It’s Harry Key, an Australian actor, who has a good deal of experience as the “symbolic white dude” in several Bollywood films. From We are a family for Doum Maaro Doumhe has been part of several Hindi films.
Actor goes by username Gora from Bollywood to Reddit, and in an AMA, spilled the beans on what it was like to work in the city of garlands. While some of her responses were hilarious, a few others were pretty hard to believe. Keep reading to find out what he revealed.
1. On stunt safety in Bollywood:
Stunts on set were almost always like “Hey, we’re going to put your life in danger” and if you get grumpy later on at the risk level, the response tended to be “But, it all went well, n isn’t it this?” which often sounded like the Bollywood version of “That’s a farce, brah”.
2. On actors pulling pranks on set:
I remember Abhishek Bachchan was a bit of a kid. On the set of a movie called Dostana, he was throwing water bottles and hiding from people and stuff like that.
3. On the casting couch in Bollywood:
The casting couch is real, especially for girls. They are taken to dinner by a “producer” who wanted to talk about a movie role. For the guys, I didn’t do much except when I was modeling. Once I was on the set of a movie and a very famous fashion designer was there because he was friends with the director or someone. He started asking me if I wanted to do modeling and I said “I suck, but a ramp show sounds like a lot of fun” so he takes my name and connects with me on FB. That night, he starts sending some pretty crazy explicit messages, basically saying “If you don’t fuck/suck me, you won’t get a job”. The next day, I spoke to an Iranian about it, on another set for something else. He was a model and he unloaded. He said his agent was about to send him back to Iran because he didn’t want to “play ball” and therefore wasn’t getting any ramp work. He said it was pretty much the understood thing that if you wanted to get on-ramp shows and serious modeling work, you pretty much had to lean for it.
4. On what he loved most about the industry:
What I loved and still love are the people. Indian people are so warm, so welcoming, so friendly and willing to go out of their way to help you. So much so that it sometimes becomes annoying. People invited me to their homes, made me chai, asked me questions that were too personal, demanded that I stay for dinner. It was great. People come first in my favorites list. Food comes second.
5. On how he landed his first role:
To become an extra, it was easy. Seriously, you are walking around Colaba (a suburb of Mumbai where all the tourists hang out) and someone will approach you and ask you to be an extra in a movie. That’s how I got into my first film. I kept doing this for a few weeks, but it’s a bit of a pain. 6am bus to Film City or somewhere then stuck on set often till midnight for 500-1000 rupees. That’s 18 hours of work for $7.50 to $15 US. Getting big roles was, rather predictably, fucking difficult. I ride pretty well and tried to be reliable (show up on time, don’t be too prima donna) and that definitely helped. By the end of my stay there, I was working 2-3 days a week, which was pretty good.
6. On his favorite Bollywood actor:
Priyanka Chopra. Without a doubt, breathtakingly beautiful. Even in person. I worked with her at Dostana. Other than that, Irrfan Khan (I was in Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire) was really, really nice. Jean Abraham was too. Mammooty was also a really nice guy.
7. On how the crew treated him:
They were actually really nice. I was keen on saying thank you and talking to people and not treating people like crap, so I generally got along really well with the crews. Especially since once inside, it’s a small pool. You end up seeing the same lights/cameras/sets/costumes over and over again.
8. On his favorite Bollywood movies:
I liked Dev D, and everything I did. In fact, I also liked Dostana.
9. On how speaking the Hindi language helped him:
It helped me get a small number of roles that required Hindi (TV serials and some commercials) but additionally it helped me demonstrate that I was serious about acting in India and helped build relationships. Making a joke in someone’s language is a huge relationship builder. Seriously, I used to be a bit grumpy to other goras for not learning to speak the local language. I mean, I know it’s not necessary, but I think it’s a mark of respect.
10. How seriously actors and directors take their movies:
Yeah, they take it very seriously. But they know they are exaggerated. You have to recognize that a serious part of their audience live in abject poverty, they are ‘gaonwale’ or villagers. They don’t want their reality to be reflected like we do in the West, because their reality is dull. The term they often use to describe it was “the escape” and I think that pretty much fits. They want it to be over the top and silly – they get out of their seats and shout insults when the bad guy appears on screen. Also, go back to our movies from the 60s and 70s and you’ll see a similar vibe. Exaggerated colors, bizarre costumes, blatantly fake sets, labored and unrealistic dialogue – this is the era Bollywood finds itself in now. Well, that was – that had already started to change in 2010 when I left, and grainy(er) movies were becoming more mainstream.