Jokingly one of our goals on this trip was to get cast in a Bolliwood movie: Mission Accomplished!
It was surprisingly easy. There are some 700 movies made in Mumbai a year so the numbers are working for you if you want to be cast as an extra. We had heard that simply by being white and hanging out in the Colaba district (the main tourist area) in Mumbai long enough you could get offers to be in movies. Sure enough, we hadn’t been walking down the Colaba Causeway five minutes the day after our arrival before we were “discovered”.
Our studio contact had few details: if we agreed he’d pick us and about 20 others us that night at 7PM. We’d be bussed out to the airport where they were shooting that night. The shoot would run from 7PM to 5AM. We’d be provided with food, bottled water and at the end of the shoot each extra would be paid 500 Rupees (about 10 USD).
Calling us “Extras” is very unsavory. We prefer the term “Background Actors”.
Now of course this isn’t the kind of thing you do for money, so after confirming that this was a real Bolliwood movie and not a commercial or anything, we signed up. So where do you pick up 20 white people in downtown Mumbai at 7PM? In front of McDonalds of course!
Once there we waited around for a few hours, then were lined up men on one side ladies on the other, and cast in our roles. I came very close to losing my role as a pilot, finding a uniform to fit me was an issue. But LeeAnne was already perfectly dressed as an airline passenger.
LeeAnne and I learned a very important lesson that night: the allure of Bolliwood is built on a foundation of boring, boring repetition. “BACK TO ONE!” – our call back to our positions to do another take, exactly the same way we did before, or maybe a little different, but only if the director specifically TOLD us to do it different became by the end of the night three words we never want to hear again.
The whole evening reminded me of an episode of “Extras”. When you’re a background actor there’s a lot of sitting around waiting in stupid outfits shooting the shit.
Each scene took about two hours to film, and luckily for me, none of them involved dancing or singing.
We were only on the set for one night, but from what we could gather the movie seems to be some kind of action/comedy/love story involving a plane and maybe a bomb. In any event it’s called “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na” and it stars Imran Khan, Aamir Khans nephew (You will have to know something about Bolliwood for that last bit to mean anything).