Yesterday I had a very Bollywood day — Bollywood being the Indian movie industry headquartered here in Mumbai. As often happens here, a casting agent showed up at my hotel the prior evening looking for non-Indian extras for a movie that was being shot here. After my peviously critically acclaimed background work in ABC’s Commander in Chief, I figured I at least knew what I was getting myself into … which is to say a day of standing around. I was joined by four other non-Indians who all looked the part a bit better than I as I’m not blond to start with and I realize that I’ve been getting dark — be it from the sun or the pollution in the air is anyone’s guess. The other folks included a girl from the Netherlands, a guy from Germany, a girl from the Ukraine and a guy from New Hampshire who actually got a line in the movie, perhaps owing to his big blond afro. Aside from shooting at a train station versus inside on a sound stage, the other major difference with this experience would have to be the Indian factor: instructions were yelled at us in Hindi (or Marathi perhaps) and we non-Indians then waited for someone to point us in the right direction; the catered lunch was Indian food which some of us ate with our hands in the railway station. Actually it was a lot better than you might guess considering the circumstances.
After our extra work was done we all went out to watch a new Hindi release on the silver screen. The movie was in Hindi and non-subtitlted (which we knew going in): Bluffmaster. The language barrier notwithstanding, it was pretty good. It helped that I’ve seen The Game, as this seemed to be largely patterned after that movie. Aside from the content, it’s refreshing to see a movie for less than $2 and get popcorn (a little spicy — surprise, surprise) and a soda for another $1.
After dinner we went to Insomnia, which may not be the hippest club in town but is probably close. All of the money I made for a day of being an extra went right into the cover charge. It’s crazy expensive for Indians and is a fave hangout for Bollywood stars — or so they say. Maybe we were hanging out with the stars, but we wouldn’t have recognized anyone as everyone looks, well, Indian. It was actually pretty cool. They had a foam/snow machine in the ceiling and everyone was looking very chic. A few things I noticed about the club. First, almost no security to speak of; the one or two guys who may have qualified as bouncers were maybe 1/4 the size of someone in, say, New York. Second, while there may have been a lot of public affection for India in the club, India is not a place to be touchy-feely in public (or hold hands for that matter). Thus, it’s a different scene absent the usual grinding and whatnot. Finally, perhaps a lifetime of making the traffic work here means that getting through the club was fairly easy, despite the crowd. People just seem more polite and better at making space and working with the space they have without the pushing and grabbing you’d find at home.
They tell me the movie should be out in may or June of 2006. The shooting title is “Apna, Sapna Money Money.” I’ll be one of the white guys in it if you see it.