Bus seats were booked for Sid and me to reach Ahmadabad one day before the day of our shoot. After the regular ‘me being late, Sid panicking and calling 1000 times, and we still reaching the bus stop well before time’ stuff, we boarded the bus and reached Ahmadabad right on schedule. We were put up in the Nami Residency hotel along with other crew members. The rest of the cast that had arrived a few days earlier were in another hotel a few kilometers away from ours. So, we were to meet them directly on set the next day. After Siddharth’s photo session in the room (he insisted on doing one everywhere we went), we had a good night’s sleep and were on the sets at 6.30 the next morning as per our call time.
As one can imagine, day 1 was to be the most exciting. We were to shoot inside the IIM campus at Ahmadabad. This was a big BIG deal for me for a lot of reasons. Although I always wanted to be an actor, I had been an engineering student and I knew how almost every other engineer dreams of making it through IIM for MBA after graduation! I was no exception. I always fancied studying at the IIM-A… being as smart as the students there… living life in the IIM campus that I had heard and read so much about. Another huge reason behind my happiness and excitement was the research I did as an actor before I left for Ahmadabad. I found out everything there was to know about the lives of students at IIM. I spoke with a friend who had just graduated from this institute, saw videos, read articles… I knew what their day looks like, when they usually wake up, sleep, study… what and where they usually eat… what are their biggest challenges, what are their highest highs and lowest lows… how they talk and what are their frequently used phrases.. and while going through this process, I actually ended up becoming a guy who was ready to enter IIM as a student. Even in the bus, I felt anxious, nervous and at the same time happy and excited just like a student feels before he begins a new course at an esteemed institution. My situation of going for my first outdoor shoot to Ahmadabad had merged with that of my character’s who was a guy beginning his 2-year MBA course at IIM!
So, when I entered the campus overwhelmed with all these feelings, the first people I met were those from the costume department. They were always the first ones to arrive – Natascha, Nikita, Niti and the costume dadas. There was a whole bunch of background artists too and the biggest challenge for the costume department was to ensure that they all had the right costumes for the shot. I saw, in the days to come, that this was one of the most tedious tasks of the process because they had to make sure no clothes were repeated and at the same time, were not even close to what the lead actors were wearing. Imagine doing this for hundreds of people multiple times every day! And still, they seemed to be doing it efficiently with very little commotion!
We were to start with a canteen scene where I was just to stand in a queue and react. Sid was given a similar activity and position too. And as we got ready, Arjun and Alia walked in looking great as usual. We did a couple of rehearsals and during all this, Nikita walked up to me and said ‘You need to change, right now! Here, in the corner!’ The director wanted me to wear a red kurta coz he felt that suited the frame better. I knew the cameras were set up and I did not have much time for me to be shy and move out. So I quickly changed in a corner right in front of Nikita putting to end any hope of waiting till the day I have a good enough physique to be flaunted before the prettiest girl from costumes. The scene was then captured from various angles and we then broke for lunch. As the day progressed, it became more and more difficult to handle the background artists. It was a hot day in Ahmadabad (well, when is it not?!) and the fans had to be switched off to capture the dialogues without unwanted sounds from the background. This made the artists cranky and they, in turn, were giving the ADs a tough time. A lot of effort went into making them go back to their first marks for every take, making them do what was needed to be done. This is where ADs Neil and Karina were doing a terrific job. They ensured that despite all the issues, everyone and everything was as required right before it was time to roll. Arif was in complete control as the first AD. There was a point when there was complete chaos but one loud shout out by Arif and there was pin drop silence. He had that kind of authority! Amidst all this, Arjun and Alia kept their cool and performed the scene with ease. The scene went on for a while and I wasn’t required for the later part. I was waiting at a table away from the scene location when I first met a girl who went on to become my closest friend in Ahmadabad – Sakshi Soni. We had a little chat about who we were and what we did and while we were chatting about random stuff, pack up for day 1 was announced.
Sid and me went back to our hotel which was about a 30-minute drive from IIM. Later, AD Siddhanth called me from Karina’s phone and I joked how shouting at the background artists had changed Karina’s voice to that of a man. He didnt laugh but I thought it was hilarious. We had some delicious dinner followed by refreshing buttermilk (I had almost 4-5 glasses… everyday) and then went off to sleep.
It was an early morning call time for the next day too.. And the days to come. This time, there was a dialogue to be taken but once again, it was given to Siddharth with me just reacting in the background. I saw him being miked up and then I saw our director, Abhishek discussing the whole scene with him. Binod Sir also gave him certain instructions and the make-up men started giving him the final touch-ups. For the 10 minutes before the shot was to be captured, Sid was the centre of everyone’s attention. And sitting there behind him, I was wondering how cool it is to be in such a place. It happens to the stars all the time, now it was happening to Siddharth. And soon some day, it would happen to me too. The whole experience of actually discussing a scene with the director and the cinematographer! Binod Sir even joked about how he should avoid calling out “Mohit” because whenever he did so, all five of us looked at him. So, he made it a point to memorize Siddharth’s name.
As the shot was being set up, Arjun and Alia – the gorgeous GORGEOUS Alia – walked in. There was something about this girl. Every time you looked at her, she looked prettier and cuter than the last time.
Sid had a chat with Arjun about the earthquake in Delhi and some other things. Meanwhile, Binod Sir was ready to roll and the shot was captured in 2 takes. While I was glad to be in the middle of it all, absorbing the feeling of being on such a lively film set, I was naturally a bit upset for not getting a line to say and all the focus and attention that comes with it. While I kept calming myself down thinking this is just the beginning and there is a long way to go, AD Ishaan sensed something wrong with me and after the shot, walked up to me and said ‘You have a very expressive face… you did well in the scene’. I understood that he probably did this just to make me feel better. Nevertheless, it was very sweet of him to do so and it made me feel a lot happier 😀 I met Sakshi between shots and we continued chatting about stuff. We even rehearsed for a line that she was to say but it was later given to someone else. We both smiled about how it was a no-dialogue day for both us and consoled ourselves saying, “We don’t need lines to act!” 😀 Soon, we were all done for the day and while we were on our way back to the hotel, Sid got a call from home. He later informed me that his mom was having some health issues so he had to go back to Mumbai for a couple of days. He was to leave the next day – the day I got a reality check about the life of actors who are just starting out…