This is a blog post that it has really taken me some time to write. Not that there was nothing to write about, but in order not to hurt any of my friends. A “struggler” in Mumbai is not a nice term. And it might be that some of my friends in Mumbai feel that I kind of write about them, which is not at all the idea about this blog post and not for this blog in general. So in order to don’t be biased in this post I have used background information from articles in Indian newspapers together with my own experience. I have also realized that there are some special words, almost a special language that are used among these strugglers, so let’s see if I can manage to write this correctly.
So what is a Bombay struggler? I think there are as many variations of them as it is of the word. Some call them Bollywood strugglers, others will call them Mumbai strugglers. I think Bombay struggler is a good word, as all of them want into the “B-world”. And no. That is not any secondary world. It is the world of fame and glitter, also called Bollywood. It is the industry of filming, acting, modeling and directing that they are all aiming for. These people come from all over India. I have heard that there are more than thousand a day that come to Mumbai as “aspiring actors” or “aspiring models”, as they are called here. Traditionally most of them come from the northern part of India, or maybe more correctly the northern central part of India, also called the Hindi belt. This area is also known as the poorest in India, with a lot of farm land and small villages. So the strugglers used to come by train to Mumbai. I use the term “used” here. This is because today the strugglers are from a more mixed background. According to an article in Times of India some strugglers nowadays might even have rich people who back them up financially to be a star in Mumbai. Maybe it is a way to resolve the dreams of the parents?
So what do a struggler do? Let’s say that he/she actually come by train. Most of them will then leave the train at Andheri station in north Mumbai. It is said that most strugglers live in the area of Andheri’s Lokhandwala and Oshiwara and up to Malad’s Evershine Nagar and a bit beyond. Some of them don’t even have a place to stay when they come to Mumbai. Yes, I do know people who used to live at the streets before they got their first role or their first photo session. Actually, even the biggest of them all, Shahrukh Khan, started this way. Hopefully they soon get some friends and find a place to stay. Or they drift around from house to house and stay some nights with a friend here and some nights with a friend there. Then the real struggle starts; now it is time to be “discovered”. You can read about the Corporate Guide on how to struggle in Hindustan Times. To be honest, I’m not really sure if this article is meant serious or not. Maybe it is a mix of seriousness and not.
I have myself seen strugglers and met them at many events. In the Mumbai expat societies there are people who refuses to go to some of the expat events, because they are full of strugglers who want to get on to you to get, well, something. I have myself been approached a number of times by “directors” or “film makers” or others. Most of the boys have well printed business cards with an impressive designation. Some of them might be real filmmakers also, but when you start to ask them how many films they have made and such, they often get some problems to explain. And I really feel that it is not interesting to talk much with them anymore.
Being a female struggler is maybe even more difficult. Times of India had an article about this back in April that I think explain the situation quite well.
What can these people realistically hope for? Many of them end up as a “small time actor” or a “small time model”. Not sure if this is a common phrase, but that’s at least what they are called in Bombay. These “small time something” are people who might have got one or two roles. Or maybe one or two photo sessions as a model. The struggle continues to go from there to become a really A-star in the B-world. The way is still long, and the scandals happen frequently.
Talk to you soon!