With the recent rumours around Sushant Singh Rajput’s demise, a lot of questions have been raised about the work culture in Bollywood. The Producers Guild Of India has issued an open letter to clarify that they do not negate and differentiate between aspiring actors. The letter reads, “The last few months have seen relentless attacks on the reputation of the Indian film industry across all media. The tragic death of a promising young star has been used by some as a tool to defame and slander the film industry and its members. A picture has been painted of the industry as a terrible place for outsiders to aspire to; a place that treats those who dare to enter it with contempt and derision; a murky den of substance abuse and criminality. This narrative is salacious enough for the media to exploit to great effect in order to boost its ratings, readership and page views.
But it is not the truth. Like any other sector there is no doubt that the film industry has its imperfections, and there must always be an ongoing attempt by any industry to improve upon itself, learn and evolve, while weeding out unsavoury elements or improper practices that hold it back. But to paint an entire industry with the same brush is a gross misrepresentation of reality.
The film industry employs hundreds of thousands of people, boosts travel and tourism and is one of the most important sources of soft power for India across the world. It has entertained hundreds of millions of people for over a century and has brought joy, honour and glory to the nation. It has welcomed and embraced talent from across the country - from the worlds of literature, poetry, art and music - and has drawn them in to create a unique cinematic language. This has ensured that we are one of the few countries in the world to still have a vibrant and thriving local film industry across multiple languages, despite the decades-long onslaught of Hollywood. The industry has contributed generously to national causes in times of need, and has readily offered its resources - name recognition, time and funds - whenever called upon to do so, and often even without having to be called upon.
We do not negate the personal experiences of anyone from the industry, and undoubtedly many of those entering the business and seeking to establish themselves have faced numerous hardships, struggles and disappointments in the course of building a career here. But that is no different from the challenges and obstacles faced by new entrants in any field that they are not born into - be it politics, law, business, medicine or the media.
However, a concerted effort has been made to single out the film industry as one that specifically inhibits and prohibits new talent from the outside from thriving. This could not be further from the truth. There are scores of talented actors, directors, writers, musicians, cinematographers, editors, sound designers, production designers, costume designers, art directors and numerous other film professionals across multiple disciplines who have had absolutely no connection to the industry, but who have flourished and produced inspiring and pathbreaking work, which has defined - and then redefined - Indian cinema. Being born into the industry most definitely affords you the privilege of access and a first break, but after that it is up to each individual’s talent, hard work and drive to propel them forward.
This is to let all aspirants to the film industry know that they should not be misled by the clickbait journalism currently being peddled to advance the sensationalized narrative that the film industry is a terrible place to aspire to work in. This is a place that ultimately rewards your talent, work ethic and ability to connect with an audience - regardless of your religion, gender, caste or economic strata. While it is undoubtedly more difficult for those on the outside to get that first chance to display their talent - with perseverance, persistence and a little bit of luck - you can and do succeed. There are too many examples to enumerate across more than a century, of outsiders to the industry who are shining testament to this fact.
These are difficult times for our country and the world, so rather than venting our fears and frustrations on each other with vile and vicious trolling, it is more important than ever to come together instead of tearing each other apart. Members of the industry on both sides of this debate, especially women, have been subjected to rape threats and death threats. This is unacceptable and must stop now.
The media must look in the mirror and stop fanning the flames. There are some things more important than advertising revenues and ratings - things like common human decency. Let’s show we still have some.
The Producers Guild of India”
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