The next day was to be the day of shooting the placements scene. When I walked into the costume department, I was given a cool shirt, trousers and a suit. I do not own a suit and the only time I had worn one was for a play. I had loved wearing it. And the one Nikita and Natascha had picked for me was awesome. After I got dressed, Nikita confirmed that I was looking great. I then moved to the floor where the shot was set up. I was asked to wait while some other scene in which I wasn’t required was being shot. It was 9 in the morning. The sun was beginning to shine brighter and brighter making the shirt inside my blazer more and more moist with sweat. Wearing the blazer in the Ahmadabad heat was killing me so after a while, I took it off. Thankfully then, I found my way to an air-conditioned room where some ADs and technicians were working. I pulled up a chair and sat in a corner. After I got there, things weren’t too bad. I waited, played games on my phone, chatted for a while with Sakshi (who kept going out and coming in as per her requirement in shots), and before I realized, it was lunch time. The food counters were set up outdoors next to the WIMWI souvenir shop. I was extremely cautious that I don’t spoil my costume while eating by accidentally dropping food on it. So, I maintained a good distance (about a foot and a half) from the table where I kept my plate and did an entire ab crunch as I bent down to put morsels into my mouth. I got back into the room as soon as I could.
The afternoon passed as people from the production and direction team kept coming into the room for some work or the other. I kept thinking about how cool it would be to see myself on the big screen wearing a suit. The memory of Nikita saying that I looked great kept making me smile and wonder how my friends would feel when they see the cool, suited-up Dilip on the big screen. But as I kept waiting for someone to call me for my shot, pack up was announced at around 7pm. It was the end of the placement scene. This was the first time that I had dressed up for a shot and was not made to shoot. It reminded me of college days when I was a bench player for my basketball team. Of course, there was nothing to complain – I was getting paid for the day, was fed meals on time and was hosted in an AC room. I thought this was perhaps one of the better treatments beginners get in this industry. Kriti, Karina and Ishaan might have sensed that I was disappointed about what happened. Ishaan walked up to me and told me that this happens sometimes. It is part and parcel of the process. I understood what he meant. It was just new to me and I was feeling a bit disappointed on losing an opportunity to be filmed in a suit. Also, I was very nervous about the extent of my appearance in the film. So far, it was looking as if I won’t be seen in the film at all. However, little did I know that from that moment onwards, things were only going to look up. What followed in the days to come was the most enjoyable time of my Ahmedabad schedule.
Later that night, Karina informed me that I was not needed to come in early the next day. She made sure that I reached the set only when I was actually needed. Once I was on set (around 1 pm), I was informed that we were to shoot some song cuts in the classroom for which I was to be in the same frame as Arjun. We were also to shoot a small scene later between Arjun and Alia where I had a line to say and all the 5 Mohits had a reaction to give. This got me super excited! Finally, I was to do something more than just standing in the background. I was dying to PERFORM and as small as this scene was, here was my chance! My costumes were being changed as per what Arjun was wearing. It had to be made sure that the frame looked pleasant. I sat next to Arjun and while the shot was being set up, we had our first little chat. I told him about his fan Harshita who had contacted me and asked me to give him a message. He smiled and acknowledged that he knew her. We spoke a bit about other stuff and then a couple of minutes later, the best part of the day came upon us. The part when the gorgeous, stunning Alia walked into the room. This had now become an everyday routine. Amidst a regular day of work with usual on-set activities when things would look dull and boring, Alia, wearing Manish Malhotra’ amazing creations, would walk on to the set and everybody’s jaws would drop. I could hear girls sighing “WOW” and boys saying.. well.. all kinds of stuff! She changed the entire atmosphere as soon as she walked in. The Ahmedabad heat did not burn as much. The wait for Abhishek’s “Action” did not seem long anymore. Like they show in Bollywood films, it became breezy and smelled rosy all of a sudden.You just did not want to take your eyes off her beautiful face, her cute dimples, her wavy hair and that smile which could cast a hypnotic spell on anybody. I am an actor and I hope to do many films, and shoot in several schedules and be on many sets in my life. But I am sure that these will always be my favourite on-set moments – Alia Bhatt walking in to give a shot!
Anyway, the shot was almost ready when Nikita walked up to me with a red kurta just before Binod Sir was about to roll and asked me to change. Abhishek was not happy with what I was wearing and wanted a change in colour. As always, the team was extremely determined to get the colour combination, the background and the look exactly as per their vision. Now, as you might have read in one of my previous posts, I am very shy about taking off my shirt in public. I wanted to rush to a corner but Arjun’s make-up man Raju Bhai noticed my shyness and shouted out – “Arre yaar apun artist hai.. sharma mat.. nikaal shirt idhar hi bindaas” (We are artists.. don’t be shy.. just take off your shirt). Thanks to Raju Bhai’s loud announcement, most of the background artists who were doing their own stuff so far were now looking at me. That was fine. What sucked was that Alia stood right in front of me chatting with Arjun and Abhishek. When you go shirtless in front of a girl, you want to be confident about what lies underneath. And when that girl is Alia Bhatt, you want to have the best physique possible. I, on the other hand, had what could probably be the worst physique in that classroom. And yet, there was no way out. I quickly turned my back towards Arjun and Alia and changed looking at Raju Bhai who kept giggling as I did so. Thankfully, they were so busy chatting that Alia never looked at me. At least I hope she didn’t.
Then, there was some problem with the light and the set up was to take longer. So I just sat next to Arjun waiting for it when the weirdest thing happened. Alia walked up to Arjun from my left and Abhishek walked up from the front and the four of us formed a small little quadrangle. At this point Alia held the bench I was leaning on and her hand slightly touched mine. I got very nervous and moved my hand inwards. And now, Alia, Arjun and Abhishek got into a discussion about some shoot schedule stuff. All I can say about that discussion is that it made me realize how professional Arjun was. He had some other projects going and was very particular about keeping all his commitments. He was absolutely certain that he wanted to accommodate everything that required his attention. This whole discussion went on for about 10-15 minutes and all this while, I just sat there between the three of them.. not moving an inch.. not saying a word.. and very very conscious that Alia was standing so close to me! There were times when I wanted to contribute to the discussion but I thought it would be awkward as it didn’t concern me at all. So I just kept quiet. And just as I was getting used to and comfortable with the 3 of them near me, Binod Sir was ready to shoot. There will be a time when I might get very comfortable with stars and superstars around me but I will never forget these restless moments spent between Arjun, Alia and Abhishek!
After this incident, shoot was fun. It was easy to look at Arjun and Alia and smile normally as a normal person would. Then, the little scene was shot where I had a line to say to Arjun and I thought “Yaaayyyyy! At least I now have as many lines as I had in The Dirty Picture… ONE!” :D. We shot some more song cuts in the days to come. A few days later, on a hot Ahmadabad afternoon, we shot a scene with Alia wearing hot pants (the one you might have seen in the promos). I was supposed to be sitting in the campus reacting to Alia’s shorts as Arjun and Alia walked in front of me. This scene was shot right in the middle of the afternoon and the heat was the worst I had witnessed during the entire shoot. Our chief AD, Pravesh kept instructing me to move into the shade every time the shot was cut. Acheet Dada from production kept getting everyone water bottles to keep them hydrated. And Arjun and Alia did their best to wrap up the scene as quickly as possible. However, by the end of that day, I was so tanned that one could notice the difference on my face. It was almost like a burn. I had a word with Binod Sir about the Ahmedabad heat and he said, “Have you never been to Ahmedabad before?” I told him that I had visited once for a few hours but this was the first time I was here for so long. He said “Ahmedabad is known for this. This is how it is over here..always!” Nevertheless, it was a good experience and once again, was a reality check that acting outdoors is not child’s play. Actors need to be prepared to work in such conditions or even worse.
Sid came back in a couple of days and we shot the convocation scene, once again under the hot Ahmedabad sun. The job done by all the ADs on this day is commendable. They had to manage a huge crowd of a few hundred people and they did it very efficiently. AD Karina, who has the most adorable accent when she speaks in Hindi, exercised the full capacity of her throat as she kept shouting and asking artists to get ready and reach the set. I will never forget her trying to tell a few girls – “aap log… (pause and hand gesture)… udhar pe… (pause and head shake)… jaao”. The shoot was also interrupted by rain due to which it had to be carried over to the next day. But the team managed it quite easily and actually ended up wrapping up the shoot earlier than expected. It was a pleasant sight looking at the ADs playing in the rain and clicking pictures, taking some time off their super busy schedule.
And then came the day when I saw how supremely popular our choreographer REMO was amongst the people of India. We were shooting for a song called ‘Locha-e-ulfat’ in the new IIM campus. As usual, Kshamata and the rest of the art department had done a marvellous job setting up a colourful background against which Arjun was to dance.
I too was one of the many people dancing behind him. Remo was at his best throughout the shoot. Although he was very serious about his work, he had a lighter side to him which often showed in his one liners. For one of the cuts he asked people at the back to do any activity of their choice while Arjun walked forward. After one take, he shouted “Cut” because he realized everyone behind did just one thing – Look at the book they had in their hands. He announced on the mike – “ Waah, yeh kaunsa college hai yaar jahaan itni padhaai hoti hai?? Aur koi activity hi nahin hoti!” (Which college is this where the only activity done is studying?) Everybody burst out laughing. When pack up was announced after a fun-filled day of dance, crowds had already gathered around the campus to see the shoot. When artists started leaving, the crowds came in and I thought they would all flock Arjun and Alia for pictures. But what I saw was that they all ran straight towards Remo. Group after group, people went to him, shook his hand, and clicked pictures with him while he obliged. What should be a 10-minute walk to the main entrance took Remo almost 30 minutes. I was amazed at the love people had for him. And why not?!?Such a great guy – an immensely talented and successful choreographer and yet so humble!
On one of the last few nights of shooting in Ahmadabad, we were to do a little scene where I got my second line in the film. This last minute addition came as a pleasant surprise to me. I was happy that it gave me a chance to be a bit more visible in the film. At the same time, I felt a bit disheartened that this came at a point when I was looking the worst I have looked in a long time. Due to shooting in the sun over the last few days, my face was messed up and make up was not helping. However, I said to myself that my role was such that I did not need to look “good”. I was playing an IIM nerd and my own understanding of my character said that he doesn’t care about how he looks. Plus, after this entire experience, I was extremely happy to just be a part of 2 states. It had given me an opportunity to be an actor in a Dharma film, to be present on a Dharma set, to witness something fantastic being made. I was working with the likes of Binod Pradhan, Abhishek Varman, Arjun Kapoor, and Alia Bhatt. Line or no line, looking good or not good was just not that important. I was just HAPPY to be there. And I just wanted to give it everything that I got – my 100%!
We shot the scene with Arjun and Alia standing near a tea stall in the campus. We did a couple of takes and Binod Sir also took a close up of mine. This is where Arjun sweetly volunteered to stand behind the camera and give me an expression so that I could react to him. He didn’t have to do this… not for a new actor like me whom he hardly knew. But that was just how dedicated he was to a scene. He wanted everything to work perfectly. And being a humble, grounded guy by nature, this gesture came pretty naturally to him. I was also very impressed with his wit and humour during the entire shooting process. I remember for one of the song cuts , we shot an exam sequence where we were asked to submit our answer sheets one by one on “Action”. Seconds before our AD Arif was to call “Action”, Arjun pointed out that he hasn’t been given an answer sheet to submit and said – “There is only so much I can act, you know!” 😀
On the last day of shoot in Ahmadabad, I was given a half-sleeved, Eureka Forbes kind of a shirt for a little song cut that was to be shot in the library. Alia looked at me and smiled as we said ‘Hi’ to each other for the last time. Her smile was a bit more like a laugh. I guess it must be because of what I was wearing. After that, it was a wrap for Sid and me. I met Arjun, Alia, Abhishek, Binod Sir and the team of ADs and Production before leaving the set. I thanked them for what had been the greatest shooting experience of my life. A day later, I was back in Mumbai looking for work.