Well, it's morning for me here in Mumbai. It is almost 11 am on Saturday, Feb 17. Shootout at Lokhandwalla is still happening, and by now has been shooting for 2 hours. I am incredibly exhuasted. I never get enough sleep here. There is so much life outside of my window... it invades my space and gets into my dreams and calls me back into wakefulness with an insistence that is both frustrating and mind blowing. (Side note: "Mind blowing" is a phrase most often heard in Bollywood, on sets, in general conversation, in reference to anything but mostly film related things, and used by everyone from the director to the grips. "Superb" is another well used phrase, applicable in the same context.)
There are bands of wild dogs that fight into the night, and often the late night foot and rickshaw traffic accompanying a "wild" night out. The mobile phone I was given by my program used to belong to a former employee and random people call my phone all the time, often disrupting my precious sleep. Then, once I'm awake, I can't get back to sleep.
I love Mumbai and the chance to be here is not an opportunity lost on me, but there are a few things that I require to be able to function. (Adequate) Sleep is one, (clean, safe) water is another, (healthy, safe) food is the last. When I have those things, everythign else I can take in stride. When those things aren't there, I have alot of trouble. I went out on Thursday night for the first time, to a lounge then a very small club/bar. Both were lame, but I had fun observing the lameness, jumping around to house music and being silly. It was all pretty accidental, I didn't even realize that I had committed to dinner plans with the Harvard kid, and once we ate a whole spread of food prepared by his guest houses domestic staff, we randomly left and walked around. The lounge we went to first was called something Japanese, like Seigo or something. It could have been a lounge anywhere. It is a branded bar, with an entire menu of Bacardi inspired mojitos, low lighting, with tasteful cohesive decor, definately designed by some up and comer, but very typical at the same time. They were playing american music, top 40 and older hiphop influenced r&b. That suited me just fine.
I had spent Thursday on location at a club called Fire & Ice at Phoenix Mills, a large outdoor mall very far from my apartment. All day long, 2 songs were repeated over and over for all the different angles of this club scene. There were a ton of junior actors (extras) who were in the scene who were lazy and mostly obnoxious. The club was small but average as far as decor went, it was sort of indian themed, sort of arabian themed. Normally a nicer end club I think. The two songs being played were house mixes of "its your birthday" by 50 cent, and some song I had never heard before taking lines from "no satisfaction" by the rolling stones. It sounds wierder than it was, both songs had great base beats and were easy to dance to. Not that most of the extras could dance, in my opinion.
And their clothes! OMG! I wanted to laugh so hard. For example, there was a guy there with a red fleece vest on with a pair of jeans. he had the vest zipped 3/4 of the way up. That was his outfit. Two girls were wearing almost identical outfits: casual light denim jean dresses, very simliar to the ones J. Lo's line made popular a few years ago. They had the low slung belt loops, and one girl, bless her, actually wore one. Both girls had keds-like sneaker flats on with sneaker socks that I could ACTUALLY SEE. it was, as you might have gathered by now, appalling. Some of the girls had really regular outfits on, things that girls in the US would just wear out and about. CArgo pants and a striped coordinating 3/4 sleeve top. skinny jeans, boxing boots and a short sweater. Some girls wore dressier things, dresses, skirts, halters, typical Forever 21-esque sequined tops. Thankfully those girls had the sense to wear appropriate footwear in the form of dressy heels. Anyway, the shoot that day was for Woodstock Villa and it was very cool getting to see all the different angles that had to be shot, and how to get the extras to make that club scene look really jumping and believable. My right ear hurt so bad from the speakers, since that side of my head was closest to them. I kept just closing that ear, but the vibrations were so strong that the pain started to extend into my jaw and the right side of my face. At some points of the day I was really into the music and wanted to go dance. But by the end of the day, as with the end of all shoots, I was exhuasted. I wanted to go home and sleep.
Two hours of a traffic filled car ride later, I had made it. It was around this time that the Harvard kid calls me, asking what time he should let his roommates and kitchen staff know to schedule dinner. What? Exactly. I actually had no real clue that this was what the plan was, but being to tired to argue, I went home, ate some of Seema's dinner (since she had already prepared it), changed clothes and got back into the traffic for an almost hour long rickshaw ride towards Bandra, a nice, somewhat trendy shopping & residential area for those with $$ and plenty of clubs, restuarants and lounges to cater to these rich hipsters. After dinner and awkward dismissive hellos from the other expatriots inthe apartment, we headed out to the lounge. We eventually left, after listening to the MC do a freestyle rhyme about the 5 other people there. The final straw was when the MC for the evening introduced "No Wax" night, which is basically ushering in Thursday night IPod parties. Since no one came prepared, they borrowed his ipod and the music was not my cup of tea.
We hopped into a rickshaw and went to some place called the shack, or i think that's what it is called, thats what was stamped on my hand anyway. The first floor was 70s, 80s and 90s mix of oldies music. Bleh. Next! We walked in to "That thing you do" and went straight upstairs. It was supposed to be a hip hop/hindi fusion floor, but as I mentioned before, it was only house music. So i jumped around and acted like I was at a rave. It was fun, but it took me ages to stop blatantly laughing at everyone around me. I know, I'm a snob. Can't help it. NYC spoils a person, u know?
There were 2 old Sikh guys there, just eating and drinking. They seemed totally out of place among the younger professionals who were drinking and "dancing."
I was exhuasted at 1:15 am when we got kicked out. The lights came up, and as seems custom in all clubs i've ever been to, they close the more happening room well before the rest of the venue. This has only led to me to belive that club administrators and staff are merely killjoys, out to take clubgoers money and nothing else. I took the 30 minute rickshaw ride back and practically collapsed into bed. I woke up way too early the next morning (Friday) and really really didn't want to go to the Shootout shoot. I knew that it was going to be an exciting day on the outdoor set they had been waiting months for. These were going to the external building shots where the 256 cops would shoot at the building, here was going to be an explosion of some sort-definitely fun in theory. I spent the morning resting and really not wanting to leave the apartment.
At 2:30 pm I eventually made my way into a rickshaw and headed to the shoot for 2 1/2 hours. Yesterday I gave money to the first beggar since I have been in India. Since rickshaws are open on both sides, I hold onto all my stuff tightly as many folks walk up to the rickshaw and try to sell things or beg. Whenever I say no, I feel bad. When I ignore people, I feel even worse. It seems in Bombay that even looking at someone and acknowledging them makes it alot harder to get them to leave you alone. That often means blatantly staring past or even thru someone. I would rather close my eyes than do this, but when with other people, I dunno. I try to follow their cue. This particular beggar was a youngish man with a small child, probably about 2 yrs old in his arms. He thrust the child's mangled, bloody bandaged hand at me and asked for money, for "medicine." I reached into my pocket, grabbed 2 rupees and prayed for that child's health and safety. The child had kohl lined eyes and looked down trodden, as if the spark of life had been stamped out of him long ago, and his two years of life had already been too much. I shuddered as we drove away, on my way to a place that was re-creating violence and desperation on a carefully constructed set.
I arrived at the perfecct time. After day long preperations and many takes of not-as-cool stuff like dialouge, the three cars outside of the main building where the gangsters are holed up were prepped and ready. Ready to be hit by a "bazooka" out of their window, to hit an old car parked across the street. This was dramatic liscense, b/c the gangsters did not have heavy artillery with them. Only bags of guns and ammunition. But the car was rigged to explode, the roof fly off, along with the doors while the windows blew out. The two cars behind it were rigged for the windows to blow out as well. There were four cameras set up to capture all angles of the shot, and we were told to stand far back behind the playback monitors. There was only one take of this shot, and it was awesome. The car blew up, and everything happened on que. It caught on fire and people rushed to put it out with waiting hoses as soon as "Cut!" was called. It was such a rush to be there and see it happen in person. I realized on this shoot that I love actions movies. I always have, but this movie made me remeber that they can be so exciting! It's really cool to see how all this stuff is done and how its shot to give the maximum effect of action and boom! to each frame. Afterwards were the cops shooting rounds of blanks at the building over and over. Really wasnt helping my already hurt eardrums, but cool none the less. The actors playing the cops or the cops themselves, whatever they were, weren't listening and no one was really responding well to the director as he tried to set up the following shots. He got so pissed that at one point, in the middle of trying to set up a shot, he screamed "That's a wrap!" and wrapped the shoot early. Everyone stood around, dumbfounded and when it was clear that he was serious, I hopped in a rickshaw and headed out. Enough of the film world for me today. I spent the evening with Seema, trying to find affordable clothes in Bombay and really not succeeding. Everything I've found here is practically at American prices. Bleh!!! Oh well. Hopefully whenever the shooting of this film is over I'll take a day or two to go check out Bombay's famous bazaars and find decently priced stuff.
Blog again as soon as I can. Hope to hear some COMMENTS!!!!