I expected Mumbai (Bombay) to be dirty, chaotic and uninteresting. I was completely wrong. Sure it’s as dirty and chaotic in ways that any huge city is, but it isn’t lame. I loved the charm of the buildings and the layers of life moving through the city. We came for three nights and stayed four. I would have been happy to stay longer if my bank account hadn’t so clearly showed how much fun I was having.
We stayed in the southern tip of Mumbai in an area known as Kalaba. Most of the touring sites are located in this area and in the Fort and Churchgate, just north of Kalaba. We spent our first morning there walking around this area to check out sites like the Gateway to India, The Taj Hotel and the Prince of Wales Museum. The walk took all morning and was full of beautiful sites. I loved the architecture of these buildings.
On our way back to our hotel we were scouted to work as extras in Bollywood. We’d been told that any foreigner who hangs around Leopold Cafe (yeah, the one in Shantaram) can get scouted to work as an extra, so we’d spent a bit of time lurking in the area hoping our call to fame was upon us. And it was! We were scouted to be extras in a promo for a new soap opera. The bus would pick us up at 4:30 PM and drop us back off at 5:00 AM. Meaning we had an hour to get ready. Meaning we would be working through the night. What did we say? “Yes!” “Absolutely!” “Make me a star!”
One of the coolest things about filming was seeing what a set looks like. There are so many illusions created here. One side of a house will look like a bar and the other side could be a church. It was really interesting to see how much time goes into cleaning the scenes, prepping them and setting up the lights. Even after the set looked like it was ready for shooting, we’d come sit in and there would be a million micro adjustments made to make sure all the camera angles and lighting was perfect for video.
The first step of the night was hair and make up. Most of us didn’t change into costumes, which felt weird because we were filming a nice party scene and everyone else was in beautiful saris and sports coats and we had on T-shirts and tank tops. I’d also like to take a moment to point out the tiger print chair in the picture. If that’s not enough to get you excited, there were two matching tiger print couches as well. This is the room where we spent hours upon hours of downtime waiting to be called out for our scenes.
PZ was picked to film a special scene and got to wear this tasteful leopard print dress. The scene? Her and one other girl walking with an umbrella through the rain after a party. This scene took hours to set up and light, all for about four takes of the girls walking down the street.
I loved learning how filming works and found it to be completely worth all the down time we spent in our dressing room. We were invited to shoot for a bigger Bollywood production in a few days, but decided that one day of this was enough. There’s still so much of India to see.