A budding scriptwriter snatches chains to meet his ailing mother’s medical expenses… Desperate for a car, a struggling actor forces his wife, also an actor, into prostitution… A 21-year-old actor from the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire is arrested for extortion and threatening to kill a casting director…
The case of Atul Adagle (28), a small-time lyricist who was arrested by the Kandivli police on charges of chain-snatching on Sunday, highlighted a dark truth that many young Bollywood aspirants live with. Work in the film industry was elusive and Adagle needed money to pay for his ailing mother’s medicines.
His is a story that many Bollywood aspirants or ‘strugglers’ identify with. Their big-screen dreams shattered, many take to crime to pay the rent or maintain expensive lifestyles to showcase themselves to filmmakers.
Adagle’s motive may seem straight out of a Hindi film, but police say many small-time actors have started taking the shortest route to a luxurious life: petty crime like robbery and even serious crimes like extortion.
“There are many aspirants and less work,” said Police Inspector Dattaray Sankhe of Oshiwara, where most aspiring actors and junior artists stay. “Not everybody gets a break. Many resort to crime to fulfil their needs.”
Those who have made it after years of struggle say the main reason is the stress of maintaining the glamour quotient the industry demands. “Newcomers often cannot handle the pressure; they drift towards crime to fulfill basic needs like paying the rent of a flat in Lokhandwala Complex,” said producer Pahlaj Nihalini.
“To get famous, people need to show off. For that, they need a constant flow of money,” said Amitabh Gupta, additional commissioner of police (western region). “It is not a new phenomenon, but these days there have been more cases involving small-time actors.”
Dr BV Bhosale, a sociologist at Pune University, said the involvement of aspiring actors and models in crime was the result of “accumulative frustration”. “These people are not very successful; there is always a sense of insecurity. They take to crime thinking that they have been rejected by society…,” said Bhosale. “Moreover, once they get a taste of this ‘false world’, they don’t want to come out. They would do anything to maintain their lifestyles.”
Those who have been through the rejection and frustration on their road to stardom say the pressure is too much to handle. “If you don’t get to eat one meal a day, it’s fine. But you need to wear designer clothes to get noticed,” said actor Nandini Jumani, who struggled in the industry for over two years. “In a party, you have to buy a drink. Even if you stay in a rented house, you have to show off by travelling in a car and joining the best gym in the area.” Jumani added that often newcomers get used and are sucked into crime, often becoming victims themselves.
Dinesh Chaturvedi, general secretary of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees Association, agreed. “The youth who come into the glamour world want quick fame and success. In order to keep up with the Bollywood lifestyle, they take to crime,” he said.
The solution, said industry insiders, is for aspiring actors to register themselves with associations. “They should approach the industry through better channels and be wary of con artists,” said Chaturvedi.
(With inputs from Shahkar Abidi and Rachna Pratihar)