When I was in Mumbai (Bombay), I spent an entire day acting on set in an upcoming Bollywood film. It was an incredible experience and I even got paid for my work at the end! In this post, I am going to tell you about my experience and also how YOU can be in a Bollywood film when in Mumbai.
Bollywood in Mumbai is the same as Hollywood in Los Angeles. Both cities are the center point for these massive movie producing industries.
You may be surprised to hear that Bollywood is actually the biggest film industry in the world- far bigger than Hollywood. The industry produces over 1,000 movies per year, which is more than double the rate of Hollywood.
Here are some more quick facts about Bollywood, which will put things more into perspective.
– The name Bollywood comes from Bombay (the former name of Mumbai) and Hollywood put together
– The first film was released in 1899, making it older than Hollywood by 11 years
– Bollywood films are mostly musicals, with singing and dancing
– This multi-billion dollar industry is now the largest film industry in the world, over taking Hollywood in the 1970s
– Hindi cinema flourished between 1940-1960, and it’s referred to as the Golden Age of Indian cinema
– Bollywood produces over 1,000 feature films every year
– Over 14 million Indians go to Cinema everyday
– Many films run over 3 hours in length, and have several breaks in between
– Indian films are screened in over 90 countries
While you’re in Mumbai, you can take an organized guided tour of Bollywood if you want, but that is expensive (over $100USD). I’ve also heard that the tour is boring and there isn’t much to see.
The real fun is getting behind the scenes and acting on set in a film!
I was very interested in the Bollywood industry before coming to Mumbai, and it was even one of my goals to take part in a film if I had the opportunity. So, when I was randomly approached to be in a movie, I was delighted! However, I had no idea what to expect, because they didn’t tell us any information about the film or the scene that we’d be helping on.
Here was my experience:
At 8am on a Wednesday morning in March, I went to the meeting point and met up with a group of about 10 people. We hopped on a bus that took us to the outskirts of the city. Most of the folks were Europeans and there were 2 Canadians. I was the only American (as usual). We drove about 1.5 hours north and finally arrived at a CRAZY nice 5 star resort up on the hills overlooking the city. This hotel (which was more like a palace) looked straight out of the Renaissance era with the amazing realistic paintings on the wall and ancient Europeans architecture. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
After waiting around for a few hours, still without a clue of what we were doing, we were asked to gather in the main hall and start the scene. I saw huge cameras, lights, props, and a crew of more than 50 people setting everything up for the shoot. They told us that the scene takes place inside a night club, and we were supposed to be acting as if we were in attendance and enjoying the night. It was actually more of a strip club that a nightclub, because there were sexy Indian models and other paid dancers dressed in exotic Indian colors and pole dancing to club music. Not bad for a day’s work, eh?
We were told to sit at tables surrounding the stage and pretend to be drinking beer and watching the girls dance. It was easy, and entertaining to watch these beautiful women act sexy on stage. Every girl had her boobs popping out, a tight skirt on, and as dancing amidst smoke machines and fire blasting on stage. Their dance moves were erotic and sexy.
Oh, and I also got to throw fake bills at them on stage!
The set went on for 15 hours. Yes I repeat, FIFTEEN HOURS. We arrived at 9 am and left at 12 pm. Thankfully, they fed us breakfast, lunch and dinner, but the food was sub-par Indian food. The day was very long and exhausting, and it required a LOT of patience. For every scene, they took 5-10 shoots, and after dozens and dozens of times, it got to be very boring.
But hey! This was all part of the experience right?!
So, how can YOU be in a Bollywood film when you visit Mumbai?
The answer is to look for recruiters.
Around the most touristy areas in the city, there are scouts that go around asking people (usually white people) if they want to be extras in Bollywood movies. The reason they look for white people is because many of the scenes are set take place in New York, Paris, London or some other western cities, but still filmed in Mumbai. It may feel sketchy if you are approached by a person to be in a film, but it’s likely going to be legit. Unfortunately, there is no set schedule that these scouts are on, and it’s mostly luck-of-the-draw if you get approached.
But to increase your chances, here are the best places to visit where the Bollywood recruiters hang out in Mumbai:
– Gateway of India
– The Causeway Street in Colaba
– Salvation Army Red Shield Hotel
– Leopold’s Cafe
– Marine Drive
If you hang around the areas for long enough, you are bound to find someone who will bring you on board! The Gateway of India is the best place to be seen, because it a huge open area and it’s also the #1 touristy attraction in the city.
How to Prepare Yourself on set:
1. Bring snacks
2. Bring a change of clothes
3. Stay occupied: bring music and/or a book
4. Have patience
It’s going to feel like the scene is going on forever. And you are going to get sick of doing so many retakes. But remind yourself that it will eventually be over, so just have patience
Don’t ask questions like, “When will we be done?” because they will just say soon soon but they are lying.
Best of luck to you, and please let me know if you have any more questions! Or if you’ve already been in a Bollywood film, please comment below and share your experiences!
Side Note: The name of the film that I was in is called Savatri Dawarri, and the main actresses were Niharica raizada (Indian) and Lucy pinder (British).