British actresses in Mumbai can earn £1,000 a day and say opportunities are plentiful as compared with struggling for auditions and waiting tables to survive in London. Despite the influx of white British actresses to Mumbai, demand still remains high.
By Barney Henderson
Young British actresses, who have struggled to find work at home are flocking to Bollywood to capitalize on the Indian film industry's insatiable appetite for white-skinned talent.
A combination of both the recession-hit show business industry in the UK and an increasing demand for white skinned performers in Bollywood have spurred an estimated 1,000 white British actors and dancers to move to Mumbai in the past three years, according to casting directors.
British actresses in Mumbai can earn £1,000 a day and say opportunities are plentiful as compared with struggling for auditions and waiting tables to survive in London.
While the traditional roles filled by white women in Bollywood were as the exotic backing dancer, prepared to show off bare skin, actresses are now moving to Mumbai to establish serious film careers.
Hazel, 24, from Tunbridge Wells, has been in Mumbai for five years and is now well established on the Bollywood circuit, where she is known simply by her Christian name. She has ambitions far beyond being the clichéd white girl.
"While I was backpacking in Thailand after school, I took a role as an extra in a Bollywood film shooting there for fun and that's how it all started," she said.
"I first did adverts for Ponds, Nokia and Samsung and then got my first proper role in a film in MP3: Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar two years ago. I'm going to Goa next week to shoot a new film and I also do shows, for which I get paid £2,000 a night.
"You can lead such a great lifestyle in India. There is the constant begging, pollution and sleazy casting directors that you have to be careful of, but it's all worthwhile. My career is going from strength to strength. I'm almost famous!"
While 1,000 actresses can audition for one job in London, in Mumbai there are just a handful of competitors.
Marijaa Antionette André, 24, from London has been acting, dancing, modeling and on the catwalk in Mumbai. She said it is the range of work available that makes the city so attractive.
"Since I have been here, I have noticed a huge increase in white girls coming over to work," she said. "I have friends who have come over from Britain, who may have been too short or had the wrong look to be a model there, but are getting loads of work here. As long as you're white, there's no shortage of work.
"There are issues like the fact that there are no laws to protect artists whatsoever, but the quality of life here beats London hands down."
The huge success of Slumdog Million-aire has put India on the map in terms of worldwide audiences and Bolly-wood itself is becoming more globally minded.
Last year, a Bollywood acting school was launched in London at the Ealing Institute of Media teaching martial arts, yoga, dance and even Hindi to prepare British actors and actresses for a career in India.
"The course has been running for one year and is going very well," said Anupam Kher, an actor who runs the course and is known to British audiences for his roles in Bend it Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice and ER. "Film-makers in India are ready to experiment and are not bound by India-centric scripts, so there are huge opportunities for white actors and actresses to work in Bollywood now," he said.
Despite the influx of white British actresses to Mumbai, demand still remains high.
"Ten years ago, there were hardly any white girls working in Bollywood. Now they are everywhere," said Debjoy Ray, fashion manager at the Globosport Modeling agency.
"Indians have a liking for white skin and equate it with beauty. The Bollywood and advertising industries are now completely open about using foreigners.
"The girls coming over from Britain are good performers who are very well received by Indian audiences. Unlike Indian actresses and models, they aren't afraid to show off their skin. For them, it is great. They get to be part of the glitz and glamour of the industry, there is far less competition here than in London and they make very good money."