“People see us smiling on-screen and think we lead a fabulous life, but that’s not true always,” rues TV actor Sonal Vengurlekar, who has been awaiting dues running in to Rs 12 lakh from a production house for a show that she did last year, since over eight months. And as work has come to a halt amid the Covid-19 pandemic, it has made the situation worse.
Not keen to reveal the name of the production house, the actor has sought help from Cine And TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA). She was, however, so moved when her makeup artist Pankaj Gupta offered Rs 15,000 to help her, that she even appreciated his gesture via social media.
“My earnings run my house. My mother is a homemaker, and father is a heart patient. His medicine costs are there. We had bought a house, and we have to pay the EMIs. Since that house is quite far, we’ve been living on rent so that my work doesn’t get affected. I’ve to pay that rent, plus daily needs,” she lists down her expenses.
Pointing towards how in the TV industry, artistes get paid three months after a show is aired, Vengurlekar says in her case, the show even got over and did well. “Yet for over eight months, I’ve not received my payments. The production house isn’t responding to my calls and messages, and the last payment of Rs 25,000 was received around mid-April,” she shares.
Her Shastri Sisters co-actor Neelu Kohli, who is a part of CINTAA, is supporting her in this fight. “Abhi toh production house lockdown ka excuse de rahe hain. The last I heard, they would pay a good part by June if their loan gets sanctioned,” she says.
Ask her if other cast and crew members — who were a part of the show — are facing similar issues, she adds, “Yes, but not everyone’s keen to speak up. They are scared of losing out on work. We shouldn’t think of working with people who have this habit of not paying dues on time.”
Vengurlekar, 26, is touched by the support from unexpected quarters — especially from Gupta, whose wife is pregnant and he still wanted to help.
“My friends have called, and fans have written to me saying they want to help. Mahesh Pandey, the producer of my upcoming show, for which I could only work for a few days before lockdown was announced, also called and offered help,” tells us the actor, who has been in the industry for a decade.
And now, she plans to write an open letter about the payment woes, on social media. “Sach bolne mein kaisa darr aur kaisi sharam? If I can talk about my happy moments, then what’s wrong in sharing about the difficulties? I just wish everyone comes out in the open and fights for what’s right,” she ends.