"Bollywood", an inside view, 1967

1967. A few days after the wedding reception, courtesy of our host, we visited “Bollywood”, the unique world of Indian film.

Anyone who’s been to India cannot miss those huge, colourful billboards with movie stars depicted very large. A movie made in India is not just any movie. It’s a never-ending Epic with extraordinary choreography, singing, drama, all the emotions - - -joy, anger, jealousy, hatred, laughter.

Except kissing and other intimacies. But you observe in these movies sensual gestures, elegance, discipline, coquetry, incredible set designs, plus the ancient classical finger, hand and head movements. Only India has a patent on this art form.

We spent the whole day on a “set”, including a visit to the make-up department: masters in the art of cosmetica, wigs, the works. Two ordinary-looking cast members walked in, then later walked out looking like goddesses.

Then we toured the costume area, and dressing rooms. Non-stop activity, like being in a ‘human beehive’. And the clothes, what a variety of fabrics, plus endless rows of costume racks. The prop department was another wonder. There was also a horse stable, plus three elephants on this particular set.

Next, we sat-in on the “rushes” (screening of the day’s takes), in particular a dramatic episode between two families. Then a two-hour rehearsal for an elaborate dance number, beginning with 3 dancers and ending up with 300! They rehearsed and rehearsed, it seemed to go on forever. Then there is the music and singing, which is always a big feature of any Bollywood movie.

Everything about Bollywood is gigantic (not only the billboards!): the orchestras, cameras, lights and stage sets with recreations of entire villages. Although many Indian movies film on location, featuring agricultural and rural regions, villages and Nature parks.

By the end of day, you’d have to be a Zombie not to fall under the spell of this magical “Bollywood World”. Anyone who’s never seen an Indian move ought to; it’s something you’ll never forget.

Two days later, we had another invitation, to meet the leading movie star at his home, up in the hills of Bombay. There, the air is much more pleasant, and the view spectacular.

Many cast members were there, plus friends and neighbours. The movie star had three Dobermans, and a security system (and this was back in 1967, when security was not a big problem.) A swimming pool of course. Each room in the villa had a fan which in itself was a work of art. He was relaxed although he smoked a lot, as did most of the others. Housekeepers, butler, all the staff wore white gloves.

Another memorable moment of our stay (and there were many), was a private “cocktail” party and dinner at the home of our host (for those of you who haven’t read the previous posts about India, he was the ex-Mayor of Bombay, and had ‘adopted’ us). He also lived up in the hills; the garden was full of bamboo furniture, painted white. “Cocktails” turned out to be passion fruit,mango, papaya, orange juice and last but not least, Rose Petal water. It was an excellent dinner, caringly prepared and beautifully presented.

The days flew by and throughout it all we were in a state of awe, like being in a dream.