the wonderful world of veena.

27 November 2012

30 before 30: my night as a pseudo-celebrity.

  1. Go bungee jumping.
  2. Go sky-diving.
  3. Spend one week on my own in solitude [preferably in Honey Valley], cut off from the world and from all of my electronic gadgets.
  4. Do a wine tour [preferably in California, but due to logistical constraints, improvisations may have to be made].
  5. Complete my Master of Public Service degree.
  6. Run a half marathon.
  7. Explore a new part of India.
  8. Be vegetarian for one month.
  9. Go skinny-dipping.
  10. Learn to scuba dive.
  11. Learn one Indian language properly [it's about time, wouldn't you think?].
  12. See the Grand Canyon [I smell a US road trip in my future].
  13. Get a professional massage.
  14. Try 2 foods I've never tried before.
  15. Take a photography class.
  16. See the sun rise over the Himalayas.
  17. Attend NH7 Weekender in Pune.
  18. Take an online class because it interests me.
  19. Be an extra on a set in Bombay.
When I began concocting this list back in July and thought about all the things I wanted to and could feasibly do before my 30th birthday next July, one of the things that stuck in my head was to be an extra for some kind of shoot in Bombay. I knew I would most likely be here for my Capstone, and I figured it was worth a try. I didn't put it on the list back then, as I wasn't sure if it would pan out, but as luck would have it, it happened, and I spent last night hanging out in the background of an ad shoot for Sunsilk shampoo.

But before I get to the description of the actual shoot, here's how it came to pass:

My dear friend Norten works for a film company here in Bombay and has been generous enough to host me during my initial time here until my cousin and I find a place to stay. On the first night I was in town, I asked him - only half joking - if it would be possible for me to be an extra for a shoot while I was in town, as it was one of my goals for my "30 before 30" list. Well, it turns out that one of his good friends, Malcolm, is a casting director here in Bombay. So last Friday night, I asked Malcolm what he thought, and he immediately called someone and found out there was an ad shoot for last night [Monday], and they needed more girls for it.

And so I was on my way.

Yesterday afternoon I received a call from Malcolm telling me I needed to report at 6pm for the shoot and to carry a "party dress" with me. For those of you who know me well, you can stop laughing right now. Lucky for me, I had carried one such dress with me to Bombay, so I packed it and some heels and took off for Churchgate.

I was the first one to arrive, so I just hung out in the trailer until more people slowly began showing up. Most of the other "models" [yes, that's what I was called last night. again, enough with the laughter and snorts (I'm looking at you, Bee)] have been doing these for a while and know each other from other shoots; they were all nice enough, but they were also happy to leave me alone to sit and observe everything. I managed to make it a while before having to explain to anyone that I was just there to see what shoots are like and for the experience rather than because I want to get into the business of being an extra.

The early part of the evening was spent mostly sitting around until 8pm when suddenly they wanted all 15 girls dressed and ready to go ASAP. Now, I don't know how much you know about girls, but they have one speed when it comes to getting ready, and it's not ASAP. There were outfits to be discussed and changed and approved, hair to be done, makeup to be applied, and all the rest. Even having lived with the Devaraj family for the better part of the last half-decade, I was amazed at how long it takes girls to get ready. I got myself ready and amused myself by watching the rest of the preparations.

They slowly began sending girls up for the shoot around 9.30pm, and by 10.15pm all of us were up on the set. [this may seem silly, but I'm not sure if I can describe the set and all before the ad airs. I didn't sign anything, but that seems like common sense, right?] As they prepared each shot, there was one guy who would organize the extras into where we needed to be and what we needed to be doing for a particular scene. Because moving the equipment and the lighting around took some time, there was a lot of downtime on the set. Also, because it's an ad for shampoo, obviously the main actresses' hair has to be perfect, so there were also a lot of moments when we had to stop for them to re-straighten and re-position their hair.

I spent most of the downtime watching all the people running in every direction and trying to figure out what each person's role was. I was fascinated because it was my first time there, but I can see how it can be really tedious to do over and over. Also, by this point, a lot of the people had learned that I am from the States and that I was just there for the experience, so people were starting to ask me more about what I do and what life is like in the States and things like that. But beyond all that, the thing that fascinated the most number of people was the fact that I am single. Over the course of the night, I had 6 different people ask me if I was in a relationship / engaged / married, and every single one of them was shocked when I said I was not. Two people actually told me that it is unusual to meet a single girl in India, which kind of made me laugh.

But anyway. After a midnight dinner break, it was back to work as usual. In total I think I was in the background of 4, maybe 5, shots over the course of the night, either talking or dancing with the other girls. We were just filler for the background [it was a party scene. I think I can at least tell you that much], so most of us won't be in focus or anything, but it was still pretty entertaining to have to pretend to talk and dance while they were shooting the main part of the scenes. Most of the others started fading around 2.30am, so we had to reshoot a lot of scenes. I had nicely taken a nap in the afternoon so was feeling pretty fresh until about 4.30am, but my feet were killing me. I've not worn heels in about 7 months, and certainly not for such a long time, and I was hurting.

We finally wrapped up around 5.10am, I quickly changed and headed to the station, and I caught a train back to Andheri at 5.40am. As it's a pretty long journey, I had myself a few nice naps along the way before catching an auto and landing up back at Norten's around 7am. Luckily for me I am "working from home" today, so I could get some sleep once I got back; if I had had to go in to the office today, it would not have been pretty.

Unfortunately I couldn't take any pictures of the set and stuff, so you'll just have to use your imagination. If and when the ad runs, I will try my best to post a link to it on here. The first person to recognize me will get a prize!

Overall it was an interesting experience, but I know that was partly also because it was a new thing for me, and I was intrigued and fascinated by all the various things that go into creating a 2-minute ad spot. I can definitely see how it would be super tedious to have to spend 11 hours at a shoot and only have 3 hours of actual work. It was a lot of sitting around for the extras, but it was also a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me, so I didn't mind so much.

I also have a newfound respect for everyone in the television and film industry. I knew a bit about it from having been friends with Norten all these years, but man, seeing firsthand all the lights and equipment and moving around and staging and styling and on and on and on, I really respect the people who do this for a living. Because their work is still not done. Yeah, I had to sit around a set for about 11 hours doing not a whole lot, but these guys still have to go through all the footage and edit it into what will eventually be aired. I'm sure they love it, but you couldn't pay me enough.

Most of the other extras were pretty nice, especially once they learned I was new and from abroad and whatnot. I think they were as fascinated by me as I was by the rest of it. I caught the train back with a few of them who were heading farther north, and it was nice to have some company for the ride home.

I could never do something like this full-time, but if another opportunity arises while I'm in Bombay and it doesn't conflict with my work, I'd certainly consider it. Oh, and the best part? Free snacks and dinner, and I got paid for it! Not too shabby, I say. But I'm not sure how many more all-nighters I have left in this body of mine. This last week of lack of sleep is definitely taking its toll.

I have to send a huge thank you to Norten and especially to Malcolm for organizing this for me. I'm pretty sure Malcolm called in a favour to get me on the set, and I will be forever grateful to the both of them for encouraging me to do this and for helping make it happen. Thank you boys, you're beautiful people, and I'm grateful for you both.

And so concludes another 30before30 installment. Wonder what I'll be able to cross off next!

[Arkansas' football season has ended (let's not discuss it), so sadly the "woo pigs" have come to an end. Shon, I know you're crying on the inside]

No comments:

Post a Comment