My first visit to Filmistan studio

This blog has helped me in many ways and one of those is that a lot of people who knew me but did not know I am an actor, discovered it through my blog! I got a call from my Dad one day saying that one of my Uncles read my blog and was surprised to know that I am an actor. You see I had been a good student (academically) in school and had completed my engineering successfully so most of my relatives expected me to just take up an engineer’s job, earn a fair amount of money, buy a house, get married at 26ish and live happily ever after with my family. So it didn’t surprise me that me being an actor came as a shock to them. After all, the entertainment industry is taboo for the middle class!

Anyway, my uncle (Adi Chacha) was very supportive and he told my Dad that there is a relative of ours who has been a Production Executive in films for over 25 years. My Dad too knew this person but was not as close to him as my Uncle. I too had heard about him at some point in the early stages of my theatre days. My uncle offered to arrange my meeting with him to see if he could be of any help. So we coordinated and decided to meet Veeraiah (fondly called as Veeru) in a week’s time. The venue decided was the Filmistan studio in Goregaon where Veeriah was busy with the setting up of some promo shoot starring Akshay Kumar.

It was a weekday so I had to leave after office. I picked up my Uncle on my bike from a place close to my office. It was a 40-minute ride from where I work to get to Filmistan. Veeriah instructed the watchman to let us in and there I was..in Filmistan – the studio that I had heard and read about so many times! There were different studios/floors (1,2,3,etc,,) and we were supposed to see Veeriah on Floor 2. When we got there, my Uncle greeted this modest man with the looks of a typical Telugu 45 year old (thats what he looked like, no idea what his real age is!) and introduced me to him. Veeriah was pretty much in charge of everything that was going around there. He was looking after brunch arrangements for the cast and crew at that point. At the same time, someone or the other kept calling him for something or the other. He came across as a very busy man, the point of contact for any problems that were encountered – he asked one of his people to call Akshay’s make-up man’s driver for something, then went to floor 2 to check if the set was ready, then met with the director of the promo being shot to discuss about something, then instructed someone about truck parking near the set… he was on the move all the time! It reminded me of the days when I used to work as a theatre production guy – the train and bus journeys from Sanpada to Mira road, the hunt for rehearsal halls, the days when I survived on just a vada pav, the urge to learn everybody’s lines and rehearse with them so that I get noticed some day, the hunt for sponsors for the plays, picking up and dropping actors when needed, making notes as the director dictated what he needs, buying and arranging all the props, sets, costumes… Production work is truly one of the most difficult and taxing parts of any creative project!

Anyway, so when Veeriah finally got some time to sit and talk, he asked me what I had done. I had prepared a file with huge sized pictures of mine (had seen a couple of portfolios that way!) and my Resume to show Veeriah what I have done and what I wish to do. I showed it to him gave him a brief idea about my past. I told him that I didn’t come to him earlier because I had not done anything much and was not even confident that I was ready to start working as an actor. ”Now I am!”, I said. Once he understood where I was coming from, he immediately took me along to the sets of a TV show named Ammaji Ki Gali. It was being shot right next to the set where he was working. He told me that he knows the director and will help me get some work. When i understood where this was going, i immediately stopped him and said , “I am not interested in television. I want to do films.” The expression on his face changed. He took a breath and said, “Well, in that case, it’s a tough life! Look, it’s good that you are doing theatre, but films is a different ball game altogether. There is no way of getting through here. You can just keep trying, auditioning, etc.” I then asked him what he thinks is the best way of increasing my chances and if assisting a director would help. As soon as he heard this, his eyes lit up and his enthusiasm was back. “Do you want to assist a director?” he asked. “I wouldn’t mind if it helps me become a part of the film circuit and opens up some prospects for the future”, I told him. He then said, “Well, Anthony D’Souza, the director of Blue, is a friend of mine. I can try to talk to him for you and get you to work as an assistant on his next project which is beginning in September. However, you need to give me some time for this!”. “That’s great! ” I said. “Do I have to leave my job? And what do I do till I get a call from you?” I asked. He said that I might not have to leave my job as the shoot would not be for very many days. I could manage with leaves. He asked me to continue doing theatre, continue going to the gym and not make the mistake of leaving my job as it is extremely important to have a backup! I took his advice seriously and thanked him for offering to help. He asked my Uncle to stay back as they were meeting after a long time and were planning to go for some drinks once he is done with his work. My uncle asked me to leave and told me that I should not worry about him (I was worried coz my uncle lived around 2 hours away from where this studio was and I wanted him to get back home early and safe)! So I left Filmistan with the thought that some day I will come back as an actor to shoot for a film and will remember this first time that I had come here!

To be honest, I was not expecting much out of this meeting as I did not really know Veeriah. I thought it would be one of those formal meetings where he would say “This is a tough world, just forget it and focus on your job. This place is not for us. I can’t help you “ kind of a thing. However, not once did Veeriah say that I should not pursue a career in acting. That made me feel good. If he actually gets me to assist Anthony D’Souza on his next project, I will be grateful to him. But even If he does not, I am still relieved that I know someone from the industry now and have some connection at least! 😛 And at the end of it all, I was extremely excited that I had finally stepped into Filmistan, a place where so many huge projects were shot over so many years! It felt like my time was to come soon!! 🙂

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