Mumbai – last stop, Bollywood

Continues from the previous post

In terms of accommodation, Colaba was a little bit too upmarket for our pockets, and the Salvation Army hostel, which is apparently the only budget option in the area, was full, so we took a nice hotel in the Fort area.

Having gone through a lot in the previous 24 hours, by the time we took our room we were wrecked, so we just took some dinner in a restaurant nearby and went to sleep almost immediately after dinner.

The day after, with our batteries recharged, we went out to explore the city. As we walked through Colaba causeway, we literally fell in love with Mumbai and its warm and relaxed character –Mumbai is not so chaotic, as Delhi may be, and we got to appreciate this aspect from the very beginning.

Mumbai 5
Some important landmarks in Mumbai: The Taj Tower & Palace, and the Gateway of India.

As I said, Romana had just finished Shantaram and she was very curious to see some of the landmarks that are described and used as settings in the book, such as the Taj Palace and the same Colaba causeway where we had begun our morning walk. Most of all, Romana wanted to go to Leopold’s, a café which is very often mentioned in the book as the place where the author used to meet his friends and other expats for drinks.

Mumbai 4
Romana at Leopold's

We wandered around pretty much all morning, and in the afternoon we went to Leopold’s for a drink. Just as we were crossing the road a few steps away from Leopold’s a guy approached us and said that he was looking for European-looking people. He asked us if we wanted to work as extras in a Bollywood movie, and earn 500 rupees, with breakfast and lunch included. Why not, we thought.

Because we had to leave in two days, accepting the Bollywood offer was going to prevent us from doing any further sightseeing – I wanted to see the Elephanta island, the Marine drive, the Chowpatty beach, and why not, the slums – but the idea of participating into a Bollywood movie was thrilling us.

Mumbai is a city you need to soak up and certainly we are already planning to visit it again in the near future. I could also see myself living there as an expat to tell the truth and who knows, I might explore this possibility soon.

So, we spent our last day in India into a Bollywood studio. The shooting started in the morning. We were picked up at 8 am in Colaba and brought to Film City, north of Mumbai, along with other westerners. The minibus drove through the slums and even though it was kind of early (between 8.30 and 9am) the day there seemed to have started already. After one hour or so we were in the studio, in the hands of make-up artists and hairdressers. Romana was given a slutty red dress and got all dolled up, while I was given a flashy pair of red shoes, a blue leather jacket and a glittering t-shirt. Basically if Romana looked like a slut, I looked like a pimp 🙂

Romana in her slutty red dress
Meet the pimp
Meet the pimp

I tried to shoot a few pictures but a guy from the production asked me to put the camera back in the bag and said that taking pictures was prohibited. Other people who were with us were able to snap a few shots sneakily with their compact cameras (my Panasonic Lumix, which I sold before the trip, would have been so handy!) – I had my iPhone so I tried to take some pictures with it from time to time, but the quality was terrible.

One of the few photos of the set I was able to take with my iPhone
One of the few photos of the set I was able to take with my iPhone

Later during the day we found out the film we were participating into was Ra.One with Shahrukh Khan, and the scenes where we are supposed to appear in are scenes of a party taking place in a club in London. I must confess I never heard of Shahrukh Khan before, but it seems he has been listed by Newsweek as one of the 50 most important people in the world. And of course I’m looking forward to see the movie once it’s out.

It was a long and tiring day: repeating the same scene many times, hearing the director’s screams when something went wrong, and all that. But it was fun, and we met a bunch of interesting people, including an English family (parents and 3 daughters), that were travelling together for a year in a van. They had driven all the way from England down to Africa (check their blog) and took a flight to Mumbai while their van was being shipped on a vessel.

Before leaving Ireland and embarking on this trip, we said many times that we had to do this experience now, before having children and before getting too old, but then while you’re on the road you meet a lot of people who, with their example, challenge your assumptions: you see families travelling together, people who sold their house and went cycling their way around the world, old people backpacking, etc. These people and their stories are very inspiring and it’s good to see that there’s someone out there, who approaches life in a totally different way.

The day after our Bollywood experience, very early in the morning, we took a taxi to the airport. We were leaving India after a very intense six week journey, and my mind began to flick through the memories of this amazing land, its colours, its smells, its culture, its traditions and most importantly its people. I could live again, for one moment, those situations where Romana and I were sipping chai with families we’d just met, tasting exotic delicacies, wandering into temples and being chatted up, being asked for pictures, dodging touts, exchanging ideas with people on the train, travelling uncomfortably in government buses, having strangers staring at us or looking over our shoulders when we took out our iPhone, enjoying Rajasthan’s colours, soaking up the beauty of the Taj Mahal, breathing the magic atmosphere of Pushkar, trekking among the tea plantations, boating our way through the Kerala backwaters…

Finally our flight to Singapore was called, so we made our way into the airplane.

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  • Derek

    Great experience guys…ur living the dream….great stories and pics

    and hey Romana!!….Red dress …fantastic!!!

    • Romana

      Thanks Derek, happy to know you are enjoying 🙂 And you haven’t seen the dress in full 😛

  • lisa

    hey emanuele and romana, this is lisa. i’ve been with you in the bollywood-movie, i was the one with the shiny pink dress on the balcony with romana. just went through all my travel-things and found the piece of paper where you wrote the name of your blog… its really nice to read about your experiences! i wish you good times wherever you are! do you have the email adress of the girl who took some pictures? i forgot her name, i think she was from france…
    anyway… continue travelling, taking pictures and writing!!!
    all the best, lisa from austria

    • Emanuele

      Hi Lisa! So nice to hear from you and thanks for reading us. If you are on facebook you can connect with us there too. Unfortunately I don’t have that girl’s contacts, although we left her our contact details before leaving. I think you’re talking about the spanish tall girl…
      If you have any photos to spare yourself please send them on to our email 🙂

  • nuno carvalho
    • Romana

      I think it will be released closer to the summer… We’ll probably be in only for half second 🙂

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