When a buddy succeeds as you watch…

My flatmate Kartik has made it big! He is one of the lead actors in a movie named Pyaar ka Punchnama which is all ready to hit theatres on May 20, 2011. The guy is good-looking, smart and from the look of the promos, has done pretty well! The movie in itself looks like an excellent youth-oriented fun-filled ride about 3 guys and their struggle with love. I love the caption – Come..Fall out of love!! 😀

Kartik had kept his movie role as a surprise to all of us until very recently when he showed us the promos and broke out the news that he had been shooting for almost a year. He has worked very hard to audition for this role and has gone through almost 3 months of screening to finally get selected for the movie. It is great to see his hard work pay off and the movie shape up so well.

Last night, Kartik invited us to the music launch of his film. I had never been to such a party so I decided to go. It was at a hotel in Juhu, Mumbai – one of the big, unvisited hotels for me. When Tashi (my Tibetan flatmate) and I reached the place, we saw hundreds of people in the dining area. The food looked and smelled great! But we had to look for Kartik first so I decided to put the eating on hold for a while (although I was super hungry after the day’s work). While I looked around, I could make out that a lot of people eating over there had nothing to do with the film. They were gate-crashers. This was understood as all we had to say at the security entrance was “Pyaar ka Punchnama music launch” and they let us in. There was free food and free booze..I would have been surprised had there been no gate-crashers!! 😀  We went a bit further inside into a hall where there were two big screens which displayed Pyaar Ka Punchnama screensavers. There was a stage and at the centre of this stage was our boy! We saw Kartik with the girl who plays his love interest (Nushrat) surrounded by journalists. Their faces were lit as they were being shot so one could spot them easily in a dark room. There were similar interviews going on at different corners of this hall. There were the other guys and girls from the film being interviewed at other areas and the director (Luv Ranjan) being interviewed on stage next to Kartik and Nushrat. However, I thought Kartik stole the show!! He has a certain Star quality, a certain persona, X-factor (whatever you may call it) about him that will make you look at him even when he is in a crowd. May be I feel this way because he is my friend?!? I thought he looked very confident and charismatic as he was answering questions from the Press – chatting, smiling, laughing, joking…I could see the Star in him!!! Nushrat looked very cute next to him. They made a good pair these two!

Tashi and I figured out that it will take a while for Kartik to get free. We made jokes about how he is a big man now and would not notice us! 😛 It was his moment and we could not intrude. So we decided to turn to the food. Actually, Tashi went to the drinks and me to the food. After a delicious dinner, Tashi left for another commitment while I went back to the main hall waiting for Kartik to get free. In the meantime, I saw Madhur Bhandarkar giving interviews. It crossed my mind that I should meet him and tell him about me. However, it would have been wrong as it was Kartik’s night and there was no way I could do anything that would embarrass him! So, I decided that I would not talk to anyone but Kartik and leave. While I was waiting for him, they played the new song of the film that goes “Bandh gaya patta, dekho ban gaya kutta”..It was hilarious. I think this video is going to get the film more audiences than all the other promotions put together. The film’s music is unbelievably awesome! Whether it’s the Ishq na Kariyo track by Mika or the Life sahi hai number, the music has been liked by everyone and is bound to be in favour of the film’s success! 🙂

While I was very happy for Kartik and it felt good that Kartik was enjoying all the limelight, I couldn’t help but wonder whether such a time would come for me too. Would I ever have the charisma that Kartik so effortlessly flaunts? Will I get such an opportunity and when?? I walked to the poolside from where I could see the beach..It was a beautiful atmosphere for one to be with one’s own thoughts. I dreamed for a while and then thought that I should get going. I met Kartik for 2 minutes, congratulated him on his success and wished him all the very best for his film from the bottom of my heart! I then took off on my bike to stop by at Amitji’s bungalow Prateeksha (something I do religiously). I thought of how Amitji had started and all that he would have had to go through to be where he is today. It was just the beginning for me! And I MUST not stop!!

I hope all my readers watch Pyaar ka Punchnama…it looks like a wonderful film and Kartik is a great guy!! He deserves your love! 🙂  The other guys and girls seem to have acted well too. Let’s all welcome these newcomers and show the industry that we as a smart, intelligent audience are open to new talent! 😀



My new portfolio…

After my meeting with Honey Trehan, I decided that I need some normal pictures of me..just the way I look! No make-up, no studio lights! It is then that I took Nikhil’s idea of doing a photo shoot with his camera seriously! Nikhil is my Manager at work who has been a pillar of support both at work and in my personal life. He volunteered to do my photo shoot but the busy man that he is, he could not be there for the shoot. It was then that my dear friend Swapna or Swapz as we fondly call her came to my rescue like an angel! I had always considered myself lucky to be blessed with many friends who were photography enthusiasts – Nikhil, Rakesh, Chaitanya, Sidd, Mehul, Rohit, Saalim!! However, I was not aware of Swapna’s skills as a photographer. I always knew that she was this extremely talented, very artistic, cute, graceful girl whom everybody loved. She was known for kicking guys and stepping on people’s shoes (white, new shoes!!!)…for her girly “aaaawwwwwwwwww”s and “waayyyyyyssssssssssssssttttttttee”s and “duummmddduuuummmm”s… Nevertheless, everyone was (and is, and will be) fond of her for her bubbly personality and how she brought life into anything and everything! But photography?!? I was surprised when Nikhil said, “Swapna can click really good pics..she will shoot”.

So off we went to the office terrace and she started clicking away to glory…She showed me some of the pics and I loved them. However, I had no idea how the overall shoot was going. We shot for two evenings. Nikhil paid us a visit every now and then. He gave some weird ideas for clicking pictures. We tried them and they sucked (actually it was me who sucked in those ideas ;)). Swapna tried everything. At one point, she was leaning backward clicking pictures and kept on going back till she fell flat on her back! 🙂

I was really hoping that all this effort gives us something good. And when I finally took the camera’s memory card home and checked it on my laptop, I was amazed. Swapna had done a brilliant job..she had made ME look good! I really have no idea how she managed to do that but she did. Trust me, it is a very difficult task to get me to like my pictures. However, I must say that some of these pictures have made me feel – “This is how I want to look on the big screen!”.

Before this photo shoot, I had planned to go for a professional portfolio by a leading Film photographer. It would have cost me nothing less than a lakh. I have no idea how I would have arranged for that kind of money. Nikhil and Swapna’s efforts have saved me not just this huge amount of money but a lot of other troubles. They have proved my belief about friendship absolutely right! I have always believed that he who has true friends has nothing to worry about in life! Friends are your biggest back-up, your support system when everything else in life screws you up! I have been blessed with some unbelievably wonderful friends who have done a lot for me. I have no idea how I will repay them. Perhaps the best gift I can give them is achieving my goal and telling them that all that they did for me was worth it!! I now feel like working harder…moving faster…jumping higher…for my friends!

Thank you Swapz…and thank you all who have stuck around!! I love you all…

Posting some of the pics here:

Two more attempts…

I knew that catching hold of people in the gym and talking to them about work is going to back-fire some day. Not everyone would want to be intruded in their personal space. After all, the gym is a place for a person to work out and relax and not be disturbed about work. I was always aware of this but still wanted to take my chances. It was obvious that someone would give me a taste of the bitter truth some day. And it happened to be the ace director Sudhir Mishra!

I walked up to him in the lounge next to our gym where he was having a drink after his workout. He is one of those guys who have a strong, intimidating personality. It’s not easy to walk up to him and start talking. I had seen several guys in the gym saying “Hello sir” while he walked like a tiger in the gym sometimes acknowledging them and sometimes not. He is a tall man, not very fair but when I saw him, he had a glow on his face and was sweating from the workout! Strands of grey hair falling on his forehead!

“Excuse me Sir, may I speak with you for 30 seconds if you do not mind”, I asked.

“Well, I do mind being approached in the gym. It’s my personal space and I do not like to be disturbed”, he said.

I went blank for a second but I did have something to say – “I understand Sir, that is why I wanted to first take your permission before I started speaking”.

“Anyway, Go on..” he said. I decided to keep it very short this time – “I am a theatre actor and I have been performing for 3 years. I am looking for work in films and I want just 1 chance to audition for anything that you are working on.” I was nervous, and sweating and really scared. I wanted to make the best of this opportunity becasue it is not very easy to get to talk to a director as huge as Sudhir Mishra. He said exactly what I expected him to –

“Well, I am not doing anything right now. I don’t even know when or what I am going to do next. That’s not how I work. Whenever I am doing something new, I’ll post it on Facebook. You can have a look.”

I had no idea what to say next. To be honest, I was in a situation where I wanted to talk more and at the same time, just run away from there. So, I said “Thank you Sir” and left the lounge to proceed to my workout.

My next meeting was the next day (12th April) with Honey Trehan. Honey is a casting director who casts for major Bollywood (Hi-Fi, Hindi film Industry, Mumbai film industry, whatever you may want to call it!) films. His IMDB profile suggests that he has cast for almost all of Vishal Bharadwaj’s projects. I had sent him my pictures but having lost all hope that my pictures can get me any work, I had started approaching casting directors so that they can see me personally and let me know if I am fit for something they are casting for. I waited for Honey at the office he had called me to. I had asked him only for a couple of minutes and he had obliged.

He came out of the editing room for a smoke break and that’s when he met me. “Yes Dilip, tell me”, he said. Honey looked like a chilled-out guy but someone who would prefer things to be to the point. The way he greeted me and walked out with me to the smoking area for the little chat gave me a heads up about him and how I should talk. It was 2.15 pm. I told him about myself and that I wanted him to see and know me personally so that whenever an opportunity that I am fit for comes by, he can let me know. “I’ll forget all this by 4 today”, he said matter-of-factly!

Once again, I was stunned. I did not know what to say. What I really felt like saying was – “If you are going to forget me by 4, then I don’t deserve to be in films anyways!”. What I did say was – “Okay, so what should I do for you to remember me? A better portfolio?”  He said, “I don’t need a portfolio. Just normal pictures of the way you look right now. That’s it!”. “Okay, is there anything you are casting for right now?”, I asked. “Right now, I need just one man – Milkha Singh! For Mehra..”, he said suggesting that he was looking for a guy to play Milkha Singh in Rakeysh Mehra’s next film. “Ok, I will send you my pictures. Please let me know if something comes up for me”, I said. We shook hands and I took off. He was done with his cigarette and went back inside.

These two meetings did not go as well as I wanted them too. I would have loved to get some work out of these. However, it was never going to be so easy. Someone had to give me a heads up saying “It’s a tough life!”. That’s not going to stop me though. I am on the lookout for my next director/casting director. Meanwhile, the gym is ON with the hope that it will lead me to a better portfolio!

Till the next one then…

Love and Regards…

Introduction at Yash Raj Films…

I walked into the casting leg of Yash Raj films after office yesterday. It is right above Anupam Kher’s acting school at Santacruz West. On my way up, I crossed the acting school aptly named ‘Actor Prepares’. Impressive collection of newspaper articles and portraits of films and actors on the hallway I must say! Anyway, there was no time for acting schools now. It was time to work!

When I reached the 3rd floor, I saw a few people waiting outside a room. They had lined up as if they were waiting for their turn for an audition going on inside the room. So I understood that I was at the right place. There was hardly anyone there – Just a few guys waiting for an audition, a peon and an assistant. However, this was not the main Yash Raj office. This was just meant for casting and so would only be visited by aspiring actors (and not clients!). So, there wasn’t really a need to spend much on this one. Smart work by YRF I thought! A notice on the audition room door said – “Email 2 pictures with name and number in Subject to Shanoo”. Shanoo is the casting director of YRF whom I had once spoken with over the phone. I had requested her for her time to meet her but she said she was too busy and I should just send my pictures. And as it always happens, I did not get a call back. I was hoping to see her this time but I was told she wasn’t in and someone else (Parag) was conducting auditions today.

I caught hold of the peon and told him that I had come to drop my pictures. He said I should email them as leaving them at the office would only mean that they will go to the bin! I requested him to let me meet one of the casting directors or anyone available in office. He introduced me to Sushant who was another assistant to Shanoo like Parag. I explained to Sushant what I needed and he turned out to be a very helpful guy! He made me wait to meet Parag who later told me that they will shoot my introduction and let me know whenever there is something suitable for me. I immediately prepared a quick 3-4 line intro. I wanted this to be really good as I thought this could be my entry into Yash Raj Films! However, when my turn came, Sushant told me that I shouldn’t say my own intro and should just answer the questions he asks me while he will shoot me on camera.

The questions were pretty simple ones – Name? Age? Favourite Actor? Actress? Film? Director you would like to work with? And finally, please look at the camera and smile! I guess all they wanted to see was if a person is camera friendly, can talk, and how he/she looks on camera under lights. I thought I did OK but I could do and look much better. I asked Sushant if he can also record me saying what I have prepared but he refused. Later, we had a 5-minute chat on what I should do to meet directors/assistants, whether I should get a good portfolio done, whether it is important to have a good physique for all actors, etc. Once again, I was being told how impossible it is to meet a director or an assistant to ask them for work! I requested him to pass my introduction tape on to Shanoo, thanked him for being so helpful, and left the office.

Once again, I am hoping that I get a call from Shanoo, Aditya or Yashji some day! If not, I’ll be on the look-out for directors, producers, may be Yashji himself to tell him why he should launch me! 🙂


Encounter with Shahid…

I had been observing Shahid for a few days in the gym. He came across as a very humble and cool guy, no-nonsense of course. He worked out with his trainer for an hour or so everyday and left without talking much to people around. As you guys know by now, I am an ardent follower of Amitji’s blog. I had been reading a lot about how Amitji was helped by those who were STARS when he was a nobody. The likes of Shashi Kapoor, Mehmood are hugely responsible for getting Amitji started in this industry! I decided to take my chance with Shahid!

I waited in the locker room for him to finish his workout. It was almost time for him to arrive when I got conscious of the people watching me sitting next to the loo doing nothing for almost half an hour. So, I decided to wait outside the gym on the stairs. There is a short passage from the gym door to the elevator which is an ideal place to catch someone who is leaving. Shahid came at around 10.45pm. And I said to him, finally, what I had been rehearsing for two days –

“May I speak with you for 30 seconds please?”

Shahid being his cool self said “Yes man, tell me!”

“My name is Dilip Merala. I have done theatre production work for 3 years and then acted in 7 plays for another 2 years. I do not have any work in the film industry nor do I know anyone here. I have been reading Amitji’s blog and I know how he was helped by STARS when he was starting out. All I need is an initial push and I swear I’ll work my way up. Can you please help me in any way possible?”

A 2-second pause followed by Shahid thoughtfully scratching his chin..

“I will be very grateful to you for any help and will never forget what you do for me. I promise I’ll make you very proud! I am a good actor and a good dancer.. I can show you right now..”

“No, no..don’t!” he said..

“Look, I don’t cast for my films. The best I can do is that if you have your pictures, I can drop them off at Production houses”. I could not digest this – The superstar Shahid dropping pictures of a random guy from the gym at Production houses?!? So I said – “No, no..I’ll do all of that. The thing is I need to meet directors and tell them what I am capable of. If you can get me to meet someone, I can talk to them like I did to you and show them what I can do. ” He nodded and said, “OK. Leave your number with my assistant. I’ll make sure that you get to meet the director of the next project I work on!”. He looked at his assistant and signalled to him to take my number. The assistant gave me his cell phone and asked to save it myself. After this, we took the elevator – Shahid, his assistant, a couple of others from the gym and me. When we reached the parking lot, I was amazed to see that (for the first time) Shahid’s car was parked right next to my bike. Once again I said “Thanks a lot Shahid. I will be grateful for any help!”. “No worries man. All the best!”, he said. He then started talking to his assistants about the next place they were headed to. I watched him while he got into the car. His assistant was still standing next to me, an old man in his fifties I guess. I said to him, “Uncle, please woh number unko de dena (please pass on my number to him)”. He said he will. Off they went while I was still watching his huge black Range Rover cruise by.

I suddenly felt like I had so much more to say. I also felt that all was lost because this is where things always get stuck up! Leave your pictures, leave your number, we’ll see what can be done..etc. Why would Shahid remember me out of the thousands of people he meets? Would he? Even if he does, would he actually help me out when the time comes? Why didn’t I start the conversation with a compliment or by saying that I liked his work? But I had just 30 seconds and there was no time for bull shit. I also thought it would have come across as trying to butter him up. I just said what I really REALLY wanted to say from the bottom of my heart!

I had to start somewhere. I had to take my chance, and I did. Whether Shahid helps me in the future or not is to be seen. The truth is – I am already grateful to him. He heard me out very peacefully like a good listener. He is a huge motivation at the gym and speaking with him has also given me some confidence to speak with more people – directors, producers, those who matter! In fact, I have decided to start approaching production houses with my pictures from today itself. I do not have a great portfolio but I cannot wait. I need to get going with whatever I have! And I really hope Shahid does do something for me in the time to come!

I come face to face with Shahid everyday at the gym. I wonder how I will face him today..just a smile may be! 🙂