On the Sets of Bollywood

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On the sets

The film director is directing a scene in which protagonist meets her lover on park bench. I was in Film City, a 500-acre wonderland of fake mansions, poverty-stricken villages, schoolhouses, and police stations on the outskirts of Mumbai, where many of the big-budget Bollywood films are shot. I turn around me to find the actors sits on four plastic chairs stacked on top of each other, their arms bound by packing tape, because he needs a high chair to keep his long legs comfortable. Meanwhile the light technician shutter about setting up lights for the next scene.

In a movie set outside Mumbai. It's after midnight on a sweltering May night. A spectacled man booms commands into a microphone. The camera zooms in on the actor and swirls around a rott-iron bench surrounded by tinsel and fairy lights. A song slowly starts.

Here are some pictures I caught that sweltering May night under the artificial lights.

Scene 1 :
Boy meets girl on park bench [see below]. If you are wondering what happens next - the actress smiles and caresses her legs - while the camera takes a close-up shot. Yes it was very corny.

Actors do what they do best

Behind the Scenes

Director of Photography preps the actor for next scene.

Salaam Mumbai


Check your hair, A final touch-up and you are ready for another take

Shot after shot, take after take - an entire of army of men flutter about behind the scenes to etch celluloid with moving images.

From the make-up to the man, tabbing at a large fan - they all play their part.

In beteween scenes

Quiet on the set

Sound.... Action ... Roll Camera

What one does not realize that the largest component of time spend on a set is that done waiting.


Feeding Dreams

Your usual Bollywood story would go something like this

Boy from Bombay slums meets girl from suburbs. Girl's family object to boy. Girl is about to be married off but boy murders the groom. Boy is killed during shoot-out. While visiting relatives in Sydney, girl meets boy's identical twin, who has been separated from boy one at birth and raised as a Calcutta yuppie prince.

They fall in love, everyone's family approves. For Bollywood song settings, the boy and girl must change clothes and backdrops at least three times a duet; perm between Delhi campus, British shopping centre, Australian beach, Raja's palace, Swiss Alps, Egyptian pyramids and Scottish mansion. The more mountains the better. The big wedding number is a must. If you can fit in happy villagers celebrating the harvest so much the better.

& the Story Continues

Raju holds up a giant green pipe over a 1960s Hindustan Motor's Baby Hindustan to make it rain. The camera trolley on the other hand moves forward as if to give you the sensation that the car is moving. All tricks of the trade

They can make it rain.

Standby on set

Scripts, however, are not always considered that important by the directors, who have a tradition of, well, making it up as they go along. Director is helping his actors plug in the story line
The Director's Actor

Boy meets Girl Part Deux

It all ends in song and dance and everybody concerned lives happily ever after.

RK Studios Moment

Take a look at my other exploits on a tv soap set for Tehelka.

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Beth said...

I don't suppose you're going to tell us what movie this is, are you?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Every time I see your photos, Akshay, I'm impressed -- they get better all the time. You have a knack of doing something consistently I always want to do but never manage in my photos: get in really tight to a foreground subject while capturing some intriguing background action nevertheless. No wonder my photos look flat while yours are alive.

IdeaSmith said...

I really like this post. 'The story behind the story' what? And the first and last pics are the best. Ah, well, they all are!

Which Main? What Cross? said...

Wonderful story and pictures. How long did you spend on the set? Every minute... is worth it.

Quaint Murmur said...

The first and the last are my favourites. Amazing.

*sighs* someday, I will MAYBE come as half as close as this to making good photographs.


Priya said...

Had an interesting time browsing through your blog. At the end of a long and tedious day, your blog brought in some refreshing time well spent.

lilfern said...

am sure you must have heard this b4 - brilliant!

will be coming back for more :) keep up the good wrk!

Bhavika said...

Nice stuff you have in here.:) Would you like to exchange links...

Lemme know


Stan said...

Hi - Stan from California. Heard about your photography, and I've made the effort to visit.

Nice work, but I must say, I'm more than just a tad disappointed. There is a degree of sameness to your photography, which makes it very predictable.

Alas - atleast, it's better than your writing.

MisTerious said...

Akshay, I don't know much about photography, but I think you take the most amazing photos. They can make even the most simplest of things look so beautiful, and thats such a talent in itself!
I've been a fan for a while, but this is the first time I'm commenting; mainly to tell you to keep posting! :)

Nidhi said...

For someone who spent many hours coordinating shoots, there's something so absolutely stunning about your pics. you make me want to work in print again... and trust me that's a huge compliment. Fantastic work Akshay... If you ever need a girl friday on your shoot, feel free to email!

Solitaire said...

Very interesting!!! Great pictures!