AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Bollywood Extras

In previous days the streets of Thamel had been closed and crowds had gathered as Bollywood came to the city. We asked the crowds about the actor and they responded excitedly and enquired if we also watched Bollywood. Having explained we had never heard of the actor we continued wandering.

The next day we went to Bhaktapur and as we were about to leave we stumbled on crowds again. This time the Bollywood film crew had come to the Royal City. People were cheering as, we assume, the actor was either having a drink at the chain Himalaya Java or was being filmed at the cafe. Either way we wandered away from the blocked square to enjoy a drink. After taking a long rest in a cafe we went back onto the streets to find the crowds had now moved to Durbar Sqaure. We made our way around the edge of the impenetrable crowd and found a taxi driver willing to take us back to Kathmandu for a reasonable price.

It was later that evening that we spotted Madeline. We had previously met her trekking Annapurna Circuit. We stopped to say ‘Hello’ and asked about the rest of the trek. We then asked if she had heard about the big Bollywood actor in town. She told us that she had actually being an extra for the last two days. She explained that the volunteer group she was with had some connection with the production team and asked for extras. She then was somehow roped willingly or unwillingly into recruiting people. She enquired if we around tomorrow and whether we’d be interested. I wasn’t sure about this but surprisingly Andrew seemed to be. You even got paid! Not knowing what on earth to expect we filled in our details and arranged to be collected the next day.

That evening I did some research to find out about this actor. I discovered that this was the 4th highest paid actor in Bollywood with 4.7million followers on twitter. Akshay Kumar is known for his action films and has starred in over 125 films in his career. The film itself is known as ‘Baby’, we assume this was for production only and is a working title.

The next day we arrived at the specified location on time and waited. We tried to work out if any of the other people in the area were also waiting. We spotted two girls and decided they were also there for filming. After a 15minute wait we were rung by Madeline who said they were trying to get someone to collect us and also to ask if Sara and Marie were there. We wandered over to the girls we thought were waiting and discovered that they too were expecting a pickup. 5 minutes later we received another phone call and Madeline asked us if we could get a taxi to the Hyatt. Andrew haggled a taxi for us and after doing a circle of Thamel we were on our way.

We arrived at the Hyatt and spotted Madeline. She seemed quite busy and explained that no one seemed to know what was going on. There were a lot of Europeans waiting around, all extras with the pilot team consisting of a 30 year old captain and an 18 year old co-pilot. They were supposed to look like Luftwaffe, but in their outfits which didn’t fit, they looked like they worked for a low cost carrier. It appeared that most of the budget goes on the star’s salary rather than costumes or organisation. After a while we went downstairs for makeup only for the makeup lady to get uppity and say she didn’t call for us to get makeup and it was her decision not anyone elses. This was the first of many arrogant people on the film set. Some more people arrived, this time from China. We continued to stand around chatting as nothing was happening.

After an hour we were bundled into a minivan. We assumed we were heading to the airport. How very wrong we were. Instead we arrived at the airport hotel. I assumed some filming was going to happen here. How wrong I was again! On the plus side it was lunch. Dahl Baht in many plastic bags, very odd and environmentally unfriendly. We chatted again while we ate and drank. Then we jumped into a mini van and eventually arrived at the airport. Throughout all this dead time we had not being told what the film was about or what we would be doing. We only knew it was to be filmed at the airport.

At the airport we were told to line up in a single file and if we moved we’d be sent home! This was ridiculous. We had no idea who these people were or what they did, there was no greeting or anything. On top of that no one seemed to have a clue. After some time the queue of extras moved forward and some of us were issued with a trolley and an empty suitcase. We were also given a luggage tag from different airlines for our daysacks. They liked to have a daysack in the trolley as well. We were led into the airport stopping in the international arrivals section, in the main through route. The airport had not been sectioned off nor was there anyone to stop people coming through. Instead we were told to stand in a certain place and asked to return to that location after any ‘reset’. This meant the passengers coming through hall had to navigate around us. Amusing as we were stood in spread out locations, standing still and waiting to be filmed. Many thought we were passengers and queued up behind us. The result was chaos!

After 15 minutes of standing a guy told us we were to walk towards the exit and then go right. Those were the only instructions. He called ‘background action’ and we walked as directed. A reset was called just as a Range Rover arrived carrying the main actors. They were now placed at the front of the action with their trolley and bag. More people arrived before we could move again. This time certain people were asked to talk to one another or given some stage directions. The Chinese girls behind us (we were near the back) wanted to get near Akshay Kumar and so on action pushed past us at high speed, meaning Andrew’s trolley bashed someone’s legs who called ‘ow’. Someone at the front went left instead of right and was told off. How dare they follow the main actors, etc, etc. A reset was called.

The Chinese girls asked for a gap so they could race through to be beside the Bollywood star. Action resumed and this time it appeared we walked well and looked like tourists coming out of the airport. It took around 45 minutes for about 10 seconds of footage and took 3 resets.

We were then herded into a corner. The suitcases were changed. We were told to stand in different places. The Chinese girls had managed to get to the front and were very excited about this. The aircrew were just in front of us. Nothing happened and nobody said anything as we stood around once again. After a while water was offered and Akshay Kumar left. We we’re confused as we expected a whole day of filming. Then some random guys appeared. The film producer or whoever he was told us the random guys, who seemed to be actors in the film, would stop and we would split and walk around them. Except he didn’t say it like that and we had no idea what was going on. Background action was called and no one moved, confusion ensued and reset was called. Try again! (Note, there was no film clapper, instead a guy who shouted, but his voice didn’t carry through the terminal). This time people moved on action and as we went to split, Andrew had no room to fit past the guys due to the trolley. Luckily, the actors then walked towards the camera and we could continue. Reset was called and some people were asked to relax. We were chosen to stay, who knows why. Our task was to walk out of the exit with half the extras going left and the other to the right. We were to be talking to one another and were told not to look directly at the camera. Two takes later it was done.

Then we were told the pilot and his crew were to change before coming back. This time we walked to the airport hotel. Confusion again! No one seemed to know what was happening. A lady appeared and led us down a side street, we wandered into a hotel room, looked and walked out. At this point we were on a narrow back alley next to rundown hotels. How odd. Most of us thought we were changing clothes as not to look the same. The reality was that the pilot and crew actors were getting changed. We stood around and watched a cow wander down the alley and said ‘hello’ to some children. Then movement! We wandered up the street and stopped. Once again it seemed no one knew what to do. Eventually we went into another hotel and were told to order a drink. After returning from the toilet I found we could now order food. It was 4pm now. Drinks came and food. I had some toast but Andrew wasn’t hungry yet. Then we told all was finished. We were to collect our money and find our own way back to Thamel.

Andrew and I along with two German girls went over to where Madeline was. As Madeline was Swiss a conversation ensued as to what to do to get the money. Then Madeline spoke to a guy we’d seen around, he seemed to be in charge. She turned around after the conversation with this man to apologise and said he won’t give us all the money. Instead we’d get 4,000 and not 5,000 rupees. He told us it was because we didn’t do the whole day. Madeline was very angry. We spoke to her privately along with the German girls and decided to demand full payment. I explained that 5,000 was the amount we’d agreed on. He gave me 4,000 plus 5,00 for the taxi. I told him it was not right to lie to people and if you agreed an amount you should stick to it as it wasn’t our fault that no one picked us up. The German girl also reiterated, as did Madeline. We didn’t expect to get the full amount but it seems the three of us had made a point and we got the money, mainly thanks to Madeline’s tenacity. We took a taxi back and surprisingly were quite hungry and tired. It seems standing around in 35’c knocks it out of you. Having found the day interesting we said we wouldn’t hurry to do it again as it was so chaotic. We went out to eat.

When we returned to the hotel Andrew had received many calls. Thinking it was the tour agency calling about the Tibetan tour he rang back. To his surprise it was the guy from the filming ringing to apologise. It entailed that Madeline knew him through the volunteering company he ran and she was rightly angry with the guy. He apologised for breaking his promise and offered to take us out for dinner and drinks. We explained we’d eaten but would meet for drinks. He again apologised and we sat through a rather awkward drink at a nearby restaurant with some of his friends. We had thought the German girls would be there but they hadn’t answered their phones and weren’t at the hotel when we went to tell them what had happened.

The day ended quite surrealy but overall it was different and indeed interesting. I’m sure our photos are all over peoples’ Facebook pages as the airport was packed. The next day the agent who we booked the tour company told us he’d also seen us at the airport. So now we are stars!

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