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No extra innings

bollywood Updated: Jun 14, 2011 01:52 IST

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Think you can make it big by starting out as an extra in Bollywood? That won’t happen, because junior artists who’ve been around for half a century say there’s no getting lucky in there.

“I am 69 and I’ve been here since 1963. I did films like Geet Gaya Patharo Ne and I am still working. We used to have a huge Anglo-Indian group and would work two to five shifts at just Rs 20 to Rs 30 per shift,” said a junior artist who doesn’t want to reveal her identity. Disappointed, she says she moved to television, but it only got worse. “Nowadays, in television, we get Rs 750, and in films, we earn Rs 900 to Rs 1,000 per shoot. In most studios, we don’t get rooms. We sit in the field and wait for our call. Production houses treat us like dirt. TV has almost stopped using junior artists. They use people who are well off and just want to show their faces on TV. Where do we go at this age? Who will give us a job?” she says.

“I was supposed to work for Balaji. The coordinator took his commission in advance saying he will adjust it with the pay cheque. The serial never went on air and I didn’t get my payment,” alleges Delhi boy Dheeraj Miglani. Vanessa Rewrie, who is currently seen as Durga in the Sony serial Krishnaben Khakrawala, says, “It’s difficult as you have to have that strong contact or reference to get a big role.” Junior artists are classified into three categories — Class A, B and C — on the basis of their acting capability and are paid accordingly.

Producers differ on the matter. “I have worked with a lot of not-so-popular artists in Khosla Ka Ghosla and other films. They eat the same food as the stars do and are treated as respectfully,” says filmmaker Savita Raj Hiremath. Producer Mahesh Bhatt, however, feels, “The industry is to be blamed. While producers willingly pay crores to stars, they cut corners when it comes to junior artists.”