Small screen actors often grapple with security concerns, cases of harassment, thefts and Peeping Toms on set. They reveal the ugly side of an industry that functions on tight budgets and TRPs
Television actor Sai Ballal, who essays the role of Bhaiyaji in Udaan, grabbed headlines recently for allegedly molesting and sharing pornographic clips with a female co-actor during a shoot. The actress alleged that when she approached the production house, no action was taken against Ballal. She then approached the Cine and TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA), who advised her to lodge a police complaint, which ultimately led to his arrest.
Deepika Singh (left) had alleged that her co-star Anas Rashid had touched her inappropriately while shooting for their show Diya Aur Baati Hum
The incident has, once again, highlighted the security concerns of small screen actors. Unlike their counterparts in Bollywood, most TV actors can’t afford to hire personal bodyguards. Moreover, film production houses hire security agencies to keep a hawk’s eye on the set to prevent untoward incidents from taking place and keep fans and gatecrashers at bay. In stark contrast, television production houses do not provide such security measures due to budget constraints. In an industry ruled by TRPs, tackling issues of long working hours and inadequate safety measures is rarely a priority.
Sai Ballal was arrested for allegedly molesting and sending pornographic clips to a female co-actor on the sets of the TV show Udaan
More often than not, actors are forced to take matters in their own hands. For instance, they often pay someone on set to safeguard his/her valuables, to combat acts of theft on set. Vanity vans are often shared between actors and a unit member, for some extra money, often doubles up as a guard to keep Peeping Toms at bay.
Dipika Kakar plays Simar in Sasural Simar Ka
One tight slap
Actress Deepika Singh, who essays the lead role of Sandhya in the daily soap Diya Aur Bati Hum, recently complained that her co-actor Anas Rashid (who plays her on-screen husband, Sooraj, in the show) allegedly molested her on the set. Singh claimed that while shooting a romantic scene, he touched her inappropriately and that she raised the issue with the crew, which included her director-husband, Rohit Raj Goyal.
When Rashid tried to explain and clear his part, she lost her cool and slapped him.
Telly actress Aashka Goradia says such incidents are scary. “I feel sorry for the actress as this shouldn’t happen to anyone,” she says.
Goradia recounts an incident where an actress’s complaints of harassment against a male co-star went unheard. Goradia has her own set of safety measures in place while shooting. “I always check my vanity van thoroughly. It’s become a habit over the years, but you never know what can happen to anyone.” The actress opines that producers must ensure that actors’ privacy is not compromised on. “There must be a strict disciplinary check — crew members and assistants must not be allowed to use camera phones on the set,” she adds.
Krystle D’Souza was last seen as Sakshi in Ek Nayi Pehchaan
Telly actress Sara Khan, too, feels the need for safety regulations. “I have never faced anything like this, but all I can say is that such incidents display heights of shamlessness and disrespect. But now, I will be extra cautious and check the green room and vanity vans before settling in. This is the one place an actor considers his/her ‘chill out zone’, so mobile phone cameras should not be misused here.” However, Khan also opines that being a TV producer is not easy. “There are too many responsibilities and pressures to deal with, so they tend to ignore the safety of the cast. But at the same time, it is the producer’s duty to keep his cast and crew secure.”
Nia Sharma plays Roshni in Jamai Raja
According to her, producers should monitor employees and unit hands to avoid untoward incidents from taking place. “In a daily soap, where an actor shoots every day at a long stretch, normally one has a permanent make-up room. I avoid sharing my make-up room and hotel room while travelling for work. I always lay down this condition,” she explains.
Sara Khan is seen as Anji in Dilli Wali Thakur Gurls
Price of fame
Telly actress Dipika Kakar feels that such incidents happen in every field, but get highlighted when they happen to actors. She says, “Women’s safety is an issue across the country. I always check my make-up room when I enter it. When in front of the camera, I hand my personal stuff over to someone I trust. My staff stays with me throughout the shoot.” She also points out that production houses need to make sure that they hire trustworthy people and that the actors are safe on the set. “I have never faced such an unpleasant situation and I am hoping that I won’t either.”
Kavita Kaushik is seen in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa
Telly actress Kavita Kaushik believes that one has to remain alert all the time. “These days, it is important to be aware of what is happening around and be on guard — whether on set or elsewhere. I feel safe on the set as I make sure that people who I trust take care of my belongings. I also ensure that there are people around me to avoid unpleasant incidents from taking place.”
Kaushik also thinks that actors should refrain from carrying expensive items to the set. She says, “I lost my mobile phone in the past. I have also lost an emerald ring because I took it off and kept it on my make-up table. There are many people on a set, so how can you nab the robber?”
Telly actress Nia Sharma adds, “I would not like to take names, but, yes, I have heard of several such incidents. In cases of molestation, you need to speak up immediately and bring the culprit to book. It is scary indeed. Robberies are also rampant on the set. I have often discovered cash missing from my bag. The robbers are smart — they do not steal the entire amount, so that the theft is detected only later.”
However, not all actresses are equally critical. Barkha Bisht thinks that television is the safest industry for actresses. “I have been in the industry for 10 years and I have never faced anything like this.
TV industry is a safe place to be in. In our industry, it is important to have your head on your shoulders, be wise and not let anything or anyone affect your integrity. We have to work as professionals and if anyone tries to challenge your integrity, then you need to raise your voice.”
Krystle D’Souza agrees. She says, “I feel safe on the set and have always been careful with my belongings. I lock my room and prefer to keep my valuables in my car. Thankfully, I haven’t had such an experience in any of my shows.”
(Sapna Babul Ka...Bidaai, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehla Hai and Tere Shehar Mein)
Shahi thinks the industry is one of the safest places for a female actor. “We not only have female actors, but also several crew members — right from the creative heads to junior artistes — who are women. The men in the TV industry are used to working under female bosses.
In fact, I would be happy if my daughter chooses to be part of the TV industry in the future. I agree that there have been a few unpleasant incidents in the past, but they can happen anywhere and in any industry. To avoid such cases, all one needs to do is communicate. If a person is not comfortable with someone’s behaviour, we bring it to the notice of a senior person on the set and appropriate action is taken. We always make travel arrangements for the female artistes and see to it that they reach their destination safely.” Shahi asserts that it isn’t possible to keep a vigil everywhere on the set. “If there are issues, they need to be spoken/written about, but since TV is a big medium such cases get too much attention,” he adds.
(Sarabhai v/s Sarabhai, Baa Bahoo Aur Baby, Khichdi)
JD admits that while one cannot exert complete control over a set, some basic rules need to be followed to avoid unwanted situations. “Normally in my production house, I hire a a security guard who has worked with me before on a show, so it makes matters simple for us. It is true that even after you take precautions, you end up paying a price for certain loopholes, but a complete background check of the person is of utmost importance.”
He cites an example. “Once, expensive make-up got stolen from the set. We laid a trap and caught the thief, who was the assistant of the person in-charge of costumes. She was new to the industry and did not confess to her crime. Finally, we had to go to her house and recover the stolen items. She said that she was in need of money as her mother was unwell. We let her off with a warning and asked her to look for another job, but now I feel we should have registered a complaint.”
Majethia also feels that cast members, too, need to be careful. During costume changes, mobile cameras can be misused. They should also be aware about lightmen while they are on the set as they can use lighting angles to manipulate shots. Another point is that producers should immediately sack the person if his or her behaviour is not right.”
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Abhinav believes that while rules may or may not help a situation, creating a respectful atmosphere is the right way to approach such a situation.
“We work for nearly 12 hours and most of the cast and crew share a cordial relationship with each other. I don’t think setting a rule is a right thing to do, as we are more or less like a family. As far as women’s safety is concerned, we make sure that we provide transportation to every crew member when we are shooting late into the night or at remote places. Also, if we come across someone who has misbehaved with a crew member, we immediately take action or sack that person. It finally comes down to having faith and maintaining respect for each other.”