Sophie goes to Bollywood

Sophie Palfreeman

If you want to get anywhere with your career, everyone knows you need to begin with work experience and get your foot in the door early.

I’ve previously worked a few weeks in London working within the media industry in different areas such as advertising and radio stations before I started university. But when I got the opportunity to work in Bollywood, it’s something on a whole different level to anything I could ever have imagined.

The nerves and excitement for months before were hard to contain; being a first year Media Production student visiting India to work on Bollywood film sets was something that was mind blowing, and I felt incredibly lucky for the opportunity. 

Once I landed in Mumbai I was immediately able to see the culture change when leaving the airport, the air was so humid and you weren’t able to walk anywhere without children asking for money; but it was strongly advised to never give the children anything.  There were such contrasts with England, if you were to go anywhere by car it was definite you would be stuck in traffic; however you become immune to the constant horns beeping and the slow traffic after 2 days there and it’s strange returning to England to clearer, quieter roads.

After having the opportunity to catch up on sleep, I was introduced to many people who were helping to organize where I would be working during my stay. I felt at home and so welcomed. I was taken for lunch to discuss which film sets I would be working on; I was nervous and apprehensive as to what to expect.

From the whole of my trip I was able to meet some inspirational people who were so welcoming and I felt privileged to have the opportunity to learn from them.

The second week I was there, I stayed with an Indian family who looked after me so well and made sure I was safe at all times. My first day I was placed on a Bollywood film set named “Rakta Charitra”, a Hindu film directed by Ram Gopal Varma, who was very welcoming to me on set. I shadowed a Trainee Assistant Director who introduced me to all the Assistant Directors, Costume Designer, Make up chief assistant, Sound recordist, Line producer, and let me talk to each one separately about the Bollywood industry and get a better understanding of everyone’s roles and how each one functions.

Rakta Charitra Trailer

I worked on this film set for three days, in various locations, being able to gain an all round experience. It was really great to see how they solved problems which they encountered; an example of this was when a camera was attached to the main actor, it showed the lights the production team were using in the frame, and therefore the team had to readjust.

A problem with attaching a camera to an actor is the shaky frames it produces, the actor had to be very careful not to hit the door frame and did struggle at times with the weight of the camera. There also had to be a discussion between the director and writer in order to complete the scene as there was a few adjustments that had to be made; it was inspiring to see how they compromised. 

My last day on the film set was at the “Kamalistan studios”, and my favourite day as it included stunts, and cameras on a crane panning 180 degrees. The scene was based on an arrest of the male from the previous days’ scenes and was set in a warehouse. The shooting of the actress was shot a few times, in slow motion, each from different angles and actors, and it was very educating to see how they did this.

 The next 2 days I worked on a more modern romantic comedy film, named “Anjaana Anjanni” directed by Siddharth Anand. The film was filmed in India, but is actually meant to be set in New York City and San Francisco. The first day I was there instead of being on the production team I was assigned the role of playing an extra. I thought that it would be useful to get an overview from the production side of the film industry as well as the acting aspect.

I was taken to costume, followed by hair and makeup and I was soon on set. A contrast from the first film set was immediately noticeable. The language barrier wasn’t a problem, whereas the first film set I worked on very few spoke English making it slightly harder to communicate.

I was able to observe the different shots required and the importance of keeping continuity. Due to the film being set in offices I didn’t need to be there until 4pm as filming didn’t start until later and went on throughout the evening. The next evening I was able to work on the production team and was given responsibilities which I really enjoyed. I was given a walkie talkie to communicate with the team about any problems etc, and my role was to take care of ten extras. I had to take them all to the costume department and also hair and makeup and had to check what they were given to wear was appropriate and that they were suitable for the film. Once they were ready I had to escort them to the set and help place them and then if required help with any problems. I felt I learnt a lot and by being given such responsibilities I felt more independent and that I learnt the most this way.

One of my final afternoons I spent it at “Style Speak” magazine, India’s first professional hair and beauty magazine. I was able to see the process of designing the layouts for each page and how they choose the final spread. Each member of staff was so welcoming and took the time to chat to me and also explain their roles and as a team discuss the final look. The warm atmosphere made me feel at ease and really enjoy my afternoon learning about the magazines previous issues and the history behind it.        

On my last day before I flew home I spent the morning at “Comedy circus ke superstars” which was a TV set based on comedians performing stand ups and voted by two judges. I was able to see the set up, the set was based on a Greek theme and the attention to detail was remarkable. Unfortunately due to a technical error with the lighting which seemed to take forever to repair, I was unable to see the recording for the TV show as I had to catch my flight home. However being able to observe the set up and everyone’s roles I was satisfied with what I had learnt.

By visiting India I was given so many amazing once in a life time opportunities that I have been able to learn so much from. The sets, people, food and atmosphere were always fantastic and I am so grateful to how welcoming everyone was. This is work experience that cannot ever be forgotten, given the opportunity I would definitely return.

5 thoughts on “Sophie goes to Bollywood

  1. Hi Imogen!

    Thank you very much! Working on Bollywood films is a great experience and certainly a very different culture. It was a family friend that organised it for me and therefore I do not know the details! However if you look on the internet at various film production companies in Bollywood and drop them a few emails I’m sure they would be more than willing to take you. Also look at TV companies as they might be able to help you out with experience. Hope this helps! Sophie.

  2. Hi! Great article. I’ve just left University and I’m looking to get some work experience on a Bollywood film or two… I just can’t work out how on earth to do it! Could you offer any advice on who to contact etc…? Thank you!! xx

  3. Pingback: Meet the team behind the drama.. | A Respectable Woman

  4. Thanks for sharing. I just happened to land on this page while searching about Comedy Circus Ke Superstars on Google. Keep up the good work and all the best.

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