Minority Report | The role of a model


Minority Report | The role of a model

Struggle is a catchy word, so young models and actors use it freely, but in reality there is very little struggle if you are ready to do ‘anything’ in the glamour industry,” says a 24-year-old “struggling” model from Mumbai.

About 10 days back, when he was in Delhi for work, he seemed pleased but not crazy about his small, yet significant, recent role in Ek Thi Nayika, a TV serial produced by Balaji Telefilms for Life Ok channel.

He spoke about how he had loved working with popular TV actress Shweta Tiwari. Yet, there was something wistful about this boy’s take on his current status as an actor waiting for a proper break. The last two years in Mumbai had been anything but smooth and his restlessness revealed that he had a story to tell.

He is now back in Mumbai and enveloped once again by the inconclusive frustration of a life hinging on auditions. In the last two years, he has gone through at least 300 auditions in the TV and fashion industry but hasn’t yet tried his luck in Bollywood.

As he frustratingly waits for something to crack, the open-ended nature of the game spurs him to agree to a candid chat. Even though this time it is on the phone and the distance diminishes the intrusive nature of a journalist’s questions, he doesn’t want to be named, as spilling the beans about the industry would mean ruffling sensitive feathers and fewer or no assignments.

A commerce graduate, the young actor was raised and educated in Delhi in a middle-class family as the only son of doting parents.

In college, he would be constantly complimented for his photogenic looks and his height (he stands 5 feet 11 inches) and why he should become a model. To learn the ropes, he even enrolled in a four-month modelling and deportment course then offered by Delhi’s Elite modeling agency. The training that cost him 50,000 outfitted him with the basics of working in a disorganized but glamourous industry, one where few professional codes hold.

Impatient then and fiercely ambitious, he relocated to Mumbai, the Mecca of India’s glamour industry, and promptly slid into a shark’s mouth. “So many people promise acting assignments in exchange of money that initially I had no idea who was genuine and who was fake,” he recounts. He ended up paying 2 lakh to some self-declared casting director for a TV serial—an amount he is still waiting to recover two years later. No acting assignment ever came up and the person is absconding. “The guy was a fraud, though there are others who work directly with production houses and do find assignments for young actors for a fee,” he tells me. Messing with 2 lakh from the precious savings of his parents makes him embarrassed and guilty till date. “I took up a night job at a call centre to cover up the loss and worked straight for 13 months to ease my sense of guilt,” he says.

Today, he is far more cautious about who to meet and who to avoid but it is a ruthless world where slipping is easier than getting the balancing act right, he confesses. While television auditions take place in production houses in decent locations, fashion coordinators invite wannabe models to meet them anywhere—in a mall, an office, a hotel, even a private house. “The word ‘compromise’ floats freely in the fashion world, and while no one forces you to sleep around, you are clearly told why it would be beneficial for your career if you did so,” he explains.

The few TV serials that this young man has acted in so far include Gumraah on Channel V (also produced by Balaji Telefilms); he also took up an assignment last year for the Kolkata Fashion Week. These have given him a better perspective about where he stands in the big bad world of glamour, but not a regular income. “Earnings fluctuate, money is irregular and uncertain, there are good, bad and not so good days,” he says, refusing to reveal his average monthly earnings. “I now help my father with his business and use the rest of the time waiting for some agency or coordinator to call me for an audition,” he says. To sustain an audition-worthy physique, he works out vigorously in a gym at least four days a week for more than one-and-a-half hours every day and sticks to a protein diet. All of it means more money and more discipline but no assured results in terms of a job.

What he sees around him are other young people—both girls and boys—driving big cars, wearing branded clothes and spending freely on food and drink, yet calling themselves struggling actors. “They may struggle as actors but most have made enough compromises to make good money,” he adds. That’s where, he says, his disdain for the word “struggle” stems from.

“I would rather focus on finding work in television as fashion is worse when it comes to exploitation,” he says. “It’s a disheartening place, at least for male models, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.”