Making of a BollyWood Movie

 So, living here in Phuket, Thailand, I get a lot of chances to be in movies as they are cheap to make here.
I’ve been an extra now in 5 different ones in the last 3 years.

The biggest was an HBO production starring Tim Roth in “Tsunami the Aftermath” 2 years ago. It was very impressing working there and seeing for the first time a big production movie where there are tons of equipment and they do incredible things like shoot daytime scenes in the nighttime with the assistance of huge lights of all kinds.

One of the most fun sets I worked on was with a Czech company doing another Tsunami related movie over near Krabi last year when we were supposed to be an aging hippy band and were supposed to be drunk so they started feeding us ice cold beers about 6 PM for a shoot that started around 10:30 at night. Big fun that I’ve written about on another post here.

So, I am on a set right now that is a Bollywood action movie. This is my first big action experience as an extra and it’s been very interesting.

First of all, the director, cameramen, producer and much of the crew are from India. The star is some famous Bollywood star that is very tall, big and macho and always fussing with his hair. There is a lot of stunts with motorcycles (fast ones) and shooting and all the stunts are being handled by an American company.

Now, I don’t know if it’s just me, being from the states, or what, but the American’s are showing themselves to be the assholes of the set everyday. Their leader is a loudmouth macho egotistical guy with tattoos all over his body and he seems to enjoy screaming and threatening anyone in his vicinity with huge shows of his authority and belittling whoever he can.
I guess he just doesn’t understand Asian culture and the whole “face” thing. You just don’t make people look bad in front of their peers unless you want to make an enemy. This is like road rage, something you just don’t see in Thailand because it is a show of losing control and that is about the best way to lose face yourself.

So, although this guy seems to think he’s being cool by chewing people out in front of 100 extras and about 60 crew everyday, in reality, he is just losing respect or “face” for himself and now almost everyone snickers behind his back at him. Of course we don’t do it to his face cause he will most likely try to make fun of us.


Now we are on our 3rd day and it’s been very action packed although it takes a very long time to set up each shot because there seems to be about 12 different guys running around shouting at us to start from here, no here, no back up , no run this way, no run this way, no I told you not to run, please run faster, etc, etc.

We’ve since learned to basically do whatever we want as sooner or later, someone will tell you to do the thing you want anyway. That means some people get lost and stay in the background or in an alleyway where they are not seen. But my friend Tony and I like to be near the action so we drift closer and closer and have been right aside of the star many times already.

I don’t know his name yet but he is a pretty cool star. He seems to have time to talk to everyone and even warns us about falling plant pots when the crew forgot to. He seems to be doing most all the stunts himself. The first day that got him in trouble.

We were on this scene where he was running along a banister and then jumped up on the banister about 20 feet in the air while they were shooting at him and he was knocking over these planters. When he got to the end, he looked down and jumped on top of this taxi sitting there. Well, it was wired to implode and a loud bomb went off in the trunk and then he was supposed to do a front flip onto the hood, run out in traffic, get hit by a car and then jump on a Ducatti motorcycle and take off with 3 goons chasing him.

It took about 6 takes to do it all because first of all, the gun misfired and he didn’t jump. There was a shouting match for a while with: guess who? And the star said he never heard the shots (because the gun didn’t work) So, they continued from that point as the scene had already taken 4 hours and they didn’t want to rewire all the gunshots and falling planters and bombs so they took it from the jump.

Well he did it and this time the car worked pretty well except the windscreen (windshield for you Americans) didn’t implode and when he did the flip, he cut his head on the windscreen. So, we had to wait about an hour while they stitched up his head or whatever they did.

He came out later with makeup on and you couldn’t even see it. So, then we shot the scene where he gets hit by the car. I was right aside of him and the car almost hit me too. But then the motorcycle wouldn’t start and it took 4 takes but finally they just started it and kept it running for him. So, we got a lot of practice with the speeding car almost hitting me and hitting him.

Although you can make a movie cheap here because everything is less expensive than in the western world, the trade of is quality. The gun not going off happens about every other scene in which a gun is used. Because they are using Thai guns, maintained by Thai people and they are worn out. You can see the American’s getting frustrated with this but the Thais just shrug their shoulders and we’ve learned to expect delays and go with the flow and don’t be in a hurry. I wonder if they’ll figure that out by the end of their shooting here.

Another interesting fact is that this movie is supposed to take place in the Bahamas. That means all license plates have to be changed. Wording on signs, flags have to be switched and about 50 or 60 black people have been brought in from Bangkok and are staying in a nearby hotel. They are mostly from Ghana and Kenya and are interesting to talk to and observe. The women are quite overweight and always asking where they can find a man. I say good luck with all these young, skinny Thai women wanting the same but they say, “yeah but they can’t dance” I was playing some music yesterday and a few wanted to know what I was listening to. I showed them a song I like that goes like this: “I see you baby, shakin that ass, shakin that ass” They got all excited and asked if I like big asses shaking to the music ? Sorry, I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I’d rather watch one of these Thai ladies dancing with the shorts on that are about 4” long.

The guys all seem pretty fit and skinny and it’s very hard for the crew to get them to be quiet. They talk (in their language of course) a lot and seem to ignore things around them. I’ve never been around a lot of African people before and I will say they all seem to have rhythm. (and very colorful clothes) Now that it’s been a few days, I’ve become somewhat friends with a few of them and it’s like everywhere else. Many are very cool and smart, and others just act like a**holes.

Akshar Kumar is the name of the big star, seen here with Tony

So on this 3rd day of shooting, here in the streets and back alleys of Phuket town, we just finished a scene that we started yesterday when we were right near the action and fight scene going on between the star and 4 or 5 goons with guns. Yesterday we ran away from the action, and today we were walking towards it. After waiting for sun for about 2 hours, they finally did a take. Well, the stunt crew ActionTek from California must’ve put too much gunpowder in the flower pots that the bullet was supposed to hit. Shrapnel from the exploding pot flew everywhere and there were a few people hurt.
The star had a small cut on his neck. We saw medical personnel taking care of a few extras and stunt men and we were told to hurry and get out of there and go break for lunch.

Now, a day later, we are finally finished with that scene in Phuket town. We shot a few more scenes from different angles and at the end of the day, we were told that we wouldn’t be needed again, at least for the next few days.
So, I saw all the kids saying goodbye to Akshar Kumar, (the big star) and getting him to sign autographs. They were together for a while and I was walking past and saw him reaching into his wallet and handing each of them a US 100 Dollar Bill!
I tell you, this guy has been incredible. Out of all the actors I’ve seen on sets, he is the 1st one to say hi to everyone. When he finishes a fighting scene (and he wins them all) he goes around telling everyone he has hit that he is sorry. Always has time for a picture for anyone who asks him. And now, he has given $100 each to the kids on the set. I am impressed with his humbleness and genererosity.

Today I took Simon up to Laem Prom Thep where they are filming some bike chasing scenes with the big, fast bikes that they brought from America. The star rides a Ducatti, with a Yamaha and 2 Suzukis chasing him. We watched them go by about 4 times.
The crew was very nice and offered us sodas and a nice spot in the shade. Some of them recognized me and asked questions about where I live. They then told me where they would be shooting tomorrow (a rubber plantation) and also that this movie has the largest budget of any movie ever to come out of India.

One of the stunt crew was talking to us and then told me that they are going to shoot a scene later this month in Bangkok that will explode or demolish 23 cars, 17 motorcycles, and a semi (big truck) and they are going to do all this on the expressway. That should be a real challenge for the logistics crew, aye?