In case of ‘Mohor’, the aspirant had claimed to have paid the money. But she had neither got any offer nor been given any money receipt. On Monday, the same girl again complained that a mega audition for ‘Khorkuto’ will be conducted by ‘Lokenath Group’ at its Jodhpur Park office on Tuesday. “The advertisement asked for two passport sized photos, one full-figure photo, identity proof and form fees of Rs 600. After being selected for a character, separate bills would be generated. The rates would vary depending on the importance of the character in the serial,” Gandopadhyay said.
Incidentally, a new character played by Malabika Sen has been recently introduced in ‘Khorkuto’ that’s produced by Magic Moments of which Gangopadhyay is a director. But auditions to cast new characters in Bengali serial is completely out of question. Channels have a big say in who is being cast. Besides, popular serials rely on the same cast and usually don’t have any space for newcomers in bit roles. “After receiving the complaint about ‘Khorkuto’, I informed the Regent Park police. It was decided that members from my office would also be there at the venue, pretending to be aspirants,” Gandopadhyay said.
At least 40 aspirants, who had paid Rs 600 each for the forms, had turned up for the audition at Jodhpur Park. According to Kolkata Police, most such frauds run advertisements on local channels in rural areas. They run a survey to understand the region-specific popularity of serials. “If ‘Khorkuto’ is popular in a certain area, they run the ad there. In an area where ‘Sreemoyee’ is a rage, they go for those ads. Most aspirants are selected during auditions and are then asked to pay Rs 6,000 for grooming. At least 15 were attending a grooming class at the same venue. The main accused — Sashikanto Bhowmick — has been arrested,” said Police.
Incidentally, director Raj Chakraborty had lodged a police complaint in early October, alleging that three people had tried to extort money from parents of a few kids, posing as employees of his production house. Recently, actor Rudranil Ghosh had put up a video on his Facebook page warning aspirants not to pay for such fake auditions. “Now that the scenario is bad with multiple channels of income closed, such scams will only increase by the day,” Ghosh said.
According to producer Susanta Das, such frauds were always there but their numbers have drastically increased during the pandemic due to “unemployment”. “I know of small-time actresses who have done bit roles in serials putting up banners with pictures from the sets,” Das said. Such on-set photos in the ads give a degree authenticity. “If the photos are with lead cast or director/producers, it makes their claims more believable to gullible aspirants. These ads promise to offer roles in lieu of money. These days I refuse to even get photos clicked on my sets for the fear of them being misused in such claims,” Das said.