Two actresses, Saira Banu and Jyoti, were arrested on August 23rd after an early morning raid of a brothel in the Hyderabad area -- further adding to the persistent rumor that India's leading ladies can be had if the price is right.
To be fair, neither actress is a Bollywood starlet -- both have worked in the smaller Tollywood region -- nor were they working on a street corner in a bad part of town. The area the actresses were arrested in is a high price neighborhood that houses government ministers, IT executives, and other well to do citizens. Still, both were arrested for taking part in what local authorities like to call "the flesh business."
As an article at Will Barnes Online mentions, this isn't the first time this happened. The real questions are why and are India's movie starlets really for sale?
Hit the jump for some possible answers and explanations.
The author of the Barnes article points out that India's conservative society has made the starlets into sexual objects. There's a huge difference in how an actress in a movie dresses compared to the average woman in India -- where saris and tunics are still standard fashion. The gap between the behaviors being demonstrated onscreen and in real life are vastly different, and men in the country seem to be buying in to the fantasy wholesale.
The other reason is much more disturbing. A criminal element has infiltrated the movie business in India, and local gangsters are taking starlets as girlfriends in some instances and then forcing them into dancing and prostitution. A similar thing has happened in Hong Kong with the Triads -- gangsters take over productions for money laundering purposes and then start forcing filmmakers and performers to do things through threats.
However, it appears as though most starlets in India aren't really for sale -- even if there's the illusion that they are. What's really happening is an elaborate bait-and-switch scheme where a "pimp" shows a customer a catalogue featuring A-list actresses and their prices. After they've selected, the actress the customer chose is conveniently "busy", but they can spend time with a young new actress who is really just a prostitute.
It doesn't stop there, though. In some instances, enterprising prostitutes and pimps have paid for advertisements for movies that will never be made so that the prostitute gets press as an actress and can increase her price -- even though she's never been in a film.
While it remains unclear just how many of India's female stars are involved in the sex trade, the idea of a brothel where top starlets can be had for the right amount of rupees seems pretty far-fetched. That being said, there's no doubt that these latest arrests will only add to the myth.