Kolkata: A section of sex workers in Sonagachi here, considered Asia’s largest red light area, is all set to begin a new phase in their lives armed with training in acting, dancing and singing for a career in films and television soaps.
Several girls who were rescued by NGOs after being forced into flesh trade, sex workers who want to leave the profession and children of sex workers are now undergoing a workshop training programme where they are being trained by professionals in the ABC of acting. The project christened ‘Muktir Alo’ (Light of Freedom), a pet project of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is aimed at bringing back the sex workers and their children to the mainstream . This is a second phase of the rehabilitation programme for the sex workers and their family members and those girls who have been rescued from the flesh trade.
“In this project we aim to train them in dancing/ acting and singing, so that they can get an opportunity in movies and serials”, state women development and social empowerment minister Sashi Panja said.
Earlier the government had brought in various rehabilitation schemes such as vocational training, workshops on sewing, weaving. But those projects couldn’t gain much popularity as they were not financially lucrative. Panja said that her department and coordinators of the project have already spoken to several film and serial producers and directors in order to provide the sex workers who are being trained in acting, to get their first break. Apart from acting lessons, the girls are also being given classes in spoken english.
Nearly 50 aspirants have come to take part in this training programme. Regular classes are on. The girls are being imparted lessons in voice modulation, acting and dancing, Samarjit Jana of Durbar, who is looking after the training programme, said. Jana said he is hopeful about the success of the project. The project has generated lot of curiosity among sex workers especially their young children, Jana said.
An official of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), a forum of 1,30,000 sex-workers in West Bengal, said they have already started campaign programme in Sonagachi area to attract more aspirants for the programme. Several sex workers who spoke to a media house on condition of anonymity said they were willing to participate in the workshop provided it helped them to get a better future. However they were skeptical whether their past life would come in the way of getting an opportunity in the movie industry. “We are willing to participate in the programme.
We hope that after the workshop we will be able to get opportunities. And our past life won’t come in our way, said a 28-year-old sex worker”. An official of Durbar said earlier the rehabilitation schemes of the government didn’t work well as they were not financially feasible.
When inquired what would the state government do to ensure that their past did not haunt the sex workers who want to make it to the silver screen, Panja said, “We don’t have a taboo. We will ensure that they have a better future”. A 24 year-old sex worker, who is regularly taking dancing and acting classes, was hopeful of making a mark on the silver screen. She quipped, “If a porn star can become an actress, why can’t we sex workers become actresses?