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.

Knee Deep in Stung Meanchey, Cambodia

The Fire Burns on; Stung Meanchey, Cambodia

Knee deep in garbage,Kong Siehar, 14, combs through giant mounds of rubbish for tin cans, plastic bags and other recyclable goods. It is one of the saddest sights in Phnom Penh, a sprawling 100-acre garbage dump where trash fires burn and plumes of black smoke choke the air with toxic gases.

'I'm looking for something good, something I can sell,'' the boy said one day as he poked his stick in a small mound, strewn with crushed milk cartons, detergent and condoms. ''I know it's difficult work, but I want to help my family. I need to help my family.''

Ragpicker Boy, Cambodia

Children toil for about 50 cents a day here at the Stung Meanchey Municipal Waste Dump. It is perilous work. The waste is soggy, and huge bulldozers rumble through here, dumping pile upon pile. The children show up at local health clinics with rashes, infections, cuts and bruises.

Tower of Garbage, Cambodia

Stung Meanchey, Cambodia

Stung Meanchey, Cambodia

Vietnamese Chair Makers, Cambodia

Trudging through Stung Meanchey I come to realize, ''This is the closest thing to hell on earth I've ever seen."

When a vehicle -- any vehicle -- crosses into the dump site, the children fling their bags of tin cans in front of the wheels, hoping to crush their cans to increase the bag space.

Many of the children here were born into impoverished families that moved to the area from the countryside after the end of Pol Pot's murderous rule. Instead of finding urban fortunes, many of them settled in a slum that was erected along the rim of Stung Meanchey, a dump infested with flies that gravitate to the leeching refuse, the dregs of a nation.

About 10,000 people live in the slum that borders Stung Meanchey. Their village, Preak Torl, a cluster of plywood shacks, clings to the dump's edge. Fumes from sewage and burning garbage fill the air. Pigs forage in the village's dirt lanes.

Stung Meanchey, Cambodia

Waiting, Cambodia

Rith Preun, a girl of 12 who still works at the dump, is trying to earn money to pay off her parents' debt.

She wears a stained white blouse and a pair of soiled long pants. Her sandals are too big, and her hair, which bobs down to her shoulders, is tucked under a dusty, purple knit hat that protects her eyes from the scorching sun.

She carries a metal pick to help her poke through the garbage, and a white burlap sack that she uses to collect her recyclable goods. ''I've been working here for three years,'' she said. Stitched to her pants waszap a Winnie-the-Pooh patch.

My other Cambodia posts