How I almost got a small part in a Bollywood film

Sunday, 3rd March 2012

I almost got a small (or perhaps not) role in Bollywood film. They are shooting the part today, perhaps with someone else, as I write an account of it.

I keep auditioning regularly for parts in films, advertisements and whatever else I find out about that piques my interest. In the beginning of 2011, one of the goals I set was that I wanted to be in at least one Bollywood film and at least one advertisement.

At the time, I also wanted to be in a television serial, but perhaps that was because I had not been watching television serials for many years. When I resumed watching them, I had to give up very quickly both, the watching of them and the misdirected ambition of wanting to be in one of them. The quality of television serials in India has fallen to a unretrievable low.

One day, I will make films. And many days before that, I will make a good television serial that is short, crisp, has a story and is loved and watched by all kinds of people for its quality. I already have a few ideas for what I want to make, but I will give them the care of a few years to ripen.

But that's not the point of my story today.

In the last year, I have auditioned for and lost several parts in television advertisements and films. That's something I understand is a part of the journey of being an actor and so I don't get the least bit affected by it anymore.

In September 2012, I auditioned for a part in a mainstream, and reportedly low-budget, Hindi cinema (also known as a Bollywood) film. I am not going to reveal names because that's just not going to be good sense on my part.

I beleive the part was a small one because I do audition for these parts as an extra from time to time. And there's usually the same crowd of people everytime you go to one of these auditions. Some of us recognize each others' faces even though we may not talk much to each other.

I suspect it could have been a not very insignificant part this time.

In October or November 2012, I got to know from the casting agent that I had been selected for a part. Usually, for most roles except those of the leading actors, in Hindi cinema, they don't tell you nothing about the part - not the story, not even your part, and nothing about anything until the date of the shoot.

This could be because of any of the two reasons. For one, I strongly suspect that they don't know the details themselves because at the time, they haven't developed the story any. As for the second reason to my understanding, it boils down to personal work ethics and time management. A lot of people say they manage their time and think to themselves that they manage their time but the truth is otherwise. Only the few good production houses that are already doing well have a story reading session or at least some kind of a communication through which they tell each actor before-hand what part they have been selected for.

Here's a tip for people in the film business. The bar is so low. Everybody is treating everybody like crap. You can do very well if you just treat people nicely. People will want to work for you and do more than they are paid for if you treat them nicely.

My casting agent gave me 5 or 7 dates starting 6th December 2012. I told her time and again that I was particular about the way I organized my time and that I had a commitment to my existing clients and so I needed to tell my clients which days I would on leave of absense from work. So, she'd have to tell me the shooting dates and stick to them.

The casting agent assured me that the dates were fixed. I told my existing client that I wasn't going to be in for work on those days.

Until the night of 5th December 2012, inspite of calling the casting agent a several times in between October/November and December to confirm the dates, I heard not back from her. I wasn't very surprised. If you're a wanna-be in the Indian film industry, and especially if you're starting out with auditioning for small parts, you're treated like a crumb from a cork cap and tossed about. So, that's okay. Though, I don't like being treated this way, as I assume no one does, I took it in my stride. I know that they usually tell you sometimes on the night before, late at night, that you have to be at such and such a place the next morning at 5 AM for a shoot. It's happened to me earlier. It's a horrible way to be treated but this is how it is here.

But when I hadn't heard from the casting agent until even the 6th of December 2012, i.e the first day of the schedule I was given, I called back worried. She said that she'd forgotten to inform me that the shooting had been postponed.

I was a bit mad but I let it go. I was mad not because of what had happened but because of the lack of work ethic of this person and the way they take us for granted.

Anyway, I let go of the whole affair and never inquired ever again about the part assuming this was one of the many opportunities that had almost come and then gone. It's all a part of the game. Rejection and failure are your best friends when you're on your way up.

So, I brushed it off, forgot all about it and moved on with my life, hoping to audition some more for other things.

Last night at 11:20 PM, I got a call from the casting agent telling me that my shoot was at 9 AM this morning at such and such a place.

For a minute, I was again taken aback by this complete disregard for someone's time. Who but someone without any regard for another human being would do this to them? I asked her to ask the director if I could get some lead time. She told me that she couldn't do that and from the way she sounded, you could tell that she was scared of talking to the production house or the director about any concerns that actors (or for them the cheap labourers) have. This smelt very typical of the fear that permeates middle management in today's corporate India. Middle managers who are doing well are those that are very scared of their bosses and don't communicate the concerns of their reportees to their bosses.

I politely declined citing as reason the truth that I was on a commitment to an existing client and needed at least some lead time before I took up on any assignment. I couldn't participate at such short a notice.

I let go off the opportunity.

She said that I could go to the shoot location today and may be shoot some and talk it out with the director. I was deeply offended at that suggestion, though I showed it not. This was clearly her job to do. Her own reluctance to take up the matter with the director and the attitude that all actors were replacable cogs, so they could replaced in no time, was a bit revealing of the farcical term they use for us -- 'artists,' when in reality, what they think of us is probably 'labor' that you can make a buck on.

The film was planned for a release this summer, but given the postponements, I assume it will now take longer. One of the strangenesses of this situation is that even when I watch it, I will never know which part I missed, because I wasn't told exactly what I would be playing.

I know I will get to work with a production house who believes in me and has good production values and a great work ethic. I just needed to set this story on paper so when I look back one day, I'll know that I didn't make a mistake.

One day, not very far off, I will have made my own films.

Related content: