out of egypt, into the Great Laugh of Mankind, and i shake the dirt from my sandals as i run

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jaan-e-day 06

Matt gave me the alley-oop on this one, and I'm not sure I can live up to it, but I can't back down now. History in tha makin yall. This weekend we finally saw my Bollywood movie.

flashback! the camera pans to the window and we dissolve to 2005

Friends and pals will remember that I spent last fall working as a PA on a Bollywood musical shooting in New York with an all-Indian crew. Kids, culture shock is a funny thing. Due to a technicality (the caste system) in the Indian labor system (slave trade), I was classified as one rung above Untouchable. What I mean is that "PA" is likely a less apt term than "servant."

If you want the basic story dirt, it's back here, at the genesis of the blog. But here's the thing: way more people read and link to my blog today than a year ago, and I kind of want people in India to find this on google while they're researching their favorite stars. So listen up, google.in! I spent two months working as the personal driver for the star Akshay Kumar, on the film Jaan-E-Mann!

dinga dinga dinga dinga dinga dinga dinga dinga

L ro R: Osh Kosh B'Gakshay, Polish hairstylist whose affair
with Akshay I can niether confirm nor deny, Jeeves

I will be the first to say it: I was a bad servant. Frequently Akshay would call me after leaving a restuarant where I was supposed to pick him up. I would be parked two blocks away, and he would be displeased. "Adam! Where are you! We are standing out in the rain!" he'd bark sweetly. "I'll be there in 30 seconds," I'd offer, "but you really don't have to stand in the rain. Go under the awning." But Akshay was right, and I a fool: if he'd gone under the awning, how would I ever learn my lesson?

I promise I'm taking a picture of the sign. Sir, I assure you.

Jaan-E-Mann was formerly spelled Janeman. Before that it was Jaaneman. The inital spelling change happened just before shooting started, when the producer went to a fortune teller, who told him (I shit you not) "one A is better than two for you." Boom. Name change. The second spelling change (reinstatement of the second A, double-hyphen-infusion, extra N because I mean why not) happened after shooting had already moved back to India, but I can only guess that it had a similar (but possibly even more crazy?) reason.

surely I didn't come all this way to not bootleg

Anyway, flash to present. Here we were, about to watch this thing, get it over with, pull the trigger on the last year. We'd made a day of it - Matt and Aaron and I had mediocre Indian food for lunch, then walked around to some of the spots in Brooklyn where Jaan-E-Mann had shot, and finally we'd made our way to the Times Square theater where we'd endure the three-hour extravaganza. LET'S DO THIS

for some reason this movie starts in space

Well, I don't want to belabor it: the movie was three hours long, as all Bollywood films are, and it was a musical, as all Bollywood films are. You see a movie like this, you go in expecting a certain level of absurdity. Or, as Ilana (who studied Bollywood in college and got me this job) told me, You can't judge another culture because you don't understand.

BUT - I am only human, and a racist human at that. This movie was in Hinglish, which is not a language but a style of dialogue that alternates Hindi and English by the sentence. Thankfully, we had subtitles to help us out.

wait you did what?

I did indeed appear in the movie, in a dialogue scene at an outdoor cafe where I was operating the stereo for the background dancers. One common conception Indians have about the United States is that pretty much everywhere you go, there are black people dancing all the time. On the set I'd tried to tell them that this wasn't necessarily the case, but I couldn't prove it, thanks to the group of break dancers Salman Khan pays to follow him around.

Ultimately, I don't regret this experience. I learned a lot about myself as a worker (I suck?) and as a driver (I'm from New Jersey?). And as the movie finally ended, and Preity Zinta finally discovered that Salman still loved her (advice: you find this out quicker when you are not singing 75% of the time), there was only one thing left to do.

Seeing your name in the credits of something is the real closure. In this business, no one gets paid enough, everyone works too hard, but there's something satisfying about being in the credits. Almost like...getting credit. But of the six PAs, only Sam and Ilana were listed, as "Mr. Sam" and "Ms. Elana." After working seven days a week, 15 hours a day, for two months, I got a second of wide-angle screen time and no credit.

India, you're on notice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is my scene still in the movie? Or did I have to sit around talking to Richard Lewis for nothing.

10/24/2006 3:26 PM

Blogger adam said...

sorry dan, you're out.

10/28/2006 12:34 PM

Anonymous akshay's fan from india said...

dear adam,

i came here in search of akshay's photo. i really liked the movie jaan-e-mann. it was great. akshay, salman and preity all rocked. half the movie in usa was a great plus point.

regarding ur pay its very normal becoz india is still poor. may be you should try the hollywood studios.

thanks for sharing about your participation in the movie Jaan-e-mann.

4/16/2007 11:41 AM


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