Casting couch still exists
Ashish Bisht, whose Shab, co-starring Raveena Tandon, is ready for release, talks about his nightmarish early days in the industry
The question that Ashish Bisht was always asked by film producers, as he approached them for work, was, “Are you comfortable in bed?” The debutant, whose Shab is releasing this Friday, says the casting couch definitely exists, and claims to have experienced it first hand. In fact, he says it’s still happening to him, even though his film is coming out.
Without taking names for the fear of “ending my career before it starts,” Ashish says, “I have faced that (casting couch) a lot in the industry. Whenever I was called by some producers, I was straight away asked, ‘Kya tum bed pe comfortable ho (Are you comfortable in bed)?’”
“When I was new to the city, even the ladies asked me to sleep with them if I wanted work. They called me home and tried to talk dirty with me,” he adds. The 29-year-old goes on to say, “There are some film producers in the industry who irritate the hell out of you with their messages. I feel stuck because if I respond, what do I say? And if I don’t, they will see that I’ve read the message. Even if I dodge the topic, they come back to the same question.”
Having pursued a career as a model before landing a role in Onir’s Shab, Ashish says he also faced similar issues with a designer. “There was this popular designer. I did not know what kind of project (ad or serial) he’d called me for. There was no one but him in the room when I reached the venue. He straight away asked me if I was ready to sleep with someone. When I questioned him about it, he just said, ‘If you’re ready to sleep with me, you will get work’.”
“That really pissed me off. As it is, as a struggler, I was spending money on travelling for different auditions, and I was short on money, and he had called me for this,” he adds. He says the industry’s reputation is so bad that when he got Shab, people, including his friends, questioned his integrity—and especially so because he was working in a film by Onir, who has been open about his sexual orientation. “I am lucky that I got to work with Onir. But people have indeed asked me or talked behind my back saying, ‘Ashish must have, or has definitely compromised on his morals to get the project’,” Ashish says.
“I know very well what I have done or not done. I don’t need to clarify on my ‘compromises’. I feel people will always talk, as they always need and hunt for something to gossip about. I respect Onir sir a lot. I never expected that I will get a project without ‘compromising’, but I am lucky that I did,” he adds.
All said, Ashish believes a person “cannot work or last in the industry just on the basis of your willingness to compromise, “as in the end, the camera and the audience decide who will last in the industry”. However, he does admit that there are people who get caught in this “vicious circle” in their desperation for work.
The actor also spoke up for the LGBTQ community. “Just because a human being is gay, it doesn’t mean that he will want you to sleep with him. This mentality harms the image of the community for no reason and it is completely unfair,” said the Delhi boy, who feels such assumptions are never made when two straight men walk around together.