In a Mumbai slum, acting school stirs Bollywood ambitions

Al Jazeera, April 2019

Teena, a 22-year-old mother, arrives late to her acting class in Dharavi, Mumbai, apologising and wiping the sweat from her forehead.

Her weekly, 10-hour round-trip from her home in Nashik to this acting school in the heart of India‘s biggest slum, is something of a pilgrimage.

Teena worships Bollywood, and is determined to be a star. 

“I do it because I have a dream,” she says, “and I will do absolutely anything for it.” 

The Dharavi acting school’s founder and sole instructor – the moustached Babarao Laadsaheb – says Teena’s dedication is shared by many. 

Mumbai is home to the world’s biggest film industry, and many Indians are devotees: stars’ houses are treated like temples, and some fans have even built shrines for their heroes. 

But the poor scarcely get a look in when it comes to starring roles: class and caste status, nepotism, fair skin, education, English language, and certain beauty ideals are at play. 

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