Once Upon a Time in Colaba

Posted in India - Mumbai (Bombay) at 2:39 am by Jackson Lee

There are a lot of reasons to feel like you’re an idiot. Tying your shoes together and attempting to leap frog the dinning room table is one good reason. The last couple of days I’d been experiencing this unfortunate sensation for a whole new set of circumstances – skin colour. Mine, being a genetic rearrangement of British pale and Han oriental gentleman yellow, seemed to be killing our game plan. Every other part of the plan was in place, which is to say that we were in Mumbai, the heart of Bollywood.

Everyone backpacking in India talks excitably about extra’ing (from here referred to as acting) in a Bollywood movie. Its up there with being in a national disaster and having to be airlifted to safety on a backpackers wish list. Fellow white skinned tourists had told us that the easiest way to ‘win’ an ‘extra’ role in a Bollywood production was simply to walk around the streets of Colaba, the main tourist district of Mumbai, looking foreign. In no time some roving ‘talent’ scout would notice your  ‘foreign appearance’ skills and snap you up. Fame and wicked good times would follow.

Locky sported sandy blondish hair, blue eyes and a dress-sense Australia action fingers would be modeled in. He was a desktop screen saver of bollywood extras but his pulling power seemed to be tempered by some outside factor. In a few days of cruising Colaba hotspots we had not been involved in a single moment of, “wow, look at your foreigness, do you guys want to be in a movie?”.

Day three ended with Locky’s daily ritual of late afternoon beers. These evolved into dinner beer, after dinner beer and then late night beer as we continued to ponder our Bollywood failings. Nicholas the Swede joined us. He looked terrible. He felt terrible. He told us why.

He’d been out drinking until the sun told him to go home for the last few nights. His pain was all self inflected. I didn’t feel sorry for him. I told him so and elaborated that all Swedes should fulfil the Viking stereotype of always acting as hard as nails. His sense of humor seemed also to be exhausted.

He mentioned that there was a flip side to this situation. Our eyebrows raised. The previous day he’d been stopped while walking in Colaba by a smooth character called Imran. Imran told him he had excellent foreign skills and offered him a gig acting. Nicholas agreed and got the details.

They arranged to meet early morning Sunday. Neither of them took into consideration that exhausted Swedish backpackers seldom wake to participate in the world early on Sundays. Nicholas felt as terrible as the remains of a bowel transplant and was looking for a way out. We were his way. This turn of events felt as fortuitous as Goldilocks finding the three beers moonshine stash.

Details were swapped. Hands shook and our history set stumbling towards Bollywood. If you’ve even been lucky enough to hit the big time, then you would know about the excited train of thoughts that run through your head the night before the big gig. Sleep did me few favours.


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