Everybody we talked to about Bombay on our travels said skip it, garbage, crap, hell hole and few other words we shouldn’t repeat. With only a week before our flight to London and tired of moving around we opted to ignore the negativity and stay 7 days in the city. No Goa, no Taj Mahal, no Rajastan, just Mumbai (okay this is where we turn Bombay to Mumbai).
We landed in Mumbai mid afternoon with nothing booked and not a clue. However after a quick talk with an ex-Jaguar worker, we hopped in a cab to Mumbai’s Colaba area where most tourists stay. Now, the drive from the airport was a wild one! It was full of honking, motorbike weaving in between cars, and non-existent lanes or traffic lights. We didn’t keep track, but the drive probably took over 2 hours. Which is crazy when it’s only 25 kilometers at most, Edmonton international to the north side is about 50km to put it in perspective. Once we arrived in Colaba, we now begun our search with the driver for the hotel we were thinking of (and can’t think of it now!). Then out of the corner of our eyes while we were scanning side to side, we saw a sign for another hotel we thought we would check out, Hotel Moti International. In what seemed like a good location we said ‘STOP!’ to the driver and got out. We toured the room with the owner, Raj, and decided it was good for us. Mumbai has real estate prices as high as Manhattan in some areas (mainly the Colaba area), and we figured 2,500 rupees (about $50CAD) a night was a not bad for where we were.
Raj, gave us some great tips on where to eat, what to do, what not to do and so on. Every single restaurant suggestion of his we tried was great. There is no doubt we ate great for cheap in Mumbai, you’d struggle to spend 10 dollars on a meal for 2. Our meals usually came to 300-600 Rupees, so about $5-11 CAD for two. Out of Raj’s suggestions Olympia & New Laxmi Vilas were our two favorite for Indian dishes. The famous Leopolds was good too, a little more expensive, but still cheap in Canadian terms. The shopping was pretty good on Colaba Causeway too. Lacoste, United Colours of Benetton, Nike, Puma, etc all had shops and most prices were a lot less then back in Canada. We both picked up a couple things each.
On the first day of Diwali (Big Hindi celebration in India), we were walking to get some sweets to give to Raj & his family for the Hindi celebration and a man came up to ask if we wanted to be in a Bollywood film. It was one of the things we wanted to do, so we listened to what he had to say. Everything seemed to be in order, except he only wanted males for this scene. Discouraged, we walked away after giving him a ‘no thanks’ but then turned around and said we’d do it…well Aaron would do it. He told us be out in front of the McDonalds tomorrow morning at 8am (last time I was told that the hamburgler robbed me blind). After our Bollywood casting agent encounter, we made our way back to the hotel with the sweets in hand for Raj.
The Diwali celebration is the most important celebration for Hindu’s and we don’t know all the details of it. However we do know it involves a lot of fireworks & firecrackers and we aren’t talking crowds taped off, 20 minute display. Diwali is in the street right in front of you, ‘oh my god you almost hit me’ and ‘he just got hit in the eye’ type of fireworks. It is chaos for days, at all hours of the day. We spent the start of celebration at the hotel where Raj, his family and the hotel staff lit lots of fireworks and this big roll of 5,000 firecrackers. Once that roll was done it felt like your ear drums were pushed inside your brain. Once the festivities at the hotel were over, they gave us some sweets (none of the ones we gave to Raj, what’s up with that?) and then they retired back to their place. That night we just ended up walking the streets, with ear plugs in of course, watching little boys and girls light fireworks. Then eventually retired as well to rest up for the 8am Bollywood adventure.
On the following day, we went down to the McDonald’s for 8am and waited around for a bit. This was a hint of things to come! They piled us into this bus with shot shocks and that wasn’t a good combination with Mumbai’s cobble stone & rough roads. After a long drive we arrived at the movie studio and we’ll leave it at it was no universal studios. Off the crappy bus and into the crappy studio we all went. All 15ish of us extras sat in a big, dirty, empty room on plastic lawn chairs, while we waited to goto costumes and makeup.
They pulled us to get suited up in groups of 4 to 5 at a time and played a sick, sick game with us foreigners. A team of 3 and two racks of the worst knock-off clothes you’ve ever seen was the costume room. If you were wearing shorts and sandals they gave you a whole new outfit with the pull of the lever on the clothes rack slot machine. Maybe you’d get baggy jeans with a middle finger patch on them, a worst then pleather jacket, or some ballin’ wigger shirt. These 3 people I’m sure loved in that they were making us look like douche bags. Aaron got off pretty lucky, they just gave him a pleather jacket and a guitar necklace.
Next up, was the hair and makeup room. Equipped with hair gel and hair gel this is where they massacred poor Aaron. At first all Aaron got was a bit of powder on the face and a few strokes of a comb. Then while he was standing around the Indians started talking loud and pointing at him, not exactly sure what they were saying and what to do Aaron just gave a WTF face. Eventually they sat him down again and pulled out the number one weapon in their arsenal, hair gel. Gobs of it, inhuman amounts of gel plopped on Aaron’s head and then they proceeded to slick his hair back. One half of Aarissca is glad there is no pictures of the Bollywood adventure, more on why later. We still aren’t sure why they were yelling and pointing at Aaron, but it might have been he didn’t look douchy enough or maybe it was his travel facial hair scruff. We will never truly know.
Once costume, hair and makeup were done they sent us down to the set which was suppose to be a London night club. Now we’ve never seen a London nightclub (at the time, of course), but this place we were sure was nothing like one. It resembled Peewee’s Playhouse on drugs with lots of crushed velvet, but not real crushed velvet…that would be too expensive. A Brit in the group of douche foreigner’s later confirmed, ‘the director of this movie is a golly-wag. This looks nothing like a London nightclub.’ All us foreign and Indian extras stood around on the set for a while with no real clue as to what was going on. Bored with time to kill, rumors started to create and float around ear to ear. The main one was this scene is taking place in a gay bar and that was totally plausible as the only females on the set were 2 bartenders. There was probably 40 foreign and Indian extras on the set…oh god what was half of Aarissca’s Bollywood debut going to be?
Eventually the stars of the film appeared on set and did their fake ‘hollywood’ hugs & kisses to different important people on the set and the last little bits of their makeup. The main star was Akshay Kumar who is one of the biggest Bollywood stars and is doing a movie with Russel Peters! When they were finally ready to do some shooting, the scene began with 2 actors walking down some stairs into the nightclub. All of us extras were suppose to be full of energy having the time of our lives…with no music. This was really hard to do. The scenes we shot before lunch with the actors went well as they didn’t need many takes, but after lunch is where it turned ugly.
When we came back from lunch, they finally allowed the girlfriends, wives, daughters, etc on set after a lot of discussion with the security guards. The ladies were all sitting on the staircase the actors walked down in the scene we shot before lunch and they were all snapping pictures while nobody was watching. Then during one of the breaks to change the set, Aaron came over and someone on the set caught Jessica taking a picture. Here we were, looking down seeing people on the set talking on radios and looking in our direction. Eventually a lady came over and asked us to delete the picture. So Jessica thinking she was all sly and deleted just one picture then cycled backwards through the camera to show there were no more. This lady was not going to be fooled that easily and asked to see the camera because she knew her trick. Needless to say the camera came back empty, oh well.
Up next, they were shooting the scene with dancers on stage in the nightclub. This would have been fine if dancer number 6 didn’t keep on screwing up. Every take all you would hear from the director was something about how bad number 6 is. At least with these scenes they had music playing, so it wasn’t as hard to be’ high energy’. However, it quickly became annoying hearing the same 15 seconds of some Hindi song 25 times. Hiya, huya, piya, fiha, bleh.
Dancer number 6 finally pulled his dancing legs out of his @$$ and we wrapped up a little after 6pm. All in all we seriously shot 30-45 seconds for the movie, pretty sad. Right after they called a wrap, we went up stairs and returned our high quality costumes to wardrobe. However Aaron got to keep his 3 pounds of hair gel! Right after we were all returned to our normal clothes they loaded us back on the bus, paid us each our 500 rupees and headed back to Colaba. Keep your ears and eyes out for the Bollywood hit Housefull 2 in spring 2012! When we got back to Colaba, we went out for supper and drinks with a few people from the movie. Before we all went our separate ways for the night we made further plans to hang out the next day since all our hotel/hostels were close.
The following night started with us Bollywood stars (Brad, Jono, Dustin & Aaron) and a star stuck fan (Jessica) gathering outside our hotel for some drinks. Quickly the booze was all gone and we all went to a kebab shop to grab a late supper. This place was a road side restaurant with cheap tables littering the sidewalks and side of the street. Our food was really good, but we apparently were not. People repeatedly came over and told us to be quieter. So in turn we bolted from there as soon as we were done eating. Next stop was a locals bar called Gokul right by the kebab place. This place was a cramped, tight, two-story, dingy bar. However it served cold, cheap Kingfisher and it didn’t scream tourist so it was good with us.
Again, we were apparently too loud and the locals didn’t like it. Two or three rounds of beers and we left cause we felt like we over stayed our welcome. Dustin & Jono said that was enough and retired for the night while we went with Brad to find a night club. Everything in Mumbai for night life doesn’t stay open too late and it was past midnight so our choices were in between nil and none. However, we did get into one dead club for a mojoito and lesson on cricket from Brad. Indian’s LOVE their cricket, but they wouldn’t let Brad watch the end of the game to see if Australia would pull out the dub. Once they kicked us out and closed the door on our butts we walked back to Brad’s hotel. Eventually we all fell asleep in Brad’s room and woke up the next morning feeling rough.
Brad was set to leave Mumbai for Hong Kong that evening so we all just aimlessly walked around Mumbai until it was time for him to head to the airport. Our last couple of days were pretty uneventful in Mumbai. We did a bit of shopping, had to move rooms twice in the hotel and that was about it as the night of drinking really put us out of commission. Our flight to London couldn’t come quicker because feeling under the weather without familiar comforts sucks! When October 31st came around, we got to the airport and onto our flight without a hiccup. We were glad we gave ourselves a lot of extra time because India security is really intense with all the terrorist attacks Mumbai has seen recently. Leaving India was bittersweet. We loved it there and want to go back, but we were ready to put some roots in the ground.