If you’ve ever secretly dreamed of being in the movies, figuring out how to be a film extra in Bollywood might be your best bet. Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay—hence the name Bollywood—is home to a massive movie industry that churns out more than 1,000 feature films a year (that’s twice the production of Hollywood). The movies tend to run about three hours in length and the production is of epic proportions: Imagine dance scenes featuring hundreds of people, all colorfully costumed. Add to that a demand for “exotic” foreign talent and you can see how you, the humble, unsuspecting tourist, might be thrust into stardom. Or at least to the part of a bit player lurking somewhere in the back of a scene.
Think you’re game? Here are the easiest ways to make your way into a Bollywood movie, plus a few things you should know.
Where to go:
1. Colaba Causeway. Casting agents regularly scout the area for Western recruits. You’ll probably end up walking this street more than a few times, anyway—Mumbai’s busy backpacker thoroughfare is known for shopping, especially the street stalls hawking cheap souvenirs and jewelery.
2. Leopold Cafe. In the heart of Colaba, this charming, popular spot was founded in 1871 and made famous by the book Shantaram. It’s huge with tourists—and therefore huge with casting agents. Dress your best, then get a seat near the open front, order a chai and patiently wait for stardom.
2. Gateway of India. This famous attraction on the waterfront teams with visitors gawking at the stately and stunning Taj Mahal Hotel, and queuing up for boat tickets to the caves at Elephanta Island. Again, a concentration of tourists means agents will be there, too, ready to recruit.
4. Salvation Army Red Shield Hostel. Those no-good agents haven’t noticed your radiant beauty and talent yet? Get proactive. Go to the Salvation Army Red Shield hostel, a backpacker institution, where you can sign up directly to be a film extra.
What to know:
1. The hours are long. Expect to do way more waiting than dancing, posing and acting.
2. The pay is poor. Do it for the glory (and the story), not the money. The pay averages around 500 rupees, or $8 per day. Food will likely be provided.
3. Ask for ID. If approached by an agent, ask for ID and only go along if you’re part of a group—while most agents are legit, you’ll want to make sure you don’t fall into a sketchy situation.
4. Ask for the title of the movie. With more than 1,000 movies made here each year, you’ll want to be able to find your feature film once it’s produced—your friends and family are going to want to see this!