will ask me to sleep around. That I’m sure of. It is always about Sex or Money. I don’t know what to do. I can leave this career and go far off, but my parents. They are ageing and traditional. I can’t bear to see them struck by the grief of watching their daughter in unsuitable conditions. What do I do..??”

Chapter Four – Repercussions Of An Ignorance

Indeed what can she do? Can we help her out? Maybe? But don’t you think ultimately it’s her willingness to act or otherwise that matters. Yes, we can bring out her story and as effectively bring out pointers (as below) of things to be aware of, but apart from that what else can we do? I hope the reader finds an alternative to do something about this. Do leave your valuable comments on what can be done. Not because she is an actress, but she is a woman, strong-willed and courageous, who is seeking our help. It, therefore, becomes our responsibility to help her out, because its plainly and simply wrong not doing so. She could’ve gone to any YouTube channel and coughed up a controversy, presented a fuck-all attitude, and challenged her abusers upfront. But do you think that would truly change anything? She would still be in the same chaotic conundrum. She would still be captivated by the demands. She would still be Trapped.

Pointers To Take Away From This Incident

Directed To NewComers Within The Industry

The first and foremost thing that most of us fail to do is separate our personal and professional lives. That is exactly where information leaks through. In order to avoid so, perhaps the following measures could come in handy,

1. As soon as you enter the industry in any capacity, create and maintain a different professional Email address, and secure it with Gmail proprietary PIN login and Login alerts. The procedures for implementing security measures are guided by this link.

2. Always use this professional Gmail ID in all your visiting cards, or TrueCaller ID’s.

3. If possible, take a different number and register it on TrueCaller with professional details and the professional email. However, if your number is already known to a considerable number of people, always consider updating your professional email ID within TrueCaller profile (The following Link will tell you how)

4. As it happened with Niharika above, Never open suspicious link accounts on Mobile. Even when one pressurizes you to open it, only go to the nearest desktop or laptop and open them if need be. And always check for the ‘green HTTPS badge’ in the URL bar. Do not enter your Email credentials on any page which fails to have the ‘green HTTPS badge’.

5. The more famous you get, the riskier things get. Hence, always store your private data, contacts, photos and videos offline, preferably in a separate external HDD drive. Also, keep a moment to check which apps are seeking permission to access your gallery and files.

Even after all this, everyone is human, and everyone is flawed. You get into relationships, which post-breakup might become hazardous. What if your partner starts spreading across your private things? In a world full of intruding strangers, privacy is a luxury, not all can afford. And so we come again to the conundrum of Niharika.

What does she do now? Cave into the demands which are to come and perhaps hope that everything will be alright? Or she doesn’t and have the abusers have their way in releasing her data to people she cares for? Can we do anything? Maybe.