Thursday, March 08, 2007

Notes on kindred spirits and stolen time

Hey yall~

It's Thursday March 8, 2007 at 7pm. I'm on stolen (expensive!!) time here in Bombay. I should have already been back in Hyderabad with my family. I got an extension to my program, and i've spent the last 2 days with a rinky dink sony digital handicam to shoot some footage across bombay. (i know it's mumbai, but i just like bombay better)

part of my program was to make my own film project, getting to use (what i thought would be) a professional camera, and having access to an editor and an editing studio. There hadn’t been the chance to do this in the four weeks that the program was normally supposed to be, so I stayed longer. i have been trying to write a narrative to follow while filming this whole time i've been here and all the ideas i have are waaay too big for a 4 minute film project. so instead, i started with a theme of why bombay is my favorite place in india. i planned out all the locations and a rudimentary plan of shots i wanted to include in my project. yesterday was my first day filming, and i realized that my eye is much more photographic than cinematic. I gotta work on that.

I headed down to south Bombay, an area called Colaba which is on the water. The beautiful Taj hotel and the Gateway of India is also there, next to walls and stiars along the water that ferries, yachts and small fishing boats launch from. I hung out there for a while filming people, pigeon, boats, families there to sight see, foreigners, and the beautiful gateway of India. I had been standing in direct sun for about an hour when I decided to head towards Kala Ghoda and the other museums downtown. They were a short walk but I was proud of myself for being able to do it completely on my own. I asked for directions in Hindi, barganined for some earrings and a bracelet in the market on the way and had a leisurely walk with myself downtown. I savored the banyan tree lined streets, sharing the wide boulevards with the tourists, lunching office folks and people who seemed to be there for no apparent reason, like me.

i didnt get all the shots i wanted yesterday becuase as only seems possible in this crazy city, my day took a most unusual turn. I had the good fortune to meet a very intersting writer director earlier in the week (whom i intstantly connected with) that I have since spent many hours with discussing film, life and the world. He used to work for rediff.com, an Indian internet company. He did a commercial for them (an ad film as it is known here) kicking off a major ad campaign for the company. He had mentioned he’d be at a press conference held on a yacht most of the day, putting in the face time for his work and association with his former employer. I had just reached the Jehanigar Art Gallery, where I was going to enjoy some kultjah and have lunch.

Suddenly I get a call from this director friend along with an invitation to attend the press conference. I had just meandered my way away from there, and was at least a 15 minute walk away, but he urged me to hurry and I half-heartedly turned back. I walked for a bit, crossed the street where I could hop in a cab and asked the driver to book it. There was traffic, as usual, so booking it was a lil more like walking on wheels, but he started to pull around, almost drive on the curb, and it was sweet! My phone kept ringing, and my friend was almost frantic. We barely pulled up to the street I needed and I hopped out of the cab, thrusting more cab fare than necessary since I couldn’t wait for change at the driver and started to run, full speed, toward the dock. I clutched my super compact travel bag/purse, darted in between people, saying excuse me, hopping over pigeons that took flight as I disturbed their peaceful feeding and generally worrying all people within sight of me.
Panting and sweating in the fierce midday sun, I reached the stonewall where the boat had been moored to find it sailing away. My friend had a guy waiting there for me that was to arrange a separate boat for me to catch up with the big boat so that I could board once they were out in the Arabian Sea. What ended up happening instead was so thoroughly Indian and hilarious that I just had to laugh and wait it out.

A ferry had left behind the rediff.com boat and both were already out in the open water, although not too far away. A third boat was waiting to launch, half full of passengers leaving for Elephanta Island. After some enthusiastic gesturing by the boat men waiting for me that I did not quite understand, the second boat began to turn around. By the time I realized what was happening I couldn’t protest. The second ferry full of passengers turned around and haphazardly attached to the docked ferry. As this was being maneuvered, the Rediff boat began to turn back as well. One of the boat men helped me jump from the stone stairs of the dock onto the first ferry, through the passive watching eyes of the waiting ferry passengers and stand on the outside ledge of the second boat waiting for the Rediff boat to get close enough for me to hop on. Mind you, I had no real purpose of being there. I was a invited by a friend, and I was embarrassed by the show of effort that went into getting me onto the boat for a press conference I had nothing to do with. I laughed out loud while waiting for the Rediff boat, but then felt bad that these ferry folks had to wait for me so I tried not to laugh in case they got upset. I finally jumped onto the nice big boat, sun burnt, out of breath, covered in sweat and hungry.

Grinning, I met my friend and was quickly introduced to the three guys who planned and organized the press event. I was the youngest person on the boat, and the only non-journalist, boat, catering or Rediff staff member there. I didn’t look the part either, I was wearing a walk around town in the sun outfit not a media outfit. I had jean capris, a big brown belt, a pink muscle tank and my chacos on. The press conference began almost immediately, and it turned out that the ad campaign was to publicize Rediff offering unlimited storage space and secure email accounts for the lifetime of a user’s acct. We sat in the boiling direct sunlight on the uncovered top of the boat as ons of red Rediff balloons were released into the clear blue sky, the open Arabian Sea around us emphasizing the unlimited nature of the unique services Rediff is offering. Once the balloons were let loose (everyone was very impressed) we headed down into the relief of the sunless cabin. We watched the Rediff ad that my friend made and the CEO of Rediff, Ajit Balakrishnan, began to talk about Rediff’s target audience of mainly young people and how he came up with this idea of providing unlimited storage space. He also guaranteed that the service was completely secure. A lifetime of music and video files will fit in a Rediff email account, and he said that Rediff could be the email provider for dissidents, revolutionaries and the like because each person’s information is encrypted and totally secure. I got to film all this randomness that I happened upon, and after the launch was done, the personal interviews began and I focused on filming the water, the boats and enjoying the subdued sun. I got my shot of the Gateway of India the way it was intended to be seen, approaching (or departing) from the water. It really is a beautiful structure. Situated right next to the Taj, it is a beautiful combination.

To shorten this a bit, the press conference ended and I suddenly found myself face to face with the CEO himself, on my way to tea with him, my director friend and the 3 men who I met earlier who organized the whole shindig. We walked into the Taj hotel, and walked up to the Sea Lounge. I felt incredibly underdressed in my casual tourist outfit but stood up straight and walked like I normally do, shoulders back, head up and totally deserving to be wherever I am. IT worked quite well. I freshened up (brushed my hair, washed my face, put on some MAC lipglass and the earrings I just bought) and one my walk back to the lounge hardly noticed my underdressed outfit. (That was a huge accomplishment for me, as one of my biggest pet peeves/fears is not being dressed appropriately for any situation/event.) I sat quietly, straight backed, taking in every word said, every attention to detail and service during the tea. It might have appeared I was bored, but I don’t ever want to come across as just throwing myself into someone’s conversation/movie set/business discussion, especially since I predominantly find myself in all male situations and settings.

How crazy this city is! When I left my house in the morning, I had no idea my day would be like this. Nuts. I was also offered a spot on a direction team for a film this summer that my director friend is making. Interesting and certainly intriguing opportunity, I’m just trying to be open to whatever life offers me. We’ll see what happens…….

3 comments:

Mariko said...

wow, that sounds like an insane day! tha'ts so amazing and i'm incredibly jealous. Here i am, sitting in DC on my parents coach, trying to find a job and you are off in India capturing life. I'm so jealous. I miss you so much.

girlalex said...

Yaz! Sounds awesome!! I keep meaning to call you but you're 5 hours ahead so.. tomorrow. I"m going to really make an effort. SOunds like you're having a blasttttttt!

Frick said...

I'm illegally commenting your blog on my gov't monitored internet. But I just had to congratulate you on your awesomeness of not only turning a ferry around, but getting invited to be on a directing team! How awesome :) Miss you and be safe.