The year 2020, it all started with an international trip to London. This was not one of those planned trips or vacation. It was something last minute when I was asked to accompany one of the well-known celebrities that I was working with. I had been managing her for a while and trips with her not stressful as she used to give me enough space to plan work and allow me the free time to explore the city.
On my flight back, I had the whole year planned for me which of course included many more trips like these. I could picture the work calendar for this client and a couple of others that I had been managing. Also, I thought that in the midst of all this I will also take one big all play no work vacation.
Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that the world around me would change in this fashion.
When the Pandemic struck!
Yes, that’s how the life of a celebrity manager looks like, always on the move. Your friends to family to relatives to every single person you know who is not from similar background envy you day and night and wish for a life like you. After all, for them, you are a person who hangs out and travels with celebs and attends all the big events. Who thought that a pandemic is going to change the life like this and a person who was always on the move would come to a full stop. I still remember flying back to Mumbai from Delhi after a shoot when the news of the lockdown was announced.
The very next day work from home was declared and all my plans got pushed for an unknown date. Still, one was hopeful that this will get to normal soon.21 days they said and one could easily picture this time to rest and then get back to the life of living out of the suitcase. One month passed.. 2 months .. and then 3 and no improvement. Finally, I decided to come back to my hometown to live with the family as there was no surety of when work will start again. The salaries were slashed and we were told that till the work becomes streamline this may well be the new normal. It started becoming difficult to manage rent. Also living alone when I was not used to sitting put for more than a week was taking a toll on mental health. I thought time with family will do me good till we get a sense on when the industry gets back on track.
The death of Sushant Singh Rajput
Things were still okay, manageable and hopeful but there was another major jolt with the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput. We already lost two mega stars in previous months and Sushant’s demise was like a big shock. It was so difficult to even cope up with it. The first two days were mere disbelief. A lot of calls with people who had worked with him and fellow managers to check on how they were managing in the lockdown and their celebs. Suddenly we were all worried about mental health and it dawned to me on how little we hold on to, how unpredictable our lives are… While people think of this as a big glamorous world, our lives are as normal as normal can be.. we too have ups and downs and yes financial troubles too, especially for us managers who live on fixed salaries. Not to forget the daily wagers, the artists and so many technicinas that come together to make a movie or a project. Given that I was finding it hard to make ends meet and could only imagine what would happen to the people who survived on project to project basis. But will save that story for another day.
Back to the big revelations that were being made on Sushant’s case and thanks to our news channels, the media trails and fake news circulating on social media it was starting to become more suffocating to live with family and deal with their judgemental looks. Every single day whenever the family sat together for dinners and lunch all they would discuss was what was being discussed on the news channels and pass judgemental comments like, did you also peddled drugs? Were you ever given drug spiked drinks at parties?
The relatives who once envied me and stalked my social media for hours or ask for career advice too started passing comments on the industry as if they know what our work entitles. Our hard work has now been generalised to one bracket and that is to get “maal for our clients”. They have started to look at everyone in the industry in one light and that includes me. For the past several days, my family pestering me every hour to leave the job, to leave the industry, and pursue some other career options. I am someone who struggled really hard to change my industry from IT to Bollywood and there was a time when my family was really proud of my struggles to get there and make a respectful place for myself. But now all they do is criticize my decision of choosing this industry over the IT industry. Every day I have arguments over how wrong it is to generalize the whole industry alone when the entire country including those national agencies knows that there are other industries too which have more dirt than Bollywood.
Can we do away with those judgemental eyes?
I had to eventually quit my job to get over this pestering from relatives and family earlier this month. Also, the recent paychecks were not helping. However, this is not a choice I want to make. After all this ends, and now with the shoots resuming, I am highly doubtful that my parents would allow me to resume or in fact ever work again in this industry.
I think the way news channels are generalizing and vilifying the industry is wrong because there are so many workers who belong to a respectable middle-class family and they are not involved in consuming or procuring items of substance abuse. They are choosing to give a blind eye to the fact that it is the choice that every actor makes and so does a celebrity manager. None of them have the slightest clue of the amount of hard work we put in to build the image of the actor and what all goes in our job responsibility. Not a single one has put in the time and effort to find how many job hours we put in and how we juggle to manage the celebs that we are asked to handle.
And because of this, we are being judged by society every single day. People who come on news channels and generalize the whole industry should know that the industry is not only limited to actors but also to behind the camera crew and staff too. And by generalizing the industry you are making it difficult for them too in such difficult times when unemployment is at the peak. It’s high time that these media trails are put to rest and the news channels change from adding masala in the news and get to showing real facts, real news and real journalism. The social media too has highly toxic and suffocating at times. While there is some time for the Bihar election but this needs to stop now so that some of us can get back to life without judgemental eyes following us at all times and be dignified for the jobs that we put in so much hard work for. There have been times that we go about our work with almost no sleep for days without complaining because we love our jobs and our passion for Bollywood.
While people see the efforts of an actor on the celluloid there are so many of us who get paid the only fraction of what they may make, and nor our efforts are as visible but nevertheless we are proud of our projects and efforts. It is easy to hit the dislike button and shout ban this and ban that from the social media handles, but before doing just remember that movie is not limited to the hard work of an actor or director but also to the hard work of crew and staff who are people like you, who are working day and night to make a living. By doing so you are indirectly taking away not just their jobs and but also their money. Who is to say that your actions are not forcing another Sushant towards depression or worse!
Disclaimer: This article has been shared by an ex-celebrity manager, who does not want to be named. The opinions and views expressed here are his/her own and may not reflect that of Mumbai Live.