Before you guys get too excited, let me just tell you that it’s a 2-second cameo which might well go unnoticed. However, it happens to be my first performance for a film and something that is a very special moment in every actor’s life!
I got a call from my friend Abhishek Bhardwaj that there is a requirement for an actor to play a photographer in a scene in The Dirty Picture which is due to be released this month. I had seen the promos of this film and was aware that it is directed by Milan Luthria who has also directed several other brilliant and successful films like Kachche Dhaage, Taxi no. 9211 and Once Upon a time in Mumbai. Bhardwaj informed me that there is just 1 line and it’s more like a favour. He also told me that this needs to be taken seriously as it is for a big film! I had always thought that the reason I’ve kept my 9 to 5 job is that it supports me in life and that way, I do not have to take up any small role that comes my way just for money. I thought with the financial stability my job gives me, I can afford to put my foot down and only aim for the biggies! However, I agreed to do this one as for some strange reason, it felt like the right thing to do!
I got a call from Arun, Milan Sir’s assistant, and he gave me all the details of the shoot. I was to report at the Trombay club at 7.30 am the next morning. It was about an hour’s drive from Andheri. I woke up at 5.30 in the morning and reached the venue at 7.28 am. Arun guided me to where the Vanity van was and asked me to be there till I was called. On my way to the van, I was surprised to see that around 50 members of the crew were already there working on setting things up. It was enough to get me excited and nervous at the same time. Suddenly, it started sinking in!! I was slowly beginning to realize that I was indeed on the sets of my first film ever! And that in some time, I will be facing Naseeruddin Shah and Vidya Balan and saying my only line! Naseerji who some people say is India’s finest actor and Vidya who has conquered the film industry in the last few years (and also someone I have personally admired for the way she has made her career graph go upwards)!! These and several other thoughts kept playing on my mind as I reached the vanity van. I was surprised that there was actually a spot for me in a VANITY VAN. I mean, weren’t these vans just for the STARS?? But I was very happy to see a van with my name on it! I was supposed to share it with the direction people 🙂
So I was in my vanity where I met Mujaid, another one of Milan Sir’s assistants. I am 100% sure that I am getting his name wrong. I will get this rectified here the moment someone corrects me! He was busy with his laptop checking some stuff for the shoot. He greeted me and asked me to “chill” and said that someone will call me when I am needed. A couple of assistants showed up in the next few minutes to put their bags in the van. One of them was Neha, who I want to say, was the cutest AND hottest girl on the sets that day. She wore a sporty T-Shirt and Jeans, was wired up like an AD usually is and wore a cap with her pony tail coming out of the slot at the back of the cap (don’t know what it is called..sorry). When she left the van, I was really hoping to see her again 😛 Anyway, so there I was..in my vanity…”chilling”!! Nothing changed for the next few hours. I went out once in a while to see if the set was ready..to see if I am needed somewhere for something..to just kill the anxiety basically!! On one of these trips outside, I saw Naseerji’s car enter! I saw him through his window. The next thing I knew was that I was peeing in my vanity out of nervousness. I now knew that we were close to the beginning of the shoot.
In the next few minutes, I was given my script and costume. I had just one line which I memorized quickly and rehearsed around 40 times there and then! During these rehearsals, Manini from the Art department (another very very cute girl) visited the Van as she needed some print outs from the laptop. We started talking and to my benefit, Manini turned out to be a jovial, fun-loving, smiling girl who helped me kick out some of my nervousness, anxiety and joblessness that had sinked in during the past few hours! Ketan, who is doing stills for the film, came in for a while and along with Manini lit up the little van with his one liners and jokes on..well..everything!! I was already in my costume that was sent to the van by the Costume department (had sent Manini out of the van for a bit to get into my costume :P).
I kept rehearsing my line to check what the different ways in which I can say it are. I built a background to the photographer’s character and answered important questions about him in my head – where does he come from, what is his motive behind saying this line, etc. I also tried to recollect all the photographers I have seen and figure out how they hold their camera, how they talk, how they stand, etc. I was keeping myself busy with all this when Aditya, another one of the friendly ADs, informed me that we will soon be shooting my scene. He was an intelligent guy who knew everything that was going on inside out. He had explained to me earlier what the backdrop of the scene is and this time when I said my line to him, he said that’s exactly what they need – “bass..yehi rakhna!!” 😀 Now that I knew that the scene was about to be shot, the frequency of my visits to the loo increased drastically. I was literally peeing every 5-10 minutes! It was 1.30 pm when Aditya came to the Van and said, “It’s time. Let’s go.”
There were already several other people on the set. There were other crew members who were busy setting things up for the scene to be shot. There was Neha with a mike announcing instructions. What I loved was the way she was keeping her calm throughout… even in times of frolic. And then, there was Milan Sir whom I was seeing live for the first time. He was dressed up in a simple T-shirt and track pants and was walking around in a pretty cool mood. This showed that Neha, Mujaid, Arun, Aditya, Manini and the other ADs whom I did not meet had things pretty much in place. In a couple more minutes, I saw Naseerji and Vidya walk up to the set fully dressed up with their make-up on. My heart started pounding faster. It was time for me to shoot the first scene of my life..and I was going to say my line with these stalwarts in less than 5 meters of distance from me. Milan Sir took a couple of rehearsals of the part where these two characters enter the spot in their car. Once this establishing shot was captured, it was time for the main scene.
While setting the scene up, Milan Sir asked me to say my line. That’s the first time he spoke with me. I quickly said what I was supposed to say. Then, while he was figuring things out with the cameraman, I said to myself, ”What the hell are you doing Dilip?? Why are you rushing it up?? Is that how you are supposed to say your line?? Calm down dude!!” We rehearsed again and I said it a bit better this time (that’s what I thought). We then went for a take and all I knew after that was that I am a photographer who is shooting two stars. I tried to focus on my character as much as I could and gave the required takes. I even had a little opportunity to discuss the scene with Naseerji and Milan Sir. I did say what I thought but I doubt they took me seriously 😛 Anyway, we were done with Naseerji’s part and the whole team bid him goodbye as it was the last day of shoot for The Dirty Picture. I applauded with everyone as I could already feel that Naseerji must have done some fabulous work in this film. The next thing to be shot was a close up of mine. We went through it quickly and I was extremely extreeemely happy and thrilled when Milan Sir said “Very good” during one of the takes! 😀 Neha then informed me that we were done with my part. Soon, the entire set was moved to a different place in the club where a scene was to be shot with Vidya. What stunned me during this entire shoot was the speed at which the production guys and the ADs work. They had moved cameras, sets, junior artists, foreigners in the background, etc. from one spot to another in a span of just a couple of minutes! They did this several times during the shoot. For every scene, they had to make sure that the background is clear, things are in continuity and all other such technicalities are taken care of. And I must say that I was AWED at the way they handled these things. I had always heard how Hollywood is so organized and how Bollywood sucks at it. Well, on my first day of shoot, what I saw was something contradictory. I thought things were organized and managed extremely well and I could see the hard work that goes behind each scene!
While Vidya’s scene was being shot, I got out of my costume and packed my bag to leave. I had lunch on the sets just because I wanted to stay there a bit longer 🙂 I then went and shook hands with all those whom I had met during the day and thanked them for their help. I couldn’t see Milan Sir around and Vidya was still busy and Naseerji had left. I doubt I would have gathered the courage to shake hands with Naseerji though. I felt really intimidated by his personality and the way he carried himself on the sets 😛
Although I knew people are not even going to notice me in this film, I left the set very happy and satisfied. I had realized that I made the right choice by wanting to be an actor. You know, when the director shouted “silence..rolling..action”, when I was saying my line before Naseerji and Vidya, when there were lights and three cameras on me, I knew this is what I want to do all my life! This is what I really can do no matter what people say! And this is what I am going to fight for and make a living out of!!
There is a chance that my part might even get cut off during edits..you never know! However, I will never forget this day – 5Th of November, 2011 – The day when I shot for my first film!! Irrespective of where my career takes me in the future, Milan Luthria will always be the first film director I worked with!! Naseeruddin Shah and Vidya Balan will always be the actors I performed my first role with!! “The Dirty Picture” will always be MY FIRST FILM!! 🙂