Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bollywood's Casting Couch

Wired News: Try Out Bollywood's Casting Couch: "Without a stable population of Caucasian faces to populate imaginary discothèques, ranks of British soldiers, and Hare Krishna converts, casting agents and film crews often find themselves scouring the city for anyone who looks Western.

Lee has been living in India off and on for eight years, but didn't know of the opportunities for Westerners until a friend was cast as an extra in The Legend of Bhagat Singh. Soon, Lee was playing a British soldier in the blockbuster period piece The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey and hobnobbing with Aamir Khan, one of India's most sought-after stars.

"An actor with a couple lines of dialogue could easily bring in $5,000 for a couple weeks' work," says Vijayan, who like Madonna has only one name. Vijayan is general secretary for the All India Film Employees Confederation, the Indian equivalent of the Screen Actors Guild.

"Westerners will do a lot of things on camera that Indian's just won't do," says Kaneez F. Khan, a Chennai-based producer. "It's easier just to outsource the role to someone who doesn't have anything at stake.

There are risks. It is technically illegal to work on a film set without a working visa. At least one actor has paid the price. Negar Khan, an Iranian "item girl" with a Norwegian passport, had a high profile role in the film Double Cross: Ek Dhoka and was deported back to Scandinavia. (An item girl is a sexy girl brought in to dance a particular sequence or song to save the lead actress' reputation.)"

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