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Bollywood's bouncers struggle to survive

By Komal Panchamatia
Last updated on: May 07, 2020 19:26 IST
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Not directly connected to the stars, who have their own security, they are part of the unregulated work force that keeps the engines running smoothly in the showbiz industry.
Komal Panchamatia/PTI reports.

Keeping vigil at film promotions, public events showcasing stars and outdoor shoots, bouncers for hire exist on the fringes of the entertainment industry and have retreated further into the shadows during the lockdown with no association to look out for their interests.

While help has started trickling in for daily wagers, banded under associations, unions and film bodies, hundreds of bouncers available for hire to provide that extra layer of security to stars on the move are languishing with no jobs and no money.

There are 700 odd bouncers, including several women, said a veteran.

Not directly connected to the stars, who have their own security, they are part of the unregulated work force that keeps the engines running smoothly in the showbiz industry.

But the industry itself has ground to a halt with no events and no shootings in the pan-India lockdown that began on March 25 and is likely to go on till at least May 3.

Fahimda Ansari, 42, who worked as a bouncer-cum-coordinator for female bouncers on films such as Gangubai, Zero, Kalank and Student of the Year 2, said she earns up to Rs 700 per day if there is work.

But there isn't any right now and the single parent is finding the going really tough. She got an offer to work in a hospital's quarantine facility, but decided the risk of contracting the coronavirus was not worth it.

"I had to say no because as a single parent I can't put my daughter at risk," Ansari told PTI.

Giving an insight into her unusual line of work, she said 25 to 30 women bouncers are needed for big events such as award shows and they get their money immediately.

However, for shoots, where only one or two women bouncers are required, payments can be delayed by 15 days or even a month.

Fahimda, who is not part of any federation, said she doesn't know who to ask for help.

Usman Khan, who also works as a bouncer and coordinator, said these are challenging times for those with meagre incomes.

He has to look after his ailing mother, who is a diabetic, and said he has no option but to continue in this line of work.

"To be a bouncer is not a skill. This field doesn't require any qualification or any other specific quality hence we are here. My father, who was a junior artiste, expired in 2004 on a film set after a heart attack. I was in Class 6 at the time and I had to leave school," Khan told PTI.

His elder brother had to drop out too.

"I did several odd jobs before I came in this profession as I have a good physique," Usman told PTI.

Usman, who last worked the shooting for an ad featuring Katrina Kaif, said bouncers work closely with stars but their work often goes unnoticed.

"We have worked with so many big people but no one is looking at us. There is no income but the daily expenses are just shooting up. This lockdown seems unending."

 

Ayesha Hashmi, 34, who earned Rs 600 a day as a bouncer, is also struggling.

"My husband is stuck in his village in Allahabad. I have three children, including a daughter who is pregnant. My eldest son works, but we've both been home for the last month. We had set aside money for my daughter's delivery and have started using that to survive," Hashmi said.

Sunita Nikhalje, 28, said her husband, a security guard in a private company, is now at home. The couple, with two young daughters, are just waiting for the lockdown to end.

"My husband earns Rs 12,000 per month, while I earn Rs 600 to 700 per day. He is not working so he hasn't received his salary and even I haven't got any money this month," says Nikhalje.

"Day to day life is becoming difficult to manage. The prices of daily essentials are so high, we are eating dal and rice every day. Things will worsen for us in another eight to 10 days," she adds.

"My husband doesn't like seeking help from anyone so we are adjusting in whatever we have. But I am thinking of asking for help," she says.

Shreysay Thele, who works as a bodyguard for superstar Akshay Kumar, said his heart goes out to bouncers who often work project-to-project.

Thele, who is popularly known as Sri, said, he is trying to collect money from other bodyguards to help needy bouncers.

"We have managed to collect some money so far, we will either give rations or money. We are also planning to talk to our respective bosses for some help," says Sri.

A new union was formed about two years ago, especially for security guards and bouncers, says Sri, but permission from the government has come only recently.

Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar

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