My first big banner audition…

How often does an aspiring actor get a call from a “big banner”? I was fortunate enough to get mine! The 23rd of March, 2011 – one more day that I will never forget; A day that I will remember no matter where this journey leads me to! This was the day when I gave my first big banner audition. It was for Dharma Productions – the same production house that made excellent and hugely successful films like Agneepath (Amitji), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (SRK, Kajol, Rani), Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (Amitji, Hrithik, SRK, Jayaji, Kajol, Kareena)!!

I was walking on the streets of Lokhandwala shopping for some daily stuff when I got a call from Varun, the guy casting for this little scene in the next Dharma film. He got my number from one of the casting directors I had sent my pictures to a while ago. He told me that he wants to test me for a very small scene in the next Dharma film where I am supposed to be giving an office presentation. I immediately understood that it is for one of those blink-and-you’ll -miss parts in the film. However, it was for Dharma and I wouldn’t mind starting small I thought! So, I told him that I will be there the next day. I thought that even if I do not get anything, I will at least get a chance to go to the Dharma Productions office and drop my pictures and Resume there. This is when I realized that I had no hard copies of my pictures, they were all circulated. So I quickly ordered a few prints to be delivered the next day.

I could hardly sleep that night. I kept thinking about different things – how big would this role be? Would I get it? If I do, is it what I really want to do? Shouldn’t I be looking for something bigger? What if I get typecast? But I had to start somewhere. So, I decided that I will be going no matter what! The next day, I sent a text message to my manager saying I am unwell! I did tell him later that I lied (coz I knew he would read this post anyway!). I borrowed a formal belt from one of my flatmates (Rahul) and formal shoes from another (Karthik). I wore my own formal shirt and trousers (I am glad I had something at least!). I was supposed to be there by 1.30pm. I was getting late due to the traffic so I called Varun and he told me that it would be absolutely fine if I come by 2. So there I was, at 2pm, at the Dharma Productions office! The 2nd floor was occupied by Dharma. I walked into one of the rooms which had a beautiful, framed picture of Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Someone guided me that I was in the wrong room and auditions were happening next door. I went there and found Varun busy with a couple of girls for their auditions. One of the girls was rehearsing the lines Kareena spoke in K3G. Another guy was rehearsing Aamir’s speech on books from 3 Idiots. I took a seat and waited for Varun to give me my bit to rehearse.

Varun returned with a sheet that had the scene I was to enact. It had precisely two lines (wouldn’t like to disclose what they were as the movie is not out yet). Well, I hadn’t expected anything more. I memorised those lines and figured out how I will perform the scene. I waited for my turn for about an hour. While I was waiting, I really enjoyed watching the girl doing the Kareena bit. Although she was doing it really well, my concern was that she was doing it just like Kareena. Anyway, I really hope that she got through!

My turn came, I walked in, and delivered in front of the camera. Varun wasn’t happy with the first few takes. He wasn’t quite getting from me what he wanted. It took 5 takes for me to get it right (as Varun needed).  All of this took just about 3-4 minutes. The audition was over and I felt good to have at least turned up and tried for the role no matter what the outcome would be. I told Varun that I would appreciate if he lets me know whenever there is anything that I am fit for. About this one, he said he’ll let me know by the end of the week. I left my pictures with my name and number at the reception. I tried asking Varun and the other security guys if there was a way I could meet Karan Johar for just 2 minutes. They said it was impossible (as expected) and that if I came back some other day, I could meet one of his assistants. I left the Dharma office with the hope that I will return some day, for a bigger role, and then some other day, as a Star! My picture will be up on those walls too!

I haven’t heard from Varun yet but I believe that whatever happens, happens for the best! If I do hear from him, I will do the little part with all my sincerity and the hope that I get noticed. If I do not hear from him on this one, I will try to get my hands on something bigger while I keep trying to meet other directors and casting directors!

Till the next one then..

 

Love and Regards..

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Gymming with celebrities…

I do not know whether this is going to turn out to be a sensible move or not. However, I have been impulsive in a lot of decisions that I have made in life and this may be one of them. I have enrolled for a very (very!) expensive gym. They say it’s India’s biggest fitness center. It’s called True Fitness and is located at Andheri West, about 10 minutes away from where I live. It is a star-studded gym occupied with film and television celebrities!

I was introduced to this gym by my flatmate Kartik and when I went for a free trial, I liked what I saw. The entire top floor of the mall (Crystal Point / Star Bazaar) is occupied by this gym and I hear that the 3rd floor too has some yoga and spa faciltities for VIPs. No wonder then that people like Shahid Kapur, Anushka Sharma, Asin, Minisha Lamba, Madhur Bhandarkar, Aamir Ali, and a host of other celebrities whose names I do not know have chosen this gym for their daily workouts!

On my first day, I bumped into Sudhir Mishra, the director of Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi and yeh Saali Zindagi. I saw a couple of aspiring actors doing the usual (wannabe) talk with him. I so wanted to go and tell him “Sir, I am a very good actor and I would love to work with you in your next film. Please let me audition once. You won’t regert it”. However, I just kep quiet. I did not want to come across as one of those several aspiring actors who are just waiting for an opportunity to see a director and pounce on him. I had to respect his personal space. The same happened with Shahid Kapur yesterday. While there were a couple of people walking up to him and doing the regular “I like your work” chat, I did not feel like. What I really want is for these celebritiess to know me first! Know me for my work or for something good I have done. Then, it makes sense to use the gym as a social place and chat up with them.

Right now, I just happen to be one of the many unknown faces who dream of making it big like these guys. I thought I should first rise above this level, somehow! And then, I will be worthy of talking to them. It’s quite ironic though. If I do not use these opportunities to talk to directors, how would I rise above this level. Why have I joined such an expensive gym then?

I have no idea how I am going to crack this. What I do know is – I am going to work hard at the gym and try and build a physique for myself that will sell. Meanwhile, any opportunity that I get to meet a director and tell him about myself and ask for a part, would need to be capitalized on in a subtle way. Not like a wanna-be!

One more thing before I sign off for today…Every time I see a Star, I feel restless! I feel that I have such a long way to go while these guys have already made it so big. It urges me to do more, it motivates me to push further, it drives me to work harder. Watching Shahid Kapur work out next to me has done that. Once again, I feel all charged up…restless..raring to go! I want to be on the move..meet as many producers, directors, casting directors as possible..I have to do something or I will regret wasting all this time for the rest of my life!

 

Love and Regards

Mentioned in a newspaper..

My first newspaper mention is here!! It’s for my performance in the play Siddhivinayak Saves Mumbai from Terror Attack in The Deccan Herald. It says:

“Dilip Merla, as her disinterested husband, portrayed the quintessential urban lad whose only ambition in life is to make pot loads of money. He was a delight to watch.”

Here is the entire artcile:

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/144768/opening-many-eyes.html#top

Many thanks to the reporter for the kind words!! 🙂

Holi, the performance..

2nd of March, 2011. Reporting time was 10 am at Prithvi. We had packed up by 11.30pm the previous night so we had enough time to rest and get back. However, I don’t think many of us slept well. Like Nikhil told us the next day, he kept waking up every 15 minutes to see if it was time to go yet.

I picked up Bhardwaj and reached Prithvi by 10.30am. The Prithvi café was as pleasant as it is on other mornings. No crowd, no noise, just Prithvi and us and the lovely morning. There had been several times when I had reached Prithvi early in the morning with nobody else having arrived. I loved to just sit in the café and look at all the posters of classic plays on display. It is the ideal time and place for creative thoughts! This time, Anuj and some others were already there. Soon after we reached, we began with all the pre-performance work – arranging the props, setting up the stage and the set, helping Anmol who was to do the lights. This is when I rushed to a shop nearby to get an eraser and photo copies of the light design for Anmol.  I was surprised when I saw Sanjay Khan with his grandson in the shop buying a huge blue-coloured toy car! The kid looked just like his parents Hrithik and Suzaane – very cute and adorable! Anyway, so I bought the eraser and rushed back to Anmol, then continued with the rest of the production work and before we realized, it was post lunch time and nobody had eaten a thing since morning. People were hungry but there was no time. Also, the anxiety had taken over the hunger as it was getting close to performance time!

We spent a considerable amount of time placing the props where Anuj needed. There was a whole lot of crap in our set – drums, dry leaves, old sacks, benches, and several other stuff we picked up from the streets and the rehearsal space. We also had to use all of this to set up the tapri in one part of the stage. All of this with and Quasar and Anmol crying foul for not giving them the stage for lighting yet! So we quickly helped them with the lighting cues and just when we thought we’ll get some time to grab a bite, it was time for the first bell! Now, usually first bell means we have another 15 minutes to go on stage and begin performing. But in Holi, we begin performing right from the first bell. So Sohail and me did not get to even go to the loo. We rushed to our respective positions where I had to start laughing and Sohail had to start brushing his teeth(as part of our performance that is). And then rang the first bell…and in came the audiences – most of whom were my friends!!!

I started laughing my lungs out…was not difficult as I kept seeing some friend or the other of mine staring at me wondering what I am doing and that made me laugh further. On third bell, I ran to change my costume and take my position for the beginning of the play. After that, nothing was in anybody’s control..the performance had started..I wasn’t feeling anything that I felt before the beginning of the show..The character of Basant and mood of the scenes took over everything!!

Everything went well till the scene that shows a rift between Basant and Pandey (played by a certain terrific actor named Amol Parashar). The rift led to a collapse of the tapri..the tapri we took almost two hours to set up! However, Nimesh who played the tapriwaala and Anuj covered it up brilliantly with their performance! There was a line goof-up in the last scene of the play due to which things dragged a bit but the actors improvised and brought about the effect that was required. By the end of the show, everyone knew that there were goof-ups but it was still a satisfying performance. The 9pm show could only get better!

 I met my friends after the show – 62 of them! They had loved it and appreciated my performance. However, as it always happens with me, they liked other actors better! The winners were – Nikhil Pandey a.k.a. Srivastav and Rajat Sharma a.k.a. Ranjeet for their cuteness…and Abhishek Bhardwaj a.k.a. Gopal for his performance! They also appreciated Amol, Mayur and Nimesh for their respective performances! And it goes without saying that Anuj got not just the sympathy votes but also the credit for pulling off such a beautiful performance in addition to directing the play. There wasn’t much time to socialize as we had to get ready for the 9 pm show. The tapri had to be reconstructed..Oh dear!! What a task that was!! So we all rushed back and got at it…Quote amazingly, the tapri was ready in no time..we had a little pep-up by Quasar and Anuj and we were all ready for the 9 pm show!

Once again, I was back at the starting position and the laughing began. My closest friends and their families were coming for the 9 pm show so this one was special too. I had asked Dad not to attend these shows because of the nature of content in the play. I wouldn’t have been comfortable performing it before him..not yet!!:) But everybody else was there and once again, I was nervous. However, the show started and took away all of the fright! This show, in my view, was much better than the 6pm one! We were more confident, the tapri didn’t fall, no one forgot lines, the audience laughed at all of my jokes..Wow!! I couldn’t have asked for more!! Everyone was happy after the show – the actors, the director, the band, Anmol. The audience was not really HAPPY but I would like to believe that they felt what we wanted them to feel.

By the end of all this, I felt really proud of Anuj. He deserved every bit of the acclaim he was getting. His direction, execution, acting were all spot on! He got beaten up to an extent one can’t imagine..but he was smiling and laughing at the end of it all..because I think it went exactly as he wanted! Anmol did a brilliant job at lights considering he was not given a technical run-through with the actors! And how can we forget the BAND?!?!?

They played, they acted, they conquered everybody’s hearts!! People have been asking me for the songs since the day of the play! Arjun has his own female fan- following…Dimitris (don’t know how to spell his name) seems to be the new cute-kid on the block!! Nidhi was her usual best. A friend of mine said to me – “Woh ladki koi bohot badi actor hai kya?? That girl looks like a brilliant actor, I am sure she does much more in other plays.” Considering the length of her role, this is commendable!

 As for me, I was on cloud 9 when while packing up, Quasar said that these shows were dedicated to me..he acknowledged that I had auditioned for 4 Thespo plays and finally got to perform in one! I was really happy to know that Quasar actually knew me by my name and that he remembered that I had performed in those 4 plays! I also felt a bit sad that I wasn’t being appreciated as much as some of the others..but then I thought – it’s a part of every actor’s life. There will always be senior actors who will be appreciated more. There will be performances that will overshadow mine. I just need to try and do the best I can in my role and make sure every performance is better than the previous one. It is that graph that will lead me to the actor I want to be! I won’t deny that the greed to be the best and get the best remarks, the best comments, the biggest fan following still exists in me. However, I would like to believe that it’s human and if I really want all of that so badly, I will get them some day! And it’s not that I got nothing!! My office friends gave me a lot of compliments; my best friends messaged me appreciating my work and my courage to pursue my dream! I haven’t heard from Anuj about my performance yet but I think he might have liked it this time round! 🙂 All of these are enough to keep me going for a while..

Till the next one then..

Love