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I was a non-teenage fluffer


The advertising industry is often criticised for peddling wildly unrealistic consumerist fantasies to the poor. By and large, this complaint strikes me as hypocritical bullshit. We’ve all sat next to someone in a hip cafe, dressed in the latest fashions, wanking on about the emptiness of consumerism over a skinny soy macchiato. But I have to say, in India the advertising industry really lives up to its reputation. One huge campaign at the moment features India’s biggest star, multimillionaire Amitabh Bachchan, in an immaculately tailored suit. He’s strolling down a spotless marble hallway to catch a jet to Milan. The grimy billboards portraying this are poised above gutters overflowing with dirt and litter, or over rivers so choked with plastic you can’t see the banks through it anymore, and so full of fermenting raw sewage that the water effervesces, emitting an almost overwhelmingly putrid stench. Meanwhile, filthy and emaciated children with rotten teeth and matted hair weave through traffic begging for 1 rupee (2.5 US cents), often horrifically disfigured by their own families to increase their earnings.
Being the tireless defender of the proletariat that I am, I decided to strike a blow against this evil. How? By whoring myself out to the lowest bidder for a bit part in a TV commercial, that’s how. Er, taking the system down from the inside. No wait … experiencing exploitation for myself. Stop looking at me like that. You’re putting me off my macchiato.
By agreeing to take 500 rupees for a day’s work (about U$1 an hour), I secured a role as an extra on a TV commercial for a new chocolate bar. Believe it or not, this is a common wage for fresh-off-the-boat goras in Bollywood. The pitch is to wander up to likely-looking backpackers and say “Want to be a Bollywood actor?” Most people, like me, find this idea so amusing they’re willing to do it for a pittance, which is exactly what they get. There is so little concern with acting ability in Bollywood, especially for white characters, that they’re happy to drag pretty much anyone off the street. And with such a rich supply of foreigners passing through, what you get is downwards pressure on wages. 500 rupees will barely cover the cost of the shittiest hotel room in town, and I mean shitty literally. The toilet in mine leaks when you flush it.

The longer-term goras like Harry have developed a delightful lingo for this situation, adopting terms from the porn industry: fluffer, stuntcock and pornstar. The most prestigious category, pornstar, is self-explanatory. Fluffers, the least prestigious, keep the pornstars erect between takes and never appear on screen. In the middle rank are the stuntcocks, who take over if the pornstars can’t keep it up. So they appear on screen, but only in close-ups of their nether regions, so it’s hardly acting.
Now these labels lend themselves readily to Bollywood: extras are fluffers. They never appear recognizably onscreen, and they get paid a pittance. Non-speaking characters, who interact in some way with the main characters, are stuntcocks. They don’t get paid much more than fluffers. Goras with speaking roles, playing named characters, are pornstars, and get paid more again. So I would have been a pornstar if “The Flag” had been finished, but since it fell through I was reduced to being a fluffer in a TV commercial. I was initially disappointed by this drastic drop in pay and status, but little did I know how much more fascinating this work would be…
The production company being too tight to rent a real studio, the ad was shot in an abandoned factory, the Colaba Mukesh Mills. Apparently, this enormous textile factory was destroyed in a fire. It then sat idle, slowly falling into ruins, until cheap film production companies started sneaking in illegally to shoot there. Eventually, the owners wised up slightly and started charging rent, and now it’s a standard Bollywood location. There are rumours that the owners have since wised up slightly further, and are planning to sell the place.
That an enormous piece of prime waterside real estate could lie abandoned in the center of India’s wealthiest city, earning peppercorn rental from shonky filmmakers, would be bizarre enough in itself. But actually visiting the place took things to an entirely different level.The Mukesh Mills proved to be one of the most astounding, gorgeous and surreal places I’ve ever been.

Giant holes gape through rusty corrugated irons roofs; moss and grass sprout from piles of rubble where walls used to be; strangler figs sprout from rooftops and send their roots down the decaying remnants of drainpipes. The centrepiece of the factory, a giant smokestack, has a tree poking out the top. It’s as if a suburb of post-WWII Berlin has been dumped in the tropics, and is gradually being consumed by the jungle.

Scurrying through all of this decay are dozens of highly-trained technicians, operating expensive pieces of high technology and stepping gingerly over thick high-voltage power cables.

And it’s not just in the financial and visual aspects that the place has gone through the looking glass. Real film studios are anonymous by design; large, featureless spaces with electricity and lighting rigs. Within them, sets or bluescreens allow shooting in a controlled environment, where natural light or weather can’t interrupt. The Mukesh Mills are a truly bizarre inversion of this: a breathtaking outdoor location, with no mains electricity or even shelter, and all of this carefully concealed from the cameras by shoddy sets, in this case a generic subway station, which could have been filmed anywhere. Only in India.

My ad features an Indian couple waiting for a train. They eat some chocolate, which is so good it sends them off into reveries; the man daydreams about sexy white women making chocolate, the woman about sexy white men doing the same (white people have a surprisingly complex role as sex objects here). I was on set for the shooting of the woman’s fantasy. Five impressively buff Brazilian men were playing sexy cowboys mixing chocolate. The language barriers were hilarious. Music would play, camera would roll, and the director would be yelling “sexy!” or “macho!” or whatever, to which the Brazilians would give a bemused shrug. So he’d ask the crew how to say it in Portuguese, and the crew would yell back in Hindi, presumably saying “no idea!”

I was in the subway scene, walking anonymously past the actors like a true fluffer. My call-time was 2 pm, but when I arrived they hadn’t even started building the set yet. By dinner time, a couple of the other extras, blonde German girls, were so pissed off by the waiting they left. You might think this would be a problem, but the production team just sent a minion off to the nearby backpacker haunts of Colaba. He returned with a pair of replacement blondes about half an hour later, Dutch this time. Goddamn fluffers. We didn’t actually start shooting my bit until about 1.30 am.

The little photos above don’t do justice to the place. You can check out the full versions here (Click on ‘slideshow’):

Next thrilling instalment, Harry pulls some strings and engineers my return to pornstar status, playing the only thing even more evil than a British soldier. Stay tuned to find out what that is – same crap time, same crap channel.

Postscript, May 2008: You can now see the ad here:

My legs and torso appear momentarily around the three-second mark, walking in from the left. Dagnammit, I thought I was supposed to get 15 seconds of fame. Now you know what a fluffer is.

Back in the Delhi-belly of the beast


Well here I am again. After a long hiatus in America, where nothing weird enough to justify a blog entry happened, I’m back in India, where the weirdness comes thick and fast – faster than I can write it down. Here are some snippets.

The original point of the trip was to finish shooting “The Flag”, the historical epic I banged on about interminably in previous posts. However, shortly after arriving in India at horrendous expense, I was informed that the shoot had been postponed to January. But I wasn’t about to let this little setback foil my plans to become the David Hasselhoff of the subcontinent. Ally, a fellow guest at the Kishan Hotel, kindly took some very good photos of my very bad moustache, to use as a folio. I sent them to Harry’s agent, and sat back waiting for Bollywood’s biggest producers to trample over their own grandmothers to secure my talents.

The phone remained strangely silent. Meanwhile, I went out to see some live music with Harry and some other aspiring Bollywood goras from the Kishan. Rajiv Raja and friends, local jazz musicians, put on a great show. One of the tracks was an extended jazz version of “Smells like teen spirit”. Any musicians reading this are probably gagging at this point; I’m sure Kurt Cobain’s corpse is trying to shoot itself again. But it actually held up brilliantly. Afterwards we went for coffee at a local chain. A stray cat leaped up on Harry’s lap, and proved to have a taste for cappuccino. Now there’s a moggy with style. I’ll bet he wouldn’t touch the god-awful dishwater that passes for coffee in Boston.

It then imposed itself on me. Being in polite company, I stifled the urge to kill it and turn it into clothing.

(L-R: aspiring Bollywood goris Lara, Barbara and Ally).

On the cab-ride back, I learned something about Mumbai taxis. The meters (often cutely decorated with “Don’t touch me”) are mechanical, with a fixed rate in rupees per kilometer. However, the rate was set decades ago, and is now hopelessly out of step with inflation.

Rather than fix the meters, the brilliant solution settled on was to publish conversion tables (eg. in our case, the meter read 13 rupees 40 paise, which converts to about 170 rupees). Our crafty driver had a fake table with an inflated conversion rate.

But Harry’s been here long enough to spot the trick, and loudly refused to pay, which started to attract a crowd. The driver made a big show of demanding to go to the police station, which Harry agreed to delightedly. Once they got round the corner he gave a sly grin and pleaded just for petrol money. Harry offered to pay the full amount if the driver handed over his cheat card, but he refused, and consequently baby gets nothing.

Death from above! … or any other direction for that matter.


I’ve now finished shooting, and am back in the USA after a typically botched stopover in Australia to graduate. When I left, the plan was to return in May for a few more scenes in a studio in Mumbai. Later I heard June. Maybe the thing is simply not going to get finished, which would suck after the life-threatening tales I’m about to relate. I’ve saved a post about road safety in India till now, because again I thought it would be in rather poor taste if one of us died the next day in a horrible accident.

I’ve said many times that Boston drivers are the worst I’ve seen outside the third world, and I stand by it. Nonetheless, this trip reminded me just how big the gap is. The drivers hired by the film company made Boston drivers look outstanding. The first night we visited the set, we were driving back at about 4 am, on the wrong side of the road, and the driver not only sent text messages, but took out the phone’s battery, blew on the contacts and reinstalled it.

txt mssg

I wonder what he was writing? Probably “Ur all gng 2 die. OMG LOL WTF?”

They spent most of the time on the wrong side of the road. When a truck approached, they would swerve back with a fraction of a second to spare. They would overtake around blind corners. One driver nearly killed Glen, Harry and Laura this way. With no way to return to the correct lane when a truck appeared, he had to swerve onto the dirt shoulder at full highway speed. You’d think he’d be chastened by that, but he did the same thing a few days later. He thought it was hilarious that we refused to ride with him after that, and it became a running joke for him and the other drivers that he was the “crazy” driver. I’m sure his thinking was much like Otto (the schoolbus-driver on the Simpsons): “I stand on my record: twelve accidents and not a SINGLE fatality!”
When I pointed out another driver sending text messages, Bhakti said “yes, he’s very brave.”

Many of the tyres are threadbare retreads; the chassis on buses and trucks is usually askew relative to the axles, so they’re pointing in one direction and travelling in another. This bears witness to past accidents, followed by just enough repair work to get them operational again. Roadworthy? Don’t be a sooky la-la.



Look ma, no seatbelts!

The foreign-made vehicles sometimes had them, but they had invariably been poked under the seat so as not to get in the way. I would fish them out when possible, but sometimes this didn’t help much:

As Otto said: if we crash, try and go limp. All of this made the half-hour drive to location rather nerve-wracking. Fortunately, some of the vehicles had opaque sunvisors along the top of the windscreen so we wouldn’t have been able to see the truck that killed us anyway.

Kind of like Zaphod Beeblebrox’s peril-sensitive sunglasses, but permanently on. Very soothing.
So how dangerous is all this really? Well, in the month I was in India I saw the wreckage from three terrible crashes. You may recall the red hatchback in “Mumbai sausage party”.

smashed car
Another two happened out of the front of our hotel in Bhuj.


We arrived not long after the second one. A witness said they had been going at least 80 km/h (50 miles per gringo) when they slammed into the back of a stationary truck. The driver and front passenger had ended up on the bonnet.

The witness claimed they were not seriously injured. I was skeptical: take a look at that front wheel. We later learned that the driver had actually been dragged from the vehicle and savagely beaten by an angry mob, and was in intensive care. Apparently this is unremarkable. The police are so famously corrupt and ineffectual that vigilante mobs are a common way of dealing with accidents.


Note the cracks where the passenger’s head hit the windscreen, knocking it clean out of its frame. Note also how the bench seats were bent forward by the other passengers hitting them. So there’s not much point wearing a seatbelt in the front anyway, because your ribcage will end up stopping not just you, but all the people behind you. And good lord do they ever pack ’em in.


how they hangin?

lean back a little

Especially the extras, who were carted to and from location in cattle trucks.


And I don’t mean cattle-truck in some namby-pamby actor’s metaphorical sense either (“dahlings, it was horrid”); I mean actual cattle trucks.


To end on a cheery note: bet you’ve never seen a five-seater motorbike before. In fact, I suspect the manufacturers themselves would be moderately surprised.


Next time, other cool ways to die.

Don’t be a wallah with water


Last week Harry took sick. He got a nasty fever, with his temperature up to a scary 40.5 °C (105 °Luddite). He was sweating and shaking at the same time. I didn’t write about it earlier because I thought a jokey post would be in rather poor taste if he died. But he survived, so now he’s fair game.

To set the story in context I’ll need to say a word or two about hygiene. The Indians I’ve met are extremely hygiene-conscious. When they share a bottle of water, they pour it into their mouths without touching their lips. They’re bloody good at it too, rarely spilling a drop. Try it; it’s harder than it looks. Harry’s got it down pat, but I have to rest my hand on my chin like a spazzo who still needs training wheels.
Another example: one day on set, Laura sat down and put her feet up on an equipment case. The technician concerned gave her quite a serve. The soles of your feet are considered the filthiest part of your body around here, and it’s quite an insult to put them on things or show them to people.
So the awareness is certainly there, it’s just directed at the wrong things. The equipment cases, for example, sit around in the dirt all day. The very same dirt that the soles of our shoes have been touching, in fact. The real hygiene issue has become mixed up with religious/superstitious ideas, reminiscent of the dietary restrictions in the old testament.

Similarly with the bottle thing; it’s certainly true that some diseases can be spread by saliva (like TB, which you’ll find in undeveloped countries and, er, the USA). Nonetheless, there are other, much nastier, things to worry about over here than spit. People often comment on the seatless toilets in India. They tend to maintain a discreet silence, however, on the absence of toilet paper and soap. We’re staying at one of the ritziest hotels in town, and even here you have to request them specially. The expectation is that you’ll just splash your arse clean like everyone else, then give your hands a rinse.

squat toilet

Now given that food is eaten with bare hands around here, and many foods are also prepared with bare hands, stored at room temperature and served lukewarm, you can begin to see why this is the discerning microbe’s preferred holiday destination.

Then there’s the tap water, which is untreated groundwater, often contaminated with traces of sewage. That means it’s bursting with the fresh, natural goodness of viruses, bacteria, amoeba and other faecal pathogens. And with no chlorine or other artificial additives, it just has to be better for you, right? When I travel, I insist on all-natural groundwater. Billions of people can’t be wrong – Drink Shit!™

Harry drinks

But seriously folks, you want to be drinking bottled, treated water. And you want to break the seal on it yourself:

There are other rules you can follow, like avoiding raw vegetables and peeling fruit yourself, but basically if you’re here for more than a few days, stay within sprinting distance of a lavatory. At this point I can’t resist quoting Irvine Welsh’s immortal words on the topic from “Trainspotting”:

“Ah whip oaf ma keks and sit oan the cold wet porcelain shunky. Ah empty ma guts, feeling as if everything; bowel, stomach, intestines, spleen, liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and fucking brains are aw falling through ma arsehole intae the bowl.”

Four of us five goras here have had the runs to date. And so, contrary to popular mythology, have a good many of the Indians working on the film. One was hospitalized; another quit and went back to Mumbai. This reminds me of my trip to Pakistan a few years back. Our van was crawling through heavy pedestrian traffic, and one of the pedestrians stopped, casually vomited, then kept walking. Our foreign-born tour guide said her local workers ignored her pleas to boil their water etc, and were therefore regularly unable to work, sick as a dog. Mumbai itself has occasional outbreaks of cholera and typhoid.

So that’s the context in which Harry fell ill. We bundled him off to one of the local hospitals. The hospital and doctor were recommended by my travel health people, SOS International. They’ve been great; don’t travel the undeveloped world without them. If you get really sick they’ll even evacuate you to a top hospital in a private jet fitted out for intensive care.

Here’s Harry’s bed in the emergency ward.

Bhuj emergency ward

Here’s a closeup. Note the bloody handprint on the bedframe, and the unidentified stain on the brown mattress cover, which I chose not to investigate further.

bed frame

And remember, this was the best in town. SOS told me they don’t have people treated there; they get them stabilized, then ship ’em elsewhere pronto. Here’s the sink, which went unused. Now where’d that soap get to?

spot the soap

We had him moved to a room of his own. It had an ensuite, complete with bonus items at no extra charge:

mystery substances

How thoughtful of the previous occupant.

Even with a fever Harry never lost the drinking magic.

Harry drinks again

The nurses and cleaners wore fairly dark blue or grey uniforms, like mechanics (don’t show up the stains like those pesky white ones). If you want more detail, Harry will probably tell all in his blog. To cut it short, I was so enchanted by all this that I bought him a plane ticket to Mumbai to go to a proper hospital. Laura accompanied, in case things got even worse on the way. The final verdict was the usual gut bug, but combined with probable malaria. Although the tests were negative – apparently malaria parasites can hide in your liver between bouts of fever. Creepy. He’s taking pills and the fever’s gone. He’s even shooting again, which is good because this episode put the schedule back considerably. Yay artificial chemicals!

Gujarat: they have nazzies


Harry and I recently shot a brief scene together. Hari Nair, the cinematographer, shot it beautifully as always. It was surreal to watch the playback of this gorgeous feature film footage with me and Harry hamming it up.
We two evil British officers were discussing the push for independence. Gandhi got a mention, needless to say, but also a little-known contemporary of his, Subhash Chandra Bose. Bose also wanted the Brits out, but where Gandhi used passive resistance, Bose preferred a bit of the old ultraviolence. For the gringos, think of him as Malcolm X to Gandhi’s Martin Luther King.

The line about Bose and his party was not in the script, but was made up just before the take. We found it hard to decipher the handwriting, so one of the numerous assistant directors read it out to us. But we were still baffled by the phrase “they have nazzies.” After some discussion, we translated this to “they’re supported by the nazis.” Turns out he was on Hitler’s side.

On a tenuously connected note, a confronting sight around Bhuj for the uninitiated Gora is the profusion of swastikas. It’s actually an ancient Sanskrit symbol. Hitler chose it because number one, it looked cool. And you’ve got to admit, it does. Like Sarah Silverman says, “Nazis are a-holes. Although they’re cute when they’re little, I will give them that. They’re sooo cute. Why can’t they stay small?”

swastika roof

But number two, the Aryans came from India, believe it or not. So to Hitler the swastika was a symbol created by white men who conquered an inferior race.
swastika plate
Now to us, and especially to Europeans, that episode has irrevocably tainted the symbol. It’s only used by maladjusted schoolboys who want to shock someone. But to Indians, it remains just what it was: an ancient symbol. And when I say ancient, I mean ancient. It was already ancient when imperial Rome was the latest thing. To indians, the fact that the symbol was coopted for just 12 years of that time, by a failed painter on the other side of the world who was short on graphic design ideas, just doesn’t come up.
swastika box

I don’t get out of bed for less than 2,000 Rupees*


Dahlings, I’m finally an artist!

Our first day of shooting was supposed to start at 6 am, so we got wakeup calls at 4.30 am. We were supposed to shoot the scene where we arrive in the village on horseback. They wanted the three of us who can’t ride horses to learn in the half-hour before dawn. Hmm. The horses had arrived the previous evening, although Harry had been promised several days to get used to them.
One of the horses had a bad leg and was limping, and another had a horrifying eye infection, leaving only one usable horse.
Harry got on to go for a ride, but the trainers hadn’t tightened the girdle, and at the first turn the whole saddle slowly rotated to the side and dumped him unceremoniously on the ground. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt. Less fortunately, I wasn’t there to get a photo.
The donkey was in better shape, but didn’t look quite as imposing.
With nothing to ride, we ended up driving into the village in a vintage Ford.


Here are some of the “name” actors in the film. The ravishing Madhu Sharma, who is even more magnetic in person than the photo suggests.

The luminous Sheetal Shah. Reigning queen of a national beauty pageant (not bad out of a billion people), in-demand painter, and just starting her PhD, but friendly and approachable. Doesn’t she just make you feel totally inadequate?


Harry chats to his onscreen love interest, Khooshboo {something I can’t pronounce starting with G}. The grin says it all.


In case it seems I’m displaying a gender bias, here’s some beefcake. Right, the preposterously handsome and muscular Ashmit Patel, very friendly and self-effacing. Left, Rahul Dev, one of the biggest names in the film. Chiselled and weathered, he’s got an intense screen presence, reminiscent of Clint in the man with no name trilogy.

Rahul and Ashmit

Ah, bugger gender bias. I heartily endorse these traditional backless dresses. Cholis I think they’re called.

Madhu's dress

Excuse me for a moment while I wipe my drool off the keyboard.

Sheetal's dress

The costumes are designed by talented and unflappable siblings Bhakti and Hitesh Kapopara. When hundreds of extras are in their costumes, the effect is stunning.
Bhakti and Hitesh

There’s a lot of waiting around on a film set. I had time to read some papers I’d downloaded in the excellent Nonu Cybercafe in Bhuj, and do a bit of writing. The wonders of technology, eh? This drew quite a crowd. Amid the stream of Hindi I couldn’t miss the occasional “laptop!”

White man bring cargo

Keep smiling, and bye for now.

(* 2000 Rs = U$46)

Get to the point will you


You’re probably thinking: for a blog about a film shoot, there’s been precious little mention of filming so far. In fact, I’ve been thinking the same thing. We goras (white people) were supposed to have started shooting some time ago, but the director wasn’t happy with our uniforms. We would go to a fitting, and the required alterations would be recorded. Then a few days later we’d go for another fitting; usually nothing had changed, but sometimes things got worse. Finally, after about five fittings, our costumes were a reasonable fit.

The film is called “The Flag”, and it goes like this: some British army officers visit an unspoiled Indian village to find recruits for the war, but when the recruits’ bodies start coming back wrapped in the union jack, things turn nasty. There are four British officers in total, played (fittingly) by three Australians (me, Harry and Glen) and a Swede (Marcus). Marcus asked me not to mention him in my blog, and asked for the address so he could check. Marcus says he once got into a “blog war” with someone who mentioned him in a blog. Hi Marcus!

Harry plays the evil commanding officer, who goes by the chilling name of Garry. I was miffed to find that my character, Simon, had no lines. But they improvise freely, so you never know. In an early draft of the screenplay, Simon molested a beautiful innocent village girl. But in later versions he only cuts her hair. What a gyp!

We’re not just in the tropics, we’re on one.tropic of cancer

The evil brothers finally in costume.


Harry and Glen do a readthrough.


This is trickier than you’d think:


The goats round these parts look funny.
weird goats

They act funny too. One of them tried to eat my pants.

goat nibbles

The camels are not quite as calm as the cows, but close.
me and camel

Is that the wall of a hut? Why no.


I’ve got a lot of lovely shots that I won’t be sharing yet, because the director Sajeev doesn’t want me to give away details of the film. So for now, only shots that don’t give you a clear idea of what’s going on. Next time featuring more people.

Take light!


Kicking around waiting for shooting to start, we went downtown to see a Hindi movie. Apparently, if there’s no singing and dancing, it’s not Bollywood, it’s a “Hindi movie.” Asking if a Bollywood film is a musical is like asking if a Hollywood film is a non-musical. Matter of fact, for all my use of the B word, what I’m in is a Hindi movie. Much more on that in later instalments.

The film was “Nishabd.” The poster is very understated, no? You might get the idea it’s soft porn, but this is India. There were perhaps two kisses on the lips, no tongue. Even then, the film has provoked riots over its immorality. The film follows in the tradition of Lolita, To Sir with Love, Network, Sin City, American Beauty … gee, old men sure love making films about nubile young women falling in love with old men, don’t they. Admittedly I’m in an increasingly weak position to judge.


We sat in the first class section, which cost an extortionate $1.50. The audience made a racket, yelling at the screen, cheering, wolf-whistling etc. What amazed me were the languages: here was an audience of extremely poor uneducated Gujarati speakers, watching rapid-fire dialogue in a mix of Hindi and English without subtitles. And they were lapping it up.

The main Lolita character’s catchphrase was “Take light!” – which was apparently meant to mean take it easy. And her accent drifted from America to Australia to parts unknown. The film is obviously meant to be tragedy, but in the serious scenes, I couldn’t take my eyes off one of the supporting actors. He had such profuse ear hair (nay, fur) that it actually formed a kind of pointy halo, like an elf or Dr Spock. Good god man, get it dealt with.

PS – Harry has a blog of his own. He linked to mine a while ago, but I was too much of a primadonna to reciprocate. But now, all will be revealed:

Holi (insert pun here)


On Sunday we celebrated Holi. The best description I heard of this is “the Hindu festival of colours.” If you want the true story, google it – your net connection is faster than mine. The upshot is that everyone runs around throwing coloured powders at each other. It’s a National Geographic photographer’s wet dream.

First you buy your pigments:

Then your enemy approaches. Steel yourself.

know your enemy

The enemy opens fire.


The moment of impact:

Ker pow!

We return fire.

Take that.


Pink suits you.

And the rest pretty much writes itself. Shankar and Tarana share a moment:


Our masterful cinematographer Hari does his best zombie:


You know you sometimes see Swedish tennis fans made up in the national colours? I think India’s colours are way cooler.


Dagnammit, I used to think MY moustache was cool. Advantage Deepak.

Battle of the moustaches

And of course, once the fun’s over you need to hose yourself off, providing an entirely non-gratuitous opportunity to show starlets in wet t-shirts. The guy with tattoos is our exuberant costume designer Hitesh. More on him later.
Cleaning off

Later that day we watched the rough cut of Harry’s sex scene. They shot it in a Mumbai studio before I arrived. SENSATIONAL! Think the sex scene from Top Gun as performed by David Hasselhoff, in superslo-mo, with more gaudy chiffon than you could poke a stick at, and an indoor waterfall which mysteriously appears in the desert. Next up, a night at the (Hindi) movies.

Namaste Bhuj


We are now in Bhuj, in Gujarat, where most of the film will be shot. We took the overnight train from Mumbai. Fortunately, we weren’t on this one:
bent train
The name Bhuj may ring a bell – the place suffered a terrible earthquake in 2001, wreckage from which is still apparent everywhere.
However, a huge amount of aid flowed in afterwards, much of which went towards a very flash-looking hospital, one of the best in India I’m told. It certainly looks it. I’ll be glad it’s there when we start firing guns off the back of horses.
Bhuj hospital
Certainly beats the pants off this place:

Bhuj pathology

The region looks very dry and dusty to me, and reminded me of central Australia. Costume designer Bhakti told me, however, that it’s actually looking unusually green “because it rained last year”. And here I was worrying about malaria. Haven’t seen a mozzie yet.
The locals get around on very colourful trucks and motorbikes.


Curiously, the mirrors on this one all point at the rider. Who are those handsome devils?


But we get around in tuk tuks like this. Pile in!

Bus tuk tuk

The Brahmin (?) cows are everywhere, and are amazingly calm around people:

Cow pat

and vehicles:

Give way to cows

So that’s why Tyler Durden says “Calm as Hindu cows.” Tune in next time for the coolest holiday ever, the Hindu festival of colours, Holi.

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