My experience being an extra in a Bollywood movie in Mumbai, India.

The Next Bollywood Star.

Being an extra in a Bollywood movie in Mumbai, India.

I was already feeling famous in India. People were stopping all over, asking to get their photo taken with me. Men and children were staring at me constantly. Hotel owners were always asking for my autograph. I knew that it was only a matter of time before this near-celebrity paid off.

Welcome to Mumbai.

Almost as soon as I stepped out of the cab to look for a hotel, a man approached me, handed me his card, and asked if I was free the next day to film a Bollywood movie.

Finally, I was discovered!

This man didn’t even know that I had a resume of acting credentials to back up my beauty: 10 years of dance lessons, a starring role in my high school senior play (this was only 13 years ago, mind you), 2 summers of theater camp, 2 student-written plays in college, a (cut) role in a (failed) reality TV show.

My whole life had been leading up to that moment when, finally, a casting director would spot me in a crowd and beckon me into the world of movie star fame.

It was destiny.

The next morning I was whisked away in a private car, taken to a Hyatt, fed breakfast, and then brought up to hair and makeup.

Val is a Bollywood star.

Wardrobe picked out an outfit specifically for me: two (extremely hideous) sweaters and the most epic pair of plastic-coated black plaid skinny jeans that I never thought in a million years would fit but somehow miraculously did. I wanted to steal them. (Hello, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.)

Val is a Bollywood star.

Val is a Bollywood star.

After changing in my own private dressing room (cough the bathroom cough) I relaxed for a while as the makeup artist did his thing while a woman straightened my hair.

I was looking every inch a star. (Especially considering I haven’t even worn makeup in months and am lucky if I remember to brush my hair most days…)

Val is a Bollywood star.

And then I, along with the other carefully-hand-selected group of thespians, rehearsed and mentally prepared for our big debut…

Val is a Bollywood star.

Val is a Bollywood star.

Val is a Bollywood star.

Val is a Bollywood star.

Val is a Bollywood star.

Not too soon after, the director came in and awakened us from our zen-like concentration to explain the intricacies scene: “you are at a house party.”

We were then called onto set.

The director placed me, and two of my co-stars, behind the couch where the two leads would be seated. We were told to pretend like we were watching TV. He must have known that with my extensive theatre experience I didn’t need too much direction. With fake wine in hand I talked, sipped, and watched TV like there was actually something playing on the blank flat screen.

I was a little upset that they didn’t want to put my dancing skills to use in one of those famous Bollywood numbers, but, surely, they didn’t want me to upstage anyone else, and so they stuck to something simple.

After a few takes in which all of the furniture was moved around to accommodate different camera angles, it was time for a break.

Union rules mean stars can’t be on their feet all day, you know.

So we all went downstairs to eat our lunch. I must have nailed my part because a stagehand told us that they were done with the scene and we were dismissed for the day. I must just be a natural.

I bid adieu to my co-stars and we all promised that we simply must return to Mumbai for the premiere.

Word must have spread over town of my born talent because, over the next few days, casting director after casting director stopped me in the street asking me to come be in their movie.

Unfortunately, with my time winding down in India, I had to decline any further offers so I could continue with my sightseeing and soak in the rest of the city before leaving.

But I will always know that Bollywood has a special place for me.

Val is a Bollywood star.

Hi, I'm Val. I spent most of my 20s in a standstill, unable to pick which path in life I wanted to take. I wanted the nomadic life of a traveler but also wanted the husband, the condo, and the kitten. Unable to decide which life I wanted more, I did nothing. When I turned 30 I’d had enough of putting my life on hold and decided to start “choosing my figs.” So, I quit my job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and traveled for three years. Now I'm back in Chicago, decorating my apartment in all the teal, petting my cats, and planning my next adventure.

  • Ali
    June 1, 2012at9:37 am

    Sounds pretty cool! You and Jaime clean up nicely too! Do you even know the name of the movie so you can watch it someday?

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