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Bollywood Babes

Accommodation is hard to come by in Mumbai and compared to the rest of India it’s expensive and bad value. Luckily we bumped into two nice Indian men who helped us secure a lovely little number with no roof, cardboard walls and a moat of floor space in which we could squeeze our belongings. In return for their help we agreed to appear as special guests (read extras) in a Bollywood film the next day.

 

Not thinking much of it we were woken up at 7am and piled into a bus with other Westerners who had been tempted by the glamour and 500 rupees (£7). The bus began to chug along and the ‘casting director’ started shouting the names of Bollywood stars and directors that we were about to meet. ‘Madhur Bhandarkar, Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi’. Rather disheartening to him the bigger reaction of glee was to the prospect of a free buffet breakfast upon arrival on set.

 

The set was an out of town multiplex cinema that would be transformed through the use of clever, but not entirely stable props into an airport. And for the airport to be realistic, it needed travellers from around the globe. After scoffing down as many idlys, vada and dosas as we could we were hurried onto set (into the cinema, the buffet was in the car park) by a small man with a big t-shirt on. We were then consequently chased off set by a little woman with a small t-shirt on. Finally we settled somewhere between the set and the car park with a group of other extras while the important people rushed around applying make-up to the stars and finishing touches to the set. Carl was infuriated when we were told that we didn’t need any make up. He pleaded with the unfortunate assistant director who had been placed in charge of managing extras for just a little blush but to no avail.

 

We made friends with a slightly eccentric American who was trying to ‘feed’ his shy Mexican girlfriend in order to grow her thighs that he would use as pillows on long journeys. He told us that he really wanted to join the army so he could kill people legally but for some reason or another this dream did not transpire. Luckily we did not have time to react to this revelation (how could you?) as we were rushed into shot by the casting director. Cameras were ready, escalators were go, lights were on and airhostesses pouted realistically. Our first role was to go up the escalators.

 

Action! Up those escalators we went, Carl and I behind our new friends miming things to each other with our hands. We got to the top and settled next to a Ben & Jerrys stand waiting to be served. CUT! Apparently we weren’t out of shot our minder informed us. ‘Well what’s my motivation man’ the American replied. ‘Excuse me?’ ‘You know, my motivation – why do I want to go up the escalators?’

 

Next we were tried out with the airport trolleys. Carl and I were allowed two suitcases on ours but unfortunately we got confused crashed the trolley, abandoned our luggage and went up the escalators. Unrelated to this a significant part of the ‘airport’ came tumbling down. At that there was a break for lunch, another buffet where we got the chance to prove what race was the most socially advanced (2-0 to the Indians then). Up until now the shots had been general shots of the ‘airport’, scene setting shots, but after lunch we had the chance to see the stars in action.

 

The first scene was starring a girl and a boy who did some running, talking and flirting whilst Carl and I were queuing impatiently to board our flight. ’What’s taking so long, I’m going to miss my plane’ Carl joked to the Indian air hostess who was not very amused, especially the fifth time. We watched in awe as it emerged that one talented individual was to hold up a mirror so that the boy could adjust his hair in between every shot. Also in between shots more make-up was applied to the girl and by the time they finally got it right her eyelashes were so heavy with mascara that she could hardly lift her head.

 

We move onto the next scene which was a similar affair. This time Carl and I were handed another airport trolley. Action! ‘I want to push the trolley’, ‘No I want to push the trolley’. In an effort to be the biggest star Carl decided to pull the trolley backwards in front of the main camera. Cut! ‘No, no, no! What are you doing? You are supposed to push the trolley like you would in an airport’. ‘Well I need some more direction man, where am I going, who am I, what do I want from life?’ So in the end I got to push the trolley round and round in circles, just like I do in real airports. We were told off once more for pushing each other on the trolley and then for some reason we were told to stand behind the camera.

 

We got chatting to the camera man who expressed some dissatisfaction with Bollywood films becoming more Americanised and losing their roots. He even complained that the starts, particularly the women are looking more Western. We couldn’t argue with that, I was darker than some of the stars and I hadn’t even hit Goa yet. The camera man had been in the business a while and Carl started chatting to him about technical TV things. It transpired that the company that were completing the post production on the film were ‘Prime Focus’, ‘have you heard of them?’ asked our new friend. ‘Heard of them, I used to work for them in London’ replied Carl. Carl was annoyed to be working for his old company that had treated him and all other humans under their umbrella so badly until I pointed out that he was getting paid and really just being a pain in the arse.

 

The next scene was with the big star Ajay. Carl and I and our Mexican, American couple friends were to sit in the background (very far in the background) and read magazines while waiting for our imaginary plane to nowhere. Just then one of the assistant directors came over to us. He looked at me, I smiled, he looked away. He looked at Carl, he smiled and he shook his head. Then he picked the Mexican girl and placed her right next to the star where she would sit and read her magazine. ‘Go baby’ shouted her boyfriend loudly, ‘woohoo, show some thigh baby’.

 

There was a lot more walking around, reading magazines and queuing for planes. Really it was like being in an airport. We had dinner which to our dismay was not in buffet format and was regulated by caterers and soon 9pm came around. We’d been told at the beginning of the day that we wouldn’t work past nine so when the director called another scene we all went on strike and demanded 100 rupees more. So the decision was made to pack up and hope for better extras the next day. We were piled back onto our bus and handed 500 rupees each which in true Bollywood style we immediately spent on beers and chapattis.

 

Note: we were not allowed cameras on set and as our photos were all taken secretly or with the assistant directors had in front we decided that they’re not worth uploading.

Note 2: If anyone likes a bit of Bollywood here’s the film: Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji

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  1. June 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Funny!
    Oh, and guess what! I used to cover Bollywood for a tabloid for a couple of years!

    Have fun in Bombay!

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