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Action! A day in the life of an extra in a Bollywood film

Visiting India for the first time on a work trip in January 2014, I decided to extend my stay in Mumbai to see what the most populous city in India had to offer.  After conducting some quick research online, I compiled the following hit list:

72 hours in Mumbai
> Gateway of India + ferry to Elephanta Island
> Shopping in Colaba market, home to ‘Leopold Cafe & Bar’
> Heritage buildings – Prince of Wales Museum & Victoria Terminus
> Chowpatty beach, Marine Drive

La Colaba market, Mumbai

Shopping on Colaba Market, Mumbai.

…the one thing I didn’t plan for? Spending the day in the hub of Bollywood’s studios as an extra in a movie!

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Whilst browsing the jewelry and clothes in Colaba market, I was approached by a friendly local guy, who advised me that he was a scout for the local Bollywood film industry and he needed one more ‘European face’ for a movie that was being filmed tomorrow. After a lot of back and forth, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go….I mean how bad could it be?

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I took a taxi to the studios the next morning and upon arrival, I was ushered into a hallway with around 50 other confused tourists. Five minutes later, I was trying on ball gowns and had my face plastered in make-up! It turned out that the set we were filming on was mocked up to look like the House of Commons and ‘Prince Charles’ would also be making an appearance…

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After the initial excitement of being on set with around 100 other extras wore off, it became very clear that we were here to work (we received $5 at the end of the day) and no shenanigans would be tolerated.

There was a mix of tourists and locals – this is a full time job for some of the locals I met – and fast friends were made as we bonded over the random nature of what was taking place and shared annoyance of being subjected to an endless assault of SILENCE being screamed at us!

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The day started at 9:30 am and finished at around 9:00 pm and largely involved us sitting around or trying to ‘act’ surprised, confused or scared.  We had an extremely vague idea of what the scene was about, so there were no issues with acting confused!  To say we sat a lot in between takes would be an understatement. We sat a lot.  A whole lot.

India Times news clipping

The Times Of India news clipping

Overall, it was a fun experience and is one of those days I will never forget!  I even made The Times of India newspaper after I was discussing my experience to an Indian journalist I met at a travel industry trade show later that year.

I fell in love with India and I hope to return again in the near future.  The one word I would use to describe India, a country with a population of 1 billion +,  is ‘alive‘ – there is always something happening on every street corner, park or movie set!

So did I make the movie?  I am yet to find out, but if you ever watch Humshakals don’t forget to look out for the back of my head!

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