In a shocking case, NCW recently sent out notices to celebrities such as Mahesh Bhatt, Urvashi Rautela, Rannvijay Sangha, Esha Gupta, Mouni Roy and Prince Narula in connection with an alleged sexual assault case against Sunny Verma, promoter of IMG Ventures, a modelling agency. After several girls including minors asked activist Yogita Bhayana for help, Bhayana approached National Commission for Women with her complaint. After being summoned by NCW, the celebs clarified that they were unaware about Sunny Verma’s alleged criminal background.

“Verma used to ask girls for completely nude pictures and videos. He threatened them to submit to his sexual desires. After establishing physical relationship, he used to blackmail girls for regular sexual favours. What is most appalling is that Verma used the name of known actors and filmmaker to trap aspirants. Famous faces were seen promoting his company. A simple Google search on this person should have alarmed them as this person has been arrested in a molestation case in the past,” says Bhayana, founder, People against rapes in India.

Rekha Sharma, chairperson, NCW urges young people to be vigilant. “Modelling aspirants must do a thorough background check of the agency they desire to work with. In this case, many got fooled because Sunny Verma used top names to promote himself,” she says.

Sharma also says that the onus lies on public figures to not promote racketeers. “These celebrities seemed to be only concerned with money. People look up to them and such conduct on their part leaves one aghast.”

It’s so easy to lay a trap

Con men, smooth-talking fraudsters , social media-savvy racketeers, lecherous agents – the glamour world is brimming with them. Starry-eyed small towners desperate to make it big are their perfect victim. Abroad, while you have regulatory bodies such as MAMA (Managers And Models Association), there’s no such body in India, which makes it easy for criminals to operate.

Rate kya hai tumhara?

Model Renee Kujur recalls the time when she came to Delhi from Chhattisgarh at the age of 19. “Agents asked, what’s my rate for one night. When I got upset, they said, ‘All models sell their bodies. Some charge ₹500, some charge ₹2 lakh. That’s how they achieve success,” she shares. Shattered, Renee gave up her modelling dreams until she met genuine agents that got her shoots for reputed brands.

Shockingly, even today agents demand a nude web chat in return for work. “They make you believe that sleeping for work is the norm, this is how the industry works. They say when big names can compromise, what’s your problem,” she says.

Sir ke saath room mein chali jaana

Model Devika Das, a print model based in the Capital says agents and clients often expect sexual favours and they don’t hesitate from propositioning even established models. “Once an agent called me home for a meeting. When he offered me wine, I refused. He then went inside his room and closed the door. His associate told me, ‘sir ke saath room mein chali jao.” I understood what was the purpose of this meeting. I immediately left from there and blocked their numbers,” says Das.

“He asked for nudes, said that’s the only way to enter the industry”

I saw an ad for a beauty pageant on Facebook. I paid ₹2950 as fees to participate. The organizers told me I was among the 8000 girls shortlisted from across India. I was added to a Whatsapp group that had 200 girls from Bangalore. Soon, online auditions began. There was a category called ‘Bold’. I was told by the organiser that if I don’t share fully exposing pictures, I won’t qualify. When I protested, he threatened me. He said he had big contacts and the police won’t take any action against him.

I quit the competition, broken. Later, I reported the matter to the police when I got to know that this man was pressurizing many other girls into sending nudes, including minors. I hope the authorities take strict actions against him, or else he will go on destroying lives. – Dhanya Kurup, 24, Kerala (name changed to protect privacy)

“He groped me, I felt so helpless and scared”

In October, I came across a Facebook ad for wild card entries in a reality show called Survivors. The organiser claimed it was to be aired on a leading TV channel. I paid an entry fees of ₹40,000 to take part in the show. There were about 65 participants – 6-7 girls and the rest, guys. We went to a village called Nanauta in Saharanpur, UP where the shooting started. We were given tasks such as walking through mud and cow dung with our feet tied with rope. A very well known TV star attended the finale of the show. The organizer made me pay ₹58 k to fly the celeb.

There was a party in the night and everyone had drinks. I was not feeling well, so I went to the girls room to rest. The organizer followed me and started forcing me to join the party. He tried groping me and he was so aggrieve that it left marks on my arms when he pulled me. In the morning, he started forcing me to come along with him in his car, but I refused. I somehow escaped with the help of a few guys. It has been two years and the show has not been aired anywhere. I have been duped. I never suspected anything fishy because the organizer seemed to be associated with big names from the world of entertainment. I wish I knew that it was all a sham. – Parmita Thanvi, 23, Gwalior (name changed to protect privacy)

Red flags to watch out for

Fake agencies make it clear that no work can happen without “compromise”. Genuine agencies never make such offers.

Fake agencies ask you to provide bold, revealing pictures. They insist that skin show is in demand. Genuine agencies do not ask you to get deliberately provocative pictures clicked.

Fake agencies ask you to pay for auditions. Genuine agencies arrange for auditions and take care of the expenses involved.

Fake agencies tell you to pay for model/artist card. They also ask for registration/membership fees which could be anywhere between ₹ 2,000-50,000. Genuine modelling agencies do not ask for any fees. They take a percentage from your payment after you get some work.

Fake agencies take names of successful films and serials where they have placed their artists but have no proofs. They also promise to launch you with the support of celebrities. Genuine agencies do not make such claims.


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