Struggles and Scars

I am a Star in Bengal but I had to Quit Bollywood

Real-life account of a famous actress from Bengal who left her debut film in Bollywood and never went back
Actress Zaira Wasim has announced her decision to quit Bollywood

I have been many things in many places. I have worked as an assistant make-up artist in the film industry in Kolkata and Mumbai, have taught yoga to celebs and have sometimes written star interviews in magazines. Because of the nature of my work which entails proximity to the stars, I have often known many inside stories. When Zaira Wasim quit Bollywood and kicked up a storm, I couldn’t help but remember the story of an actress from Bengal that she had told me over a make-up session for a shoot. She continues to deliver hits in Tollywood but she had to quit Bollywood and leave in the midst of shooting her first film in Lonavla.

Why this Bengali star had to quit Bollywood is an intriguing tale that I will tell you now…

She had told me this story completely off the record and it is my duty to ensure her identity is not disclosed. So I will tell the tale in a way that you wouldn’t be able to guess her name. But this is a story worth reading because then you will know what an actress has to go through to establish herself in Mumbai.

From here the narrative is hers:

My parent is a star In Tollywood

I will not say if it’s my father or my mother who is a star in Bengal, but I will share the fact that having a parent in the film industry is like being born with a silver spoon. From the day I opened my eyes inside the cot, it was a given I would become an actress. Being on the sets as a child was normal to me. I grew up knowing everyone in the industry. I was held and cuddled by the top stars who were working with my parent and I grew up knowing every technician, every director, every producer.

My entry into the industry was like a breeze

I remember on the first day of shooting I was mollycoddled by everyone like it was my first day in kindergarten. They ensured I ate food on time, there was an entourage around me, I was given the best make-up room and so on and so forth. It was the most special day of my life.

I became a star

My first film was a hit and I became a star overnight. But the special treatment continued because I remained the “baby” to everyone. As I kept delivering hits I was never expected to give auditions or do all the other things that newcomers have to do.

For script reading sessions, people came home and my parent sat through it. Directors came home with their offers and I wasn’t expected to network at parties to get my roles. It just came to me.

In the same way my first Hindi film happened

I was just noticed by one of the biggest directors in Bollywood and offered a role in one of his ambitious projects. I was elated and gave innumerable interviews to newspapers about my Bollywood debut before I took the flight to Mumbai. I was on the moon for bagging a Bollywood role so early in my career. But I had no clue what was in store for me.

The hotel wasn’t the best

We were shooting in Lonavla from the first day and it was a complete shock for me. The big Bollywood stars were put up in a five star hotel but I was given a room in a guest house. It was a nice guest house, but I found this discrimination very humiliating.

Then I was constantly asked to hang out with the hero because that would create the chemistry between us. When I said that in Bengal we had never done that, I was told Tollywood was not Bollywood.

I took the decision to quit Bollywood

I was feeling very uncomfortable that I had to have my breakfast, lunch, dinner with the hero, go on long walks with him and rehearse for intimate scenes. But I had no clue what was waiting for me. On the third day of the shoot at 11pm, I was called to the director’s room where everyone was sitting and drinking and told that there would be another script reading session since the script was being changed. I called my manager to the room, which annoyed them. They initially said that he couldn’t stay there, but when I insisted, the director in his drunken state kept telling me that my parent is a star in Bengal but I had no business showing star kid airs in Bollywood, to which everyone laughed. I had heard about directors misbehaving with actresses in Bollywood but I did not know I would experience it myself.

I had never faced something like this ever

In Bengal, I had grown up in an atmosphere where everyone took care of me on the sets. They were affectionate towards me and made me feel at home. This was a rude shock for me. When I called my parent and told about what was happening, my parent asked me to write a cheque and return the advance payment and take the next flight home.

“They can’t treat you like this. It’s better not to have a career in Bollywood. You will have your dignity here and still be a star.”

My decision to quit the film resulted in mayhem

The next morning when I conveyed my decision to the director, all hell broke loose. They called me snooty, arrogant, entitled. But I had my bags packed and I couldn’t care less. I wrote out the cheque and returned home. I quit my Bollywood career in four days, but I have no regrets.

Back home I told everyone my role was clipped so I left. I didn’t want to become the headline by talking about my experience.

Amidst its many crises, India’s obsessing over an 18-year-old’s decision to quit Bollywood
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How Tollywood is better than Bollywood

I am at peace in Tollywood. You might say I am a product of nepotism here that’s why I have it easy. Could be. Nepotism also exists in Bollywood. I am sure star kids there are not put up in guest houses and asked to walk around with the hero. I prefer to be a star in Tollywood than take on the struggles in Bollywood.

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