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Exclusive – Charu Asopa reveals facing casting couch; says ‘Ek bade production house ke casting director ne aisa kuch kaha ke mera teen din tak bukhar nahi utara’

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Charu Asopa is a well-known name from the television industry and has been part of many popular TV shows like Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, Devon Ke Dev Mahadev and Mere Angne Meinamongst others. However, making it in this industry without a godfather was not easy. Charu had to go through many trials and tribulations, but the actress never gave up on her dreams and marched ahead in life.Charu joined ETimes TV for our exclusive segment, Tellyblazer where she spoke about the challenges she faced to reach where she is today. From surviving on instant noodles, using garam masala for makeup to facingcasting couch, Charu has gone through a lot. Excerpts from the interview:
When was the time you realised your dream for acting?
When I became Miss Rajasthan I was very happy but I did not think much about my career and got back to studying. I started living a regular life but one fine day I was watching television and there was a show named Kasamh Se. I saw the runner-up of the pageant in the daily soap and that’s when I decided I also want to do it. I shared it with my father. He asked me to finish graduation first and then I can do whatever I want. I was doing engineering at that time and I dropped out from the course and did B.Com. I was a science student and I joined commerce. On the last day of my exam I told my father I’ll only go to appear for the exam when you will get me a ticket to Mumbai. He agreed and I didn’t even wait for results and the very next day we left for Mumbai. This was in 2010.
How difficult was it for you to survive in Mumbai?
It was a very challenging phase because when I had left Bikaner, I only had dreams in my eyes. I had thought in my head that Mumbai jaate he… Mujhe kaam mil jaayega. I’ll become a heroine, but I did not know anyone here. When I first came to Mumbai my entire family came with me. My father, mother, brother and sister. I got a house on rent and after I was a little settled, my father and brother left. My mother stayed back…
Continue: I remember my mother would accompany me to the auditions and meetings. We had heard so much about the industry that she didn’t want to leave me alone. We didn’t know anyone here in the industry, so we decided that I would join an acting school to make contacts. I joined Kishor Namit Kapoor school. My mother would drop me to school and also pick me up. I did the course for three months and then I auditioned for Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai from the acting school itself and I bagged the part. It was a 6-8 months long cameo role. Actually it was a short one but people liked the track so much that it got extended. While doing Yeh Rishta, I bagged Mahadev.

What were the challenges you faced when you were trying to make your name in the industry?
I remember we had to shoot for the pilot of Mahadev and it was such a tough shoot because we would continuously shoot for two days at a stretch. Khatam he nahi ho raha, it was so shocking for me. I would start crying and tell the director and producer I don’t want to do it, I want to go back home. It would rain heavily and our lehengas would get wet in the rains and dirt. As soon as the shoot of the pilot wrapped up, I decided I would not do it. I did not pick up anyone’s calls. Then my producer called me one fine day and told me the role is very good and I should take it up. So from the pilot shoot only Mouni Roy and I were selected. Everyone else got replaced. I had to survive in the city so I took up the role. Mahadev’s shoot was amazing and we bonded so well. Till today Mouni and I are friends. We had a great time.

Did you face rejections and how did you deal with them?
I had to go through a lot of rejections in the initial days. Everyday I had to go to auditions and look good. After Mahadev I shifted to a better place. But when I was staying in Malad during my struggling days, Jab tak main auditions ke liye pahuchti thi Meri haalat itni kharab hojaati thi… I would get ready from home, makeup, hair everything perfect but after travelling in local trains, bus and then waiting at the auditions, by the time they would call me for a take, I used to be a mess. Line mein lagna padta tha for auditions, sab makeup Nikal jaata tha, garrmi, pasine se haalat kharab. I still remember I would leave my home with a bag which used to have three four outfits and shoes. I would return home around 7pm. I used to give walk-in auditions. This I did in between shows also. Jab koi show chal raha toh theek hai jab kuch nahi hota tha tab I would come back to zero and start from scratch.

Charu Asopa

The showbiz industry is very unpredictable, how did you survive in Mumbai when you had no work?
There was a time in my career when there was a break of one year. I did Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya hi Kijo after that there was a gap of one year. That was a very difficult phase. I would buy a small Maggi and aadha main tabhi kha leti thi and half I would keep for the next day. I survived on just instant noodles. There was no proper makeup stuff and I did not have money to buy them. So I would use garam masala to do the cutting on my face. It would look a little different but I would manage somehow. The colour was almost similar.
Were there moments when you had self doubt?
When you really want to make it, you will give your best. For me it was always ‘aaj nahi horaha Kal kuch pakka ho jayega’… I did not give up at all. In fact, I used to enjoy the process of everyday going for auditions. My friends would go out to party and would call me but I would not go. My friends would taunt me arre Tu toh Buddhi hogayi hai, Aise behave kar rahi hai Teri age hogayi hai… (you are behaving in such a manner as if you have turned old) but my focus was very clear and I knew why I was in this city. My routine was fixed. Time par sona raat ko, time par jaagna Subah (to sleep on time and wake up early next morning). I would always fear if I don’t sleep on time, I will get dark circles.
Continue: There were few moments when I would feel ab kya hoga and nothing was happening. I am shortlisted in most of the auditions but nothing is getting finalised. All this would play on my mind. But I was very passionate about becoming an actress and I never gave up on that. Even when I would work under difficult circumstances, I would feel this is what I always wanted to do.

How did you manage your expenses during the period when you did not have work?
I would do small cameo or one day two day roles. I would not sit idle.
Were you ever replaced overnight by another actor after getting finalised?
There was a TV show, Sapne Suhana Ladakpan Ke. I auditioned for it and was selected for the role. Mahima Makwana and I did workshops for the same. Everything was finalised and we had to travel to Benaras (Varanasi) for the same and bags were packed. And at night I got a call that aap ka nahi hua because we have finalised Roopal Tyagi for it. I asked the casting director how can replace me at the last moment after finalising everything. He told me that she was the channel’s favourite. I was shocked.
How did you deal with the setback?
It was very heartbreaking. I had not informed anyone in the family that I am playing a lead role. I would go for workshops and lie to them that I’m going for auditions. I wanted to give them a surprise. I wanted to see their reaction after watching me directly on-screen. I was very hurt and I cried for nights. Mere saath he aisa kyu hota hai… I cried a lot. But then I did not have much time in hand to sit and sulk. I started giving auditions and got some work.
Did you face casting couch experience in your career? Since you did not have anyone in the industry?
Yes, when I came to Mumbai from Bikaner, I was very young. I was just 20-21, I was very naive at that point of time. I went for a movie meeting during that phase and met a producer from a very well known production house. I would not like to take the name. Main joh ye baat kar rahi hoon bahut bade production house ke baare main kar rahi hoon (This thing is related to a producer of very big production house) … the casting director kept the contract in front of me, I had a pen in my hand and I could have signed the contract and bagged the opportunity. It was a very big film. Par joh baat kahi casting director ne Uske baad Mujhe 3 din tak bukhar he nahi Uttra (But I fell ill after listening to what the casting director said to me). I told him with folded hands, I won’t be able to do what he is asking. He told me that’s fine, Tum nahi karogi toh bahar joh ladkiyaan baithi hai woh kar dengi (If you don’t do it, there are other girls sitting outside they will do it) … I told him sir okay then please you can get it done from them.

Charu Asopa

What did he exactly ask you to do?
He asked me to compromise with a few people he knew. I turned it down straight. It was very heartbreaking for me. I always felt that people just cook up stories and aisa kuch hota nahi hai. I always felt people just make stories because they are unable to get into the industry. Angoor Khatte hain… but when it happened to me I realised the truth and felt itne bade level par bhi aisi baatein hoti hai…this happened to me when I was trying for movies. I was very sure I would do movies only. But after that incident I decided to take up roles in television. And wishing 2/3 days later I signed Agle Janam.
Did you get scared after the incident of auditioning for films?
Yes, I got very scared and I stopped meeting people for movies. Maine movie meeting mein jaana band kar diya (I stopped going for movie meetings). I would get angry if anybody would mention movie meetings. It impacted my life. Television is very safe. Here you get roles on your auditions. I was scared for quite a while after that incident. Joh ek confidence tha.. to meet people confidently that got weak. Now, I meet very selective people, and friendship also I only do with selective people.
Have you ever made conscious decisions in television to do different roles so that you don’t get typecast?
Mere saath Yeh hua hai…. Mere Angne Mein no doubt it was a brilliant show and it gave me everything. I am very thankful to the producers. It was the turning point of my life. The show showed a journey of a girl who stammers and then she becomes super negative. The character after a point became so negative that it impacted my life. Now, I fear doing a negative character on television especially. It had such an impact on my life that now I feel I will get into depression if I do such negative roles. I would hear good music, go on walks to deviate my mind. Jab aap akele rehte ho Na, it plays on your mind.

Charu

Now, you are a mother and a single parent, have your career choices changed?
Yes, things will depend on financial stability. Jab tak manage ho raha hai (till the time I am able to manage) I will do projects which I want to. But when I don’t have money I will take whatever comes my way.
Do you have personal reservations or limitations to roles like nudity or love making? Or are you open to them?
I have certain reservations but if the script demands I will first see what it is. But if I’m uncomfortable I would never do it. Kaun bana raha hai (who is making it), who is opposite me and how it will be shot all this also matters.





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