Bollywood's Eastern Promises.

Notes from a story I shot for a french publication on young girls from Russia and Eastern Europe, who make a living dancing in Bollywood dance sequences.

Several Cans of Hair Spray and Bad Costumes

Everybody deserves 15 minutes of fame, but nobody deserves to have to spend nine hours in a crumbling, sweltering suburb of Bombay to get it. Nevertheless, that is what many girls from mostly eastern European countries choose to do, some lured by the garish glamor of Bollywood others by the money, these girls are tagged as dancers and masqueraded as eye candy on many a dance number.

The day starts with hair and make-up. Several cans of hairspray and too much blue eye shadow later, the cameras were ready to roll. The girls take their places as we were shepherded over to the lounge to watch and wait. An expressionless Indian actress took her place in the center of this sprawling set. They where shooting a tea commercial and the star Saif Ali Khan was running late.

Lunchtime came and filming stopped for an hour so the girls could chow down on something. I met a few of the other extras, including a Parsi priest dressed in leather pants and silver skull rings. There were also cameramen, sound and lighting specialists, catering staff, runners, friends of runners and everyone in between. It seems long, idle days on set do little to diminish the allure of Bollywood.

Ciggarette break

30 Minutes for Lunch - Yash Raj Studios, Mumbai

Filming resumed and several more hours passed, but we were still waiting. Eventually the shoes came off as the make-up began fading. The infectious excitement from the beginning of the day was quickly losing its lustre.

The girls continued to make mistakes and the cameras continued to roll. The monotony broke when one of the Russian dancers hit her head on the bar during her routine and her dance partner blamed the director for positioning them too far left of shot. The assistant director searched for ice, you realize this is the life of Ukrainian dancer in bollywood.

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Sakshi said...

Excellent post as usual.

Though I wonder whether they get more or less paid in comparison to Indian extras.

Akshay said...

They get paid between 15 to 25k a months plus food, accommodation and transport.

Sebastian said...

i like the geometry the 2nd last frame but the last frame really says a lot with the girls in the scenerey and their exhausted stares which say a lot. great.

Ravages/CC said...

25k a month + food and acco and travel doesn't sound like a bad deal. I wonder if I can turn extra - perhaps claim Sub-saharan ancestry or something?

LuckyKabutar said...

Excellent post my friend. thank you for the behind the scenes look. Wonder why we need white beauties when when we have our own.

Robbie said...

you think being paid and fed to dance in front of a camera in film city is bad?

you should see what happens to eastern european women who get shipped to america...

Joshua said...

Which countries specifically did they come from? Can you post the link to the article in the French publication?