The suicide of young TV actress Pratyusha Banerjee once again brings to notice the lives of fringe players of show business. Once the spotlight shifts, if the film industry is cruel, the TV industry is far worse
With so many serials under production, aspiring actors swarm to Mumbai in droves and, except for the most well off, live in dingy flats in the far flung suburbs, often sharing flats with other strugglers like themselves. Their days are spent in dropping their portfolios at various production houses and auditioning for roles. The competition is fierce and the exploitation worse, particularly for the girls, who need to have a bigger financial outlay on clothes and accessories. Many of them hang out at strugglers’ watering holes, swapping notes and waiting for a casting agent or talent scout to spot them. That rarely happens, but the fairy tale of ’zero to hero’ persists. And the optimism—if Nawazuddin Siddiqui (substitute any unglamorous name of a person who got in to the industry without connections) can make it, why can’t they?
If they are picked for a TV show from a major company, then the rise to stardom is fast and dizzying. They are recognized by fans, their lifestyle improves, they are in demand to attend functions and open boutiques. The money is decent, even if takes time to come. All but the wisest realize that this fame cannot last—at least not in the world of TV. But the ones who comes from the hinterland of India know very little about how things function in show business, except from what they might pick up from the media—which is not always accurate.
Till their serial is on air, they are stars. A few days after the serial ends, people look at them and wonder why the face looks familiar. A few months down the line, there is zero recall value. After putting in many months of insanely hard work and long hours, suddenly they are newcomers again. They have to make the rounds of casting agents and auditions again, and this time they don’t even have the advantage of freshness. When work is scarce, young actors end up playing parents to actors older than them, and older actors have little value.
Again, the smart ones have a Plan B—they invest their money in other businesses (check out how many restaurants, spas, gyms and boutiques are owned or co-owned by former showbiz people) or marry rich. A few go back to their hometowns. The others go through the grind of surviving in Mumbai after that fall from grace—substance abuse is rampant, depression common… hope suicide is kept at bay.