Saturday, February 17, 2007

stars in my eyes

Ha.... my life :) Pinch me... or rather ... don't :)

I was talking to my Mum on the phone at 8:30am... still lying in bed, when my phone buzzed with an sms message. It was an sms from Vivek with details on how to get to the shoot at Film City. He said he was only shooting until lunch so to come early. He gave me the number of his assistant in case I had any trouble.

I didn't even have to contact him... I was floored! Needless to say I was out of bed and ready pretty damn quick.... went down to the street and crossed to the line of cabs. Before I knew it I had all the cabbies around me trying to determine 'which' Filmcity I wanted to go to. Um.... I'm pretty sure there is only one! So... since my Hindi consists of a few words that don't help in cases like this..... I called Vivek's assistant and got him to talk to them. I was on my way! The cab driver said 200 rupees for the fare and I just agreed.. which was a bit silly, should have been a metered fare, but oh well, who cares ;) The drive took me near work and to Goregaon East ... it was a beautiful drive, through some neighbourhoods I had been to, and some new ones. Such activity and life everywhere. I just can't ever get enough of it... drinking it up every day. Even last night, I got a bike ride home from a friend, and just round the corner from my house... an elephant! Just walking on the street... I am so lucky :)

So... the signs appeared for Filmcity and the landscape changed to more rural... we approached the gate and the guard said 'no' to my 'I'm a guest of Vivek Oberoi' ... so I called his trusty assistant again and the golden road was paved. It wasn't far to the shoot. There were lots of people milling about... like a set anywhere. I was led through and suddenly... could see Vivek sitting on the hood of a jeep being interviewed. I stood nearby and watched a little and looked around at the surroundings. One woman questioned my presence but immediately it was fine when I said who I was with. Many faces were staring at me... but that was fine, I understood I wasn't really part of the scene and was a firang to boot.

There was a brief pause in the interview and Vivek got his assistant to usher me into his trailer. I was offered chai or water or anything I needed... but I felt way too high on adrenaline to need anything. I sat for a while.... then looked at my Roger Waters tickets (concert tomorrow) and gave my friend Anil a call to talk about the plans for meeting up. We were talking as Vivek entered the trailer. Man...did I hang up quick! He blew in with a whirlwind of noise and presence.... all in black in his character's costume ( you can see it in the movie posters - he wore the shirt that is in the close up picture and everything else including all the wristband stuff and necklace you see in the walking shot - quite overwhelming). He apologized for the wait as he was being interviewed by the BBC. He sat in a leather chair and started to tell me the story of the movie. "Shootout at Lohkandwala"... which happens to be where I live, in fact. It's based on events that happened in 1991 when over 280 policemen surrounded a building near mine and spent over 6 hours in a shootout.

Vivek is playing the upcoming mafia gangster Maya Dolas from the underworld of Mumbai who was disobeying his boss, the big don of the underworld. Maya gets killed in the shootout. It sounds like a great dramatic movie.... I can't wait! He was really into it... very serious about the story as he described it. It was interesting just to watch an actor talking about his role and the movie - almost obsessive - all encompassing. Just the way you would hope an actor would take the seriousness of the role to be.

About this time I started to realise how freaking odd it all was that I was sitting there having this conversation with Vivek Oberoi... haha.... I felt very comfortable, and it was just so surreal! There was a knock at the trailer and in comes a gorgeous Bollywood star... Dia Mirza.. who was Miss Asia Pacific 2000. I had seen her in Dum with Vivek and he introduced her to me very sweetly and was so gracious. She was very nice to me too and she had just returned from Barcelona so we talked about Gaudi and her impressions. She is playing the only reporter who was actually on the scene during the shootout... and Vivek told her about a compliment she was paid by another actor who wished that he was killed by her instead. He wanted to fall off the top of the building as he was firing when looking down at her.... and the way he acted it out to us was quite funny. I had to pinch myself... here was Vivek acting out in the trailer to me and a Bollywood actress... what tha'?!

She left and we chatted some more and then headed over to the set. It was time for some filming! He introduced me to the director Apoorva Lakhia, who had very cool tattoos, and I sat next to him at the video assist, and watched as dozens of people organised the shot. It was within the Lokhandwala complex... with burning cars, cops shooting and *General Meyhem*. Very cool! Dia came and sat behind me and started to go through her dialogue sheet with someone.... it was fascinating to listen to and watch. One thing I have always loved about the Bollywood movies I watch is the type of language they use... a blend of Hindi and English - and I turned around and watched as she made pencil edits on her script and saw how it was written in the beautiful Hindi script with all these English words dotted amongst it. She had some lines missing and was synching it up with her coach... and I loved to watch her write the hindi next to the english... her handwriting, as all Indians seem to have, was immaculate. Puts me to shame.

The director was hopping up and down from his chair taking care of final details. He finally sat and alternated between a microphone and a walkie talkie, the call for fire was given... and the cars were lit and began to burn pretty hard, 'roll cameras' ... and finally 'ACTION'.... all hell breaks loose! Guns firing everywhere... but it's mostly around the corner from where we are sitting and we see it all in the video assist... it is a great shot... panning camera past crouching policemen firing like crazy. It must have been such a war zone back in 1991, I can't imagine.

At the end, things return and we wait as everything is readied for a repeat with a different camera move. We roll again and the director is in love with this take. Got it! After a little while, Vivek returns laughing with the crew, finds me and asks if I would like to see the set. Of course! He leads me though and we walk into one of the buildings. It is so authentic.. I truly feel I am in a street.... it's not like a set in Hollywood where if you look a little closely it feels fake... this just looked real. It was Lokhandwala! I was impressed. We got inside and he showed the wooden structure that holds the facades together and what they climb up to get to the upper levels of each building. I just couldn't get over how authentic the place was. The look was great. He said it was all constructed in 15 days... and it looked like it had been there for years.

Back to the trailer and we continued to talk. He asked exactly what I do and it was so nice that he really seemed to be interested. We discussed the company and our facility in LA and now Mumbai, and all about my coming here and how I love it. It was such a comfortable time... lots of talking of India... and what makes this wonderful country what it is. We talked of his life and living in New York and London.. then his schooling in different places including the exclusive Mayo College near Pushkar in Rajasthan. He was telling me of the beautiful inspiring buildings... the house he lived in was built by the Maharajar of Jaipur for his son. 30 foot ceilings... incredible details everywhere.. he loved it.

At this point 3 women arrived... they were representatives of the Cancer Patients Aid Association, a group Vivek has been a spokesperson for for 5 years. He is so passionate about the topic... and has facts and figures about the affects of smoking pouring out of him. It was a really great discussion... and could lead to some collaborations with Rhythm and Hues if the planets continue to align themselves in the way they have been for me! ;)

We chatted of many things - much talk of Mumbai and how you get sucked into its spell. Riding on bikes and how wonderful that is, the bond between young guys here... and how that is different in the US. He told us how when he lived in New York studying, he worked in modeling and did quite well for himself, then managed to save 70% (because he's Indian) ... haha .... He was able to look like all sorts of ethnic groups... hispanic, native american, indian, south american... it sounded pretty cool. He loved New York. But India was always calling and he couldn't stay away from this magical place. And it was struggling from nothing to prove his talent and make a name for himself.

The Cancer reps had to leave for another meeting, and we continued to talk. He wanted to know where I was from... so I shortened the story and made it New Zealand mostly. He LOVES New Zealand... says it's his favourite country. One day he wants to travel from top to bottom and east to west. He shot Naksha there in Rotorua and was telling me how he stopped at a homestyle cafe one day in his costume and realised that he had no money to pay but the lady was fine about it. He went back later with flowers and to pay them... he was impressed and said he's never experienced that anywhere else but India. This led us back to talk more about India and how amazing it is. As he said about Mumbai... once you are caught in it, you can't leave.... and he said there is a saying that anything you create here, like a business or any such success, you can't transplant that anywhere else... you can only keep it here.

We talked about Australia a lot too ... the differences between NZ and Oz.... he was fascinated to hear of the rascism as he had never experienced it. I pointed out... 'hey, you are a movie star... it's going to be a little different for you there' and he was very interested to talk about it all. Then onto Los Angeles and what that was like. I described my LA and how it's probably very different from the one he experiences, less fake and more down to earth. But then here the people are just so true when they talk.... and instantly onto another level, they say what they mean, no falseness and no pretense. just people. The whole morning was such a good conversation :)

But finally.. he did have to get back to the set. But he said he'll be filming again and I should definitely come out. He'll sms me. He took me out and then got his assistant to help me to an auto. Before I knew it I was in the auto and on the ride home. Surreal and lovely and comfortable. I really don't know what to think or feel.... I know that if I had met a star in Hollywood and had that experience it would not have been the long and meaningful conversation where you actually talk of things you love and what matters in life. It was another uniquely Indian experience.... and leaves me breathless.


bhavika said...

Amazing...u r a lucky one...two years in mumbai and ive never ever met anyone!!!
You give hope to all hopefuls.....
I have to visit Ireland again now just to meet pierce.. :)

pooh said...

arent u just having some amazing time !!!!
u are so lucky, and Vivek seems to be very kind..
Good luck with everything Jude :)

Anonymous said...

If I was you, I wouldn't write in such detail. It's the WorldWideWeb gal..

judemasti said...

ok...anonymous.... whoever you are... thought about what you said. I initially wrote this as just my 'journal' of everything... but you're right. Account is edited.... and friends who wish to know the whole story can email me..... point noted...