Two young filmmakers have made a series of seven shorts showing the grit and reality of life in Bollywood.
Ruchika Muchhala, 26, an Indian raised in southeast Asia and Adam Dow, 30, an American, made the series together after Dow got an online commission to do a series of shorts for
Muchhala freelances as a filmmaker but her day job is that of online manager for Ch19.org, a global social media network, which showcases community videos made in India.
She lives in Santacruz and studied film and social sciences at the University of Michigan in the U S while Dow, who lives in Bandra, is a self-taught filmmaker with a background in theatre. He had come to India specifically for the commission.
The duo set up Third Kulture Films after meeting randomly at a party through mutual friends in Bandra. “It was supposed to be a travel series, but it turned into this,” says Muchhala.
Since they were unknown filmmakers they had to spend months working day and night, penetrating Mumbai's most glamorous industry, wandering on to sets, explaining to people what they were doing and winning their trust. Now they are planning a feature flick on the same topic, which they hope to sell to an international cable channel.
“They didn't trust us at the beginning and people were worried we would expose them badly, especially female backup dancers as they had a lot to lose as their parents don’t know they are doing it,” Muchhala says sipping
a coffee in a café after finishing a shoot.
The series goes behind the scenes looking at the struggles and fortunes of the foreign faces, dancers, choreographers, make-up artists, musicians, spot boys and carpenters. It also reveals the exploitation of labourers and how dying arts such as that of the set background painter and film poster painter, are being replaced by digital art.
Muchhala says the experience was fascinating as it brought to light many things. For one, the caste system was as prevalent in Bollywood as anywhere in India, with scores of poorly paid workers doing mundane jobs, while when a star’s button drops off, he was surrounded by three men in an instant. But despite the struggle, many of the workers did end up getting their dream jobs, Muchhala explains.
“Once you are in, you are in,”she says. Post midnight, Muchhala picked up her equipment to go to Mukesh Mills, to meet a choreographer who she says wanted to get to know for her next film. “Its going to be another long night, But I have to do it,” she says.