Western-European dancers in hunt for Bollywood jobs

India’s Bollywood, producing 900 films a year, needs more and more performers to keep the cameras rolling. Now it's looking abroad, with dancers from Eastern Europe heading for India to earn some money.

As Bollywood films get slicker and more global, production values are getting glossier. And that means there’s plenty of demand for foreign dancers, to give a film an international look.

“Foreigners they get to India itself without any cost. No ticket, no visa – we’ve already taken care of everything. So it becomes very easy for Bollywood to coordinate with us, because in Bombay they can make any location and pass it off as Australia or some foreign location,” Zeb Chaudhary, Director of Dansync Entertainment, said.

Zeb Chaudhary is a coordinator. He brings in foreign dancers for six months at a time to work in Bollywood. The girls come on work permits and he arranges their accommodation, transport and food. He also pays them salaries between $1,000 and $1,600 a month.

“We have our managers in different countries; we work with Russia, with Ukraine, with Belarus. We have a girl from Australia and a Spanish girl. These managers keep finding me beautiful girls and groups. Once they have a group, they get in touch with me,” Zeb Chaudhary said.

Katsiaryna Liashko has been in Mumbai for one week. The 24-year old dancer from Belarus is looking forward to working in Bollywood. She has been dancing since she was 6 years’ old, but she knows she will have to learn quickly to dance to Indian music.

“Indian music is easy to listen to and understand, but when you dance Indian dance it is difficult, because for me it is new…Of course, hand movements and eyes. Indian dancer girls dance with their eyes…When they are dancing, everything is moving – hands, eyes. It is special, not the same as European,” Liashko said.

Bollywood is known as a dream factory, because it creates larger-than-life dreams for cinema audiences worldwide. For the past several decades it has attracted the best talent from across India to come work here – now it attracts the best talent from across the world. Yet for every foreigner working here legally on a work permit, there are several others working illegally.

With the global slowdown, many foreigners arrive in Mumbai on tourist visas, especially from the UK and Western Europe, and try to get work as dancers and minor actors. This is causing a major headache for those who’ve come here legally, as illegal dancers often charge less. With around 40 foreign dancers in Bollywood today, the competition is intense.