Battling the Dark Side of Cinema: Sai Tamhankar’s Startling Casting Couch Confession

Casting couch is very much a reality in Indian cinema. Countless actresses have recalled horror tales from their days of struggle when they have had to face harassment or pressure to cosy up to big stars or filmmakers for that big break. However, many say they refused to buckle under this pressure. Actress Sai Tamhankar, a known name in Hindi and Marathi cinema, recently recounted her own experience of facing this and how she dealt with it.

**Sai Tamhankar’s casting couch experience**

In an interview with Miss Malini, Sai recalled a distressing moment from her early days in the industry when a random individual called her with a proposition that was nothing short of shocking. “He said, ‘I have a film and all that but there is something. You’ll have to sleep with the director and the producer. Generally, you have to sleep with the hero as well but since it is you, I am saying producer and director.’ And I said, ‘Why don’t you send your mom’.” The audacity and inappropriateness of the caller’s demand took her aback, but Sai’s response was quick and unflinching.

The actress added that the man, stunned into silence, found himself unable to reply for a whole ten seconds. “He went silent for 10 seconds. I told him that now you understood that you are not supposed to call me ever again and post that I hung up.” Sai’s assertiveness and refusal acted as a deterrent, and such propositions never came her way again. “That phone call never happened ever again. You should voice out everything you feel that is not right,” the actress emphasized, highlighting the importance of speaking up and standing one’s ground when confronted with exploitation.

**Sai Tamhankar’s beginning as an extra and rise to stardom**

Sai Tamhankar’s journey in the entertainment industry is a testament to hard work and perseverance. Born in a Marathi family in the town of Sangli, Sai developed an interest in acting during her school and college years, often participating in plays. She made her acting debut at the young age of 17, albeit with side roles in Marathi television shows. These early roles, often quite minor, did not deter her enthusiasm for the craft.

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One of her first roles in Bollywood was in the Aamir Khan-starrer Ghajini, where she played a friend of Jiah Khan’s character. Although this was a minor role, it marked her introduction to the Hindi film industry. For several years, she continued to take on small parts and worked diligently to hone her skills. By the end of the decade, her dedication began to pay off as she started to gain recognition for her performances in Marathi cinema.

Films such as Zhakaas and Rita brought her into the limelight, earning her a reputation for powerful and versatile acting. Her success in Marathi films paved the way for more significant roles in Bollywood. It was in 2015 that Sai delivered a noteworthy performance that caught the attention of a wider audience with the film Hunterrr. This role was followed by substantial parts in critically acclaimed movies like Love Sonia and Mimi.

Her most recent appearance was as a cop in the Netflix film Bhakshak, adding yet another dimension to her diverse filmography. Sai Tamhankar’s journey from an extra to a well-respected actress provides inspiration to many aspiring actors who face similar struggles in their path to success.

**The Fight Against Exploitation in Cinema**

Sai’s experience sheds light on a grim reality that many within the cinematic industry face—the casting couch. While talent and hard work are essential, the pressure to conform to unethical demands often casts a shadow over the genuine efforts of many aspiring actors and actresses. Stories like Sai’s are a stark reminder of the need for systemic change within the industry to ensure a safer, more respectful environment for all.

Her story also highlights the significance of speaking out against harassment. Sai’s refusal to succumb to undue pressure and her decision to voice her discontent serves as an important example for others facing similar situations. It’s a testament to the power of standing up for oneself and not allowing unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of one’s dreams and aspirations.

In conclusion, Sai Tamhankar’s journey is one of resilience and determination. From the daunting experience of being asked to compromise her integrity to becoming a prominent figure in both Hindi and Marathi cinema, her story is one of triumph over adversity. It serves as an inspiration and a call to action for greater respect and ethics within the entertainment industry. Through her example, aspiring actors can draw strength and learn the importance of maintaining one’s principles and voicing against injustices.

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