Crazy audition weekend…

Weekends are always very busy for actors who have a full-time day job. It’s the only two days they get where they can dedicate their entire 12-14 hours during the day for audition hunt! This weekend I decided to leave no stone unturned. I went to each and every audition place in this part of the city to make sure I made full use of the two precious days. It turned out to be quite a roller coaster ride.

I started with 106, Aram Nagar where I was sent by a casting agency for a Karbon mobile ad. It was the most horrible audition space I had ever seen. The narrow lanes of Aram Nagar are clustered and have hardly enough space for three people to walk together. To top it, the bungalow where the audition was being held had a narropw entrance that led to a small room filled with film reels (old, rusted film reels actually).

There was a fan that did not help at all. It was 2 in the afternoon and everybody was sweating profusely which reminds me that there were 24 of us in this waiting room outside the audition room. This room led to another room inside where the audition was being held. I did not get to see the audition room. You know why?? After waiting there for 2 hours and 20 minutes, sweating in the heat, awaiting my turn, the casting director came out and told me “Come tomorrow and carry a pair of formals with you!”. This is the same director who had come out several times in the past 2 hours and had seen me waiting for my turn. Had he said it then, it would have saved a lot of my time. However, I can’t do much about it, can I?? So I thanked him and I left. There are a couple of other audition places in Aram Nagar that were very close to this place – Studio 2000, Channel 9, Anurag Kashyap’s office. I went to all of these places and found out that either there are no auditions or that I am not fit (Rajnigandha pan masala – Studio 2000). So I left to go to a different area altogether – 4 Bungalows – RTO lane.

I went first to Studio Elle where they were auditioning for a Dominos ad. I was NOT FIT again. I then went to Studio 77 where I saw my friend Punit Batra waiting for his turn. This is one thing that I have noticed at a lot of auditions. You make a lot of friends and you always bump into them at all the other auditions. It’s quite strange because these are your friends and in a way you are also competing with them to get the part you are fighting for! Anyway, so I was happy to see Batra there whom I informed about the Aram Nagar Karbon mobile ad and asked him to give it a shot. I also met Ashish here for the first time. Ashish plays ‘Zeeshan’ in the TV series Kya Mast Hai Life on Disney. Zeeshan happens to be Zenia’s twin brother – Zenia played by my friend Shweta Tripathi! That’s how I started talking to Ashish. He came across as a sweet, intelligent actor who will eventually make his mark In the TV world and will move to greener pastures then! I think he is already doing pretty well because I (who does not watch too much of TV) have already seen him in some ads and in this TV series. Here’s wishing him all the best!! Anyway, with regard to the audition – I was NOT FIT again! I then went to another studio nearby – Studio 7000. They were auditioning for an English corporate film for which I was NOT FIT as I was too young.

After 4 bungalows, there was just one more place to go to – Oshiwara Link plaza – more commonly known as Shreeji (the restaurant on the ground floor of the building). This is where I lost it a bit. Here’s what happened – On the 2nd floor, studio Nirvana, they were casting for an ICICI ad. There were close to 30 people waiting outside the studio. I went and wrote my name on the Cue sheet (a sheet which registers your name so that people can be sent inside in the order in which they came). I was number 36. They told me that people till number 20 are already in. So, I waited for my turn. It was 5.20 pm then. At about 5.30, the casting director called out the next few people. The list stopped at number 34 (Noooooooooooo!!!!! 😦 😦 😦 ) and the rest were asked to wait for their turn. After this the door did not open for a long long time. There were girls entering the room from the back door and also some other more popular actors given entry from behind. But this front door did not open until 7.20pm. At 7.20pm, the casting director said that they are taking a tea break and would take 10 more minutes. The door opened at 7.45pm and I was let in with the next batch of people. Now, this was nothing unusual. Waiting outside audition halls for 2.5 to 3 hours (or more) is something that almost every aspiring actor (including me) has done several times. However, given the history of other events in the day, I was a bit frustrated and angry about the fact that other people were given an entry from behind while I was waiting for my turn here for almost 3 hours. I decided I will speak up. So when it was my turn to face the camera, I was asked to give my introduction, number and profiles. Here is what I said – “Hi, My name is Dilip Merala. I have been waiting outside for the past 3 hours and so I might look a bit frustrated. Forgive me for that. My aim is to become one of those important personalities who are given entry from the back door. Here are my profiles!”(followed by the routine left right turn for profile capture). The cameraman told me that I should introduce myself and not the studio. After a minor argument, they decided to keep the same introduction without going for a retake. I then performed the part of the audition (guy giving directions for an address with ICICI as a landmark). Towards the end they told me, there are people who wait for their turn an entire day and I told them I know that but I still wanted to speak out. They said they can just delete my entire take if they want. I said if it’s in my destiny, the take will be deleted and I can’t do much about it. But I wanted to speak up.

As heroic as this may sound, this was a bad move. Not because it could cost me the audition, not because it will spoil my rapport with people involved, but because I thought there was nothing the cameraman or the casting director could have done about this. They were doing their job of auditioning people according to the Cue sheet. They had to entertain the occasional “IMPORTANT PERSONALITY” and girls because that’s how the industry works. Why would they want to empathize with those standing outside when they know they have so many options??My intention was not to be rude to anyone – that’s the last thing I would want!! My intention was to make a point – I will soon be one of those treated specially!! However, I don’t think that’s how it came across. So I made it a point to return the next day and apologize to the casting guy and the cameraman.

The next day started with the Karbon mobile ad for which I was no.15 on the Cue sheet. I reached there at 1.15pm and was done by 2.15pm! I then went to a TV audition – Care World TV (opposite City Mall in Andheri West) was auditioning for a new series so I decided to give it a try. I auditioned for the part of a frustrated salesman whose personal life is going through the rocks. The audition went pretty well I thought!

I then went to Shreeji and apologized to the crew from the previous day’s audition. They smiled and said “It’s alright!” I don’t know what they must have said after I left, but I felt much better! I met Naveen here after quite a few days. Naveen is my co-actor in a couple of plays and has also assisted in Love Sex aur Dhoka and Jashn. He is the guy looking for his boxers in one of the Tata Docomo ads!! 😀 He had left for Delhi a few days ago due to some health issues. It was great to see him hale and hearty and raring to go once again!! 🙂

After this I went to Elle and Studio 77 again to check if there was something new going on there but there wasn’t! I am now back to home sweet home!! As I write this post, I feel I have learnt something new, given some good auditions, grown as an actor as every new experience and observation adds to an actor’s encyclopaedia!! 😀

I am not going to get too much time to do this audition hunt thingy from next weekend as theatre rehearsals for Shit happens and some other plays will resume by then. However, I’ll try and be at these places whenever I get any free time so that I can keep all options open! If I don’t get the time, I’ll make time!! Haha 😀 😀

Sorry about this very very very long post guys..there was so much to say!! Hope you all keep reading!!

Lots of love…

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Stars and me…

I was stepping out of my flat to hit the gym today when I saw Koffee with Karan showing on television. I have never been a fan of the show but it always excited me to see how the guests on the show spoke, behaved, joked, and above all – how they fared in the rapid fire! I was always impressed by how comfortable and camera-friendly these stars were and I used to use their style and presentation to measure where I stand in my “star quotient”. Of course, every time I did measure, I found myself to have NO star quotient at all!

So, this time, it was Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan! I saw their rapid fire round and left for the gym. On my way to the gym, I thought that it’s not that these guys crack the best jokes or something! I have been more spontaneous and cracked much better jokes!! However, where these guys score is that they are so comfortable with the other stars (who are often a topic of discussion on the show) and so comfortable with this Karan guy that they actually end up putting a good show and walking away as stars who rule the world! It’s all about confidence – something that all these stars have, something that the others lack, something that I for sure lack!! It has been an area of development for me and I am constantly trying to work on it. There are several times when I walk in for an audition and feel intimidated by the other guys standing there. Why wouldn’t I? These are all tall, fair, good-looking guys who are also good performers! It gives me the jitters and often makes me ask myself – Do I even stand a chance? What was I thinking when I decided that I want to be an actor?? However, I fight this thought and somehow get on with it! And that’s pretty much the story of my life right now..I am fighting my insecurities, trying to gain confidence, and hoping that a day will come when I will get past all these stud boys and grab my dream role!

When I saw Abhishek on TV, I thought – I am 25 years old and I am miles and miles away from where Abhishek has reached today. Alright, he is a Bachchan but I can’t afford to take that as an excuse! There is still so much to do!! I am yet to get my first break! As of now, I am just facing a lot of “not fit”s in most of the auditions I am making it to! Becoming a popular film actor is right at the horizon which as of now looks really blurred! 😦 I need to be a better actor, a better personality, a better something that I am still not aware of! But you know what?!? I am not going to give up! I will fight!! I read somewhere – A river cuts through rocks not because of its strength but because of its persistence!

I want to be that river!! And I will be for sure!! I will learn all the rules of this industry and then devise a way to break through them! Yes, I am unconventional and that is going to be my strength!! I don’t know what I am going to do and how…when I figure out, I’ll let you guys know!! But I will do something!!

Anyways, I just wanted to share some of my insecurities with you guys. There are many many more which every aspiring actor has to go through. However, all of it is worth the effort and it is this struggle that makes life worth living! I often think how boring my life would have been without this dream. Well, let’s leave that for another post!! 😀

For now, I am strong and steady to face the world again tomorrow! I will go to bed with the hope that I will look better, feel more confident, and find my star quotient in the days to come! And then, I am going to kick some serious ass!! 😀

Good night people. Love you all!

The day I saw a legend…

It was 10.20 pm… I had finished rehearsals and was on my way back home… I was doing my routine of standing outside his bungalow for a couple of minutes to feel inspired and motivated.. and finally… finally… I got to see the man!! It was Amitabh Bachchan, in his huge white car entering his bungalow. No driver, nobody else in the car. He was driving himself…looked quite relaxed..must have returned from a long drive..or may be he was just driving down from Jalsa (his other bungalow) to Prateeksha (where he lives, sleeps, writes)!

You know what?!? I was really tired that day since I was in office for 8 hours and then rehearsed for 2 plays. But after I saw him, I instantly got the energy to rehearse for another 48 hours if required! Such is the power of this man!! He has lead a life which inspires one and all! He fell, he stood up. He fell again, and stood up yet again!! We always hear about how the true winner is one who keeps fighting and never gives up! Well, Amitabh Bachchan is the perfect example. He has had his share of flops, bad decisions, accidents, and everything that can screw a person’s happiness! But he fought!! And today, he continues to be India’s finest star actor (very difficult to be both!).

Although Amitji did not see me when I saw him, I quietly said to him – “Hello Sir, you are the greatest man the Hindi film industry has seen! And I hope to work with you soon… And when we do work together, I’ll tell you how much I love your work, how I stand outside your bungalow for a while every now and then because it makes me feel good, how you are the greatest inspiration for any aspiring actor, and (he’ll hate this) how I dream of being better than you some day!!” 😀

Love you Mr. Bachchan! Not matter what the critics say, you’ll be loved by millions and billions and zillions of people 🙂 May God bless you with good health and more love, more success, more opportunities to work with new talented actors who love you!! 🙂

Busy week at Thespo screening…

It was crazy indeed..it always is at Thespo! First, the rehearsals for almost a month to make sure we don’t goof up on D-day. And then the screening with Quasar and Kashin (our honorable judges) staring at us as if they have no idea what we are saying or doing! They hardly laugh at your jokes, they hardly even smile! For one of the plays, Q actually stood up and walked away (to the loo I guess) and came back only during the second act (he left act one mid-way)! Anyways…personally, it was a satisfying experience for me as always. Why? Because I got to perform in 3 plays – all excellent ones, directed by very talented directors!

It started with ‘Afwah’ which happened to me by chance. My friend, Amol Parashar, gave me a call one night asking me to report to him the next morning because he wanted someone to read for a part during the screening. The part turned out to be that of G.S. Chaudhary, a smart-ass cop who finds out that there is something fishy about a social get-together of a few friends who share the second half of their first names with him (‘dar’)! Fun indeed! By the way, I thought Amol stole the show with his energetic, distorted (:P) take on Mahendar! Naveen as Rajendar, the guy who turns deaf, kept people involved and was funny in his deaf acts! Nidhi Bisht was her crazy self and was liked a lot by a certain casting director watching the play! And I must mention that Prabal’s direction and execution of the play as a quick-paced, slapstick fun ride was extremely entertaining and kept me as a member of the audience (my part comes only in Act Two) engaged and excited!

Next up was Evam Indrajit! This was a tough one as we had already taken a risk by choosing a classic! As Quasar pointed out later, such plays always come with their own baggage and we need to be very careful especially if we are gonna f**k with it! We were a bit under-rehearsed, most actors did not know their lines too well, the second-half was untouched, and everybody was nervous since we were doing EVAM INDRAJIT! What helped was that we had Nidhi and Manvi in the audience to cheer us up 🙂 So, when we got on with it, there were cueing problems, actors were forgetting lines (including me), etc. However, the good thing was that the mood was maintained, emotions were in place (I think) and we pulled off a decent show for the time we had spent on rehearsals. It was really bold of Nimish Surte, the director who adapted this one, to have even thought of doing so. The fact that he actually pulled off what he did in the amount of time he had just shows that he will go a long way! Also, Medha as Mansi was cute and sweet and I am sure she is the most beautiful Mansi any director would ever get! 🙂

Finally, the play that I had rehearsed the most for – HOLI! It had a cast of 9 actors (and 4 band members) playing characters that are very different from each other (like the colours of Holi). I played Basant, a guy with a lisp who has issues with his parents and gets rusticated from college for beating up the Principal’s nephew! This play went pretty well I thought but the director, Anuj Rawra, was not too happy with the way it went! That reminds me that I must mention how brilliant Anuj is! His implementation of Holi and his ideas about merging the band with the plot, the opening scene where the 6 characters break through Anand’s door, the final scene where it all comes together were simply… well.. Brilliant! He was very passionate about the project throughout its making and you could see it from the way he was running around on the day of the screening, arranging the sets, pepping up the actors, etc. The actors were all charged up and excited too. As a matter of fact, 3 of us actually got injured during the violent scenes! Exhausting but great fun!! 😀

As much as I enjoyed performing in all of these plays, the best part was the feedback session by Quasar and Kashin after each performance! They rip you apart!! They really do! But as Shweta pointed out, they do it for your own good. I made a note of all the feedback given to each of the plays and I realized that such is the knowledge, experience and expertise of these two guys, that if I use all of their feedback, I can actually come up with a near-flawless play myself! Of course, when I get that play to the Thespo screening next year, they’ll have feedback on that one too..feedback that’ll rip me apart, feedback that I wouldn’t have heard before, but feedback that will teach me a lot and help me grow both as an actor and as a theatre person in general!

It’s sad that the Thespo screening is over and there’ll be no more rehearsals everyday. However, that gives me time to go and hunt for more auditions, do other non-Thespo plays, spend some time with family! If one or more of these plays get through, it’ll be fun to actually take these plays to the Prithvi stage! If not, life moves on…and of course, I have one more year for Thespo..so I’ll try again next year!

Sorry for such a long post…it couldn’t have been shorter! Will try and get some pics of the screening and the festival soon..

Wish us luck!

Lots of love… Cya soon!