I saw a fair number of Bollywood films before coming to Bombay. Something that is central throughout almost all of them is the sheer amount of dancing in all of them.
So far this trip has had a lot of dancing. It really began during our Lungi Dance shoot Friday afternoon. We arrived at Whistling Woods at around 4:00pm to practice and didn’t stop shaking our lunghis until 4:00am the following morning.
For the first hour or so we reviewed all the steps with the professional to make sure we had it all down. This was not encouraging. We were set to begin filming in less than two hours and I still didn’t know all my steps. What made it worse was that the time remaining wasn’t all devoted to practice. A good deal of time had to be spent getting all dolled up for the shoot.
First we got into costume. The boys started off in a skin tight white muscle shirt and a lungi. After I was dressed I went to get all made up.
Getting my hair and makeup done was an odd sensation. I don’t often put much effort into the way I look, so I didn’t feel the need to have my makeup done at all. Spending a good deal of time in front of a mirror with a stranger who took more care in my appearance then I do was something I won’t forget. I will admit that I did like what he did with my hair (although I have no photos to upload).
My favorite part was when my moustache was applied. Once it was on my face I didn’t want to take it off. This was mostly because the glue they used to apply the hair really burned my upper lip each time it was applied. That caterpillar of hair below my nose just looked right and gave me the push I needed to start the night.
The beginning of the shoot was rough. Cameras were rolling and I didn’t know my steps. Here we were, in front of a good sized crew that put a lot of effort into setting everything up only for me not to know my part. I struggled through the first part of the shoot, giving the parts I knew all the energy I could. After the boys finished their part and the girls came on set I went up to one of the professional dancers we were performing with and had him take me through the steps. We practiced up until we were needed on set again.
We took our places on the second location and I felt much better prepared. I gave the moves all the energy I had, plus I felt like I was much more in sync with everybody else. I know there were still parts I missed, but that review session really gave me what I needed to continue.
The shoot lasted until 4 AM. Somehow we wrapped early after having a late start. After sleeping all day it was time to celebrate the successful shoot. That night we went out to blow off some steam at a comedy club called Blue Frog Comedy Club, located in downtown Mumbai.
Having been in the country for only a week, I found it pretty amazing that we were all able to relate to the comedian’s takes on life in the city. Most of the stand up that night was pretty funny, even if it wasn’t in English. A good comedian can make you laugh even if he’s speaking Hindi.
After the comedy concluded the music started up and the dancing began again. I wasn’t in the mood to dance, so instead I sat in the lobby and waited until everybody was ready to go home. I sat there pretending to watch soccer for a while. Every so often a complete stranger would approach and ask if I would rather be dancing. I’d use the bags I was watching or stomach problems as an excuse to just sit there. After trying for a bit to coax me inside, they’d find their way to the dance floor.
While I was sitting there I met a really cool guy named Akshay. After trying a couple of times to get me inside the club I followed him outside to meet his friends. Out there was where the real fun was. I met several amazing people that I hope to stay in contact with after all of my new friends return home.
The next day we went exploring. I have no idea where we were, but it was completely different than the Mumbai I know. The streets were quiet and the air was clean; not a rickshaw in sight. As we were all walking down this almost suburban area music can be heard in the background. At first it looks like a street festival. They are playing live music and people are dancing in the road. I had no idea what was going on. At first we all just stood there observing. After a moment somebody entered the crowd. I don’t remember who it was, but what I do know was once I got in there I started dancing. I brushed aside my fears of getting pick pocketed or looking like a fool. The locals seemed to get a kick out of the fact that I was with them dancing. After a while the rest of my group joined me in this dance.
After the fact Mark informed us that what had just happened was a wedding proceeding. As dancers or wedding crashers, it was just another day in Mumbai.