'Opening Night' by Diksha Basu is the story of Naiya Kapur, a Princeton University graduate who comes to Mumbai to chase the big Indian dream - Bollywood. Naiya isn’t searching for her soulmate, or hoping to find her roots in the India her parents once knew; she is searching for fame, fortune and fun in the new India.
Here's an excerpt form the book:
Naiya Kapur is breaking into Bollywood on Thursday
\'Opening Night\' by Diksha Basu is a story of a Princeton graduate who comes to Mumbai to chase the big Indian dream - Bollywood.
After college, Ihad settled down on the sidelines of excitement. My cubicle at Bock and Teuk was in a lovely building right off 5th Avenue, at the corner of 42nd Street, in the centre of the world … New York City. Iwas one of the scores of Ivy League graduates sitting pretty in our three-foot by three-foot cubicles scattered all over Manhattan. But Iwas one of the lucky few with a view of the world beyond. Well, sort of. If Ilowered my head five inches, moved three inches to the right of my computer, squinted and stared through the glass panel of the senior executive's cubicle in front of me, there it was … Broadway!
I had just graduated from Princeton with a double major in communications and German philosophy. It had seemed like an 'artsy' degree at the time. Artsy and easy, and with the potential for a steady income since the degree was vague enough for me to be able to deceive employers into believing that Iwas employable. Communications is basically garbage and the easiest way to get a luxuriously inflated GPA. And German philosophy? How hip did that sound! Iwas confused throughout college. Ihardly studied and Icertainly didn't excel. Ihated coursework and couldn't think of anything Iwanted to devote my life to. Ipicked my courses so Icould spend more time at the bars than at the libraries. Iplayed tennis, had a fun part-time job at a trendy café, made friends, ran student organizations, dated, drank, danced and worked extremely hard at finding ways to avoid studying. Idressed in khakis and polo shirts, wore thick-rimmed glasses and carried Nietzsche with me. Inever really read it - when the time came to write final papers, Ifound it all available online. Ilistened to jazz, drank wine and discussed the dangers of post-feminist sexism. Ihad perfected my first performance … preppy Princetonian.
And then, towards the end of a hazy four years of books, banter and booze, Ifound life staring me in the face. Fall semester, senior year, misery set in.
They were everywhere. The corporates. Aegis Group, Morgan Stanley, Ogilvy, UBS, Bain & Co., McKinsey, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers, AIG- all pomp and glory, bloated with sub-prime profits. All my friends had traded in their sweatpants and T-shirts for suits and pencil skirts, and were briskly marching to and from Career Services giving interviews. Ifollowed suit. My head whirled as Iwent through a seemingly unending series of identical interviews. 'Where do you see yourself in ten years?' '… Best and worst qualities?' 'Solve this case study.' 'What makes a good leader?' Iknew the answers by heart, knew how to sound excited about filling in mindless excel sheets, and how to modestly look down, shake my head regretfully and talk about my negative traits. Iwaxed eloquent about how Iworried that Imay be too ambitious. Iwent through the rigmarole because that's what Iwas supposed to do, but something kept tugging at my heart. Inever believed any of the answers I gave.
At twenty, it wasn't easy to allow myself to think outside the small box. The path well trodden seemed to be the only one that existed. Corporate America, graduate school, more corporate America, an NRIhusband who had travelled a similar path as me, and then beautiful children who would travel the same path as us. And so Isat through the interviews, waited nervously for the responses, mourned the rejections and celebrated the acceptances. As the time came to finalize decisions, the least painful of the handful of offers Ihad received was that of executive assistant at Bock and Teuk, a prominent mid-sized advertising firm in Manhattan. The hours would be long, the work dull, the co-workers annoying, the cubicle stifling, the regulations numbing, and Iwas supposed to be excited. Supposedly, the job would allow 'motivated individuals great scope for advancement'. The problem was that Iwasn't all that motivated. But at 6 least I'd get to wear cute corporate outfits and strut around Manhattan looking like all those glamorous sitcom stars.
The job not withstanding, Ifell in love with Manhattan the minute Isettled in. Ihad visited it often enough while at Princeton, but living there was different. Isuddenly found myself wearing high heels all the time and walking briskly even if just stepping out to buy milk. In my mind, Iwas Carrie Bradshaw. Except, Iwas a Carrie who worked twelve-hour days every day, weekends included. Sex and the City really misrepresented NYC. Those people hardly worked and had beautiful apartments and designer clothes. My job left me deader than Ihad anticipated. The first few weeks, Ifelt incredibly fancy in my Zara pencil skirts and Nine West pumps, checking my Blackberry while Irode the subway into midtown. Most of the emails on my Blackberry were from friends who were starting similar jobs in similar offices all over the city. But within a few short weeks, all that changed. Iwas exhausted. The emails were no longer from friends. They were work-related and constant. Inever looked quite as chic again, because Isimply didn't have the time. Ididn't have time to get my hair or my nails done, or to buy new clothes, though Ihad a steadily growing bank account. Iwoke up too sleepy to do anything more than apply a quick sweep of mascara before racing out of the door. Carrie Bradshaw was nowhere to be seen.
I knew Ihad to do something to preserve my sanity. The job, my cubicle, seeing nobody except my co-workers and the Starbucks employees day in and day out - it was all slowly driving me insane. Iheard about a group of professionals who got together on Sunday evenings to do theatre. Iknew Ihad to join, do something, or I'd burn out by the time Ihit twenty-six. So Ijoined the group that very Sunday. Iloved it. We rehearsed a short, twenty-page one-act play that one of the members had written. The script was awful but Iwas so impressed that a banker had managed to write anything that Iparticipated enthusiastically. We rehearsed with great sincerity for eight weeks, and were finally ready to perform.
Ihad butterflies in my stomach so Isexily smoked a cigarette outside the gay cabaret bar where my first play was to be performed, then coughed - unsexily. Iwasn't really a smoker. Iwas an actor in New York City, and smoking cigarettes outside gay cabaret bars was what actors in New York City did. Imade my way backstage and peered out at the rather small audience. Almost twenty people there to see me! The lights dimmed, the music began, the excitement charged through my veins and Iwas on stage. Iloved it! The whole process of performance! Ifelt myself soaring. Ihad discovered my calling. Ihad been, as they say, bitten. The forty-five minutes rushed past in what felt like a minute, but the euphoria didn't die. Ididn't sleep that night. Ilay awake happily blinded by memories of the bright lights of the stage. The adrenalin didn't stop pumping and the world looked like a better place.
The show ran for just one week. It was terrible. Shows that are performed in gay cabaret bars to audiences of less than twenty are not usually Tony Award winning pieces. But Iknew what Ihad to do, the decisions that had to be made, where Ihad to make life take me. Ihad to quit advertising, tell my father, family, friends, and co-workers that Iwas going to give up a steady income and guaranteed course to pursue a career on stage and in front of the camera. Iwas ready to deal with having next to no money, no stability, and potentially no future. Iwas ready for Broadway.
And so Iquit. Just like that. Ididn't think about the future, the money or the exorbitant rents in Manhattan. Ijust quit. Colleagues and friends smirked and looked at me with pity. They smugly offered to pay for my drinks since Ino longer had an income. The perks of quitting quickly became evident.
The weeks after Iquit were pure bliss. Ihad never really understood just how fantastic Manhattan was, especially when your savings from a pretty high-paying job were still sitting in your bank account. The first few weeks Ijust walked. Iwalked north, Iwalked south, Iwalked east, and Iwalked west. Imade friends on the stoops of Harlem, spent hours in the crazy sex shops in Chelsea, spotted Jerry Seinfeld on the Upper West Side and Sarah Jessica Parker in TriBeCa. Ilaughed at the suited, trained monkeys in the Financial District, shopped on the Upper East Side, ate dim sum and drank bubble tea in China Town. Ibrunched at 7A in Alphabet City and fell in love with Manhattan. Everywhere Iwalked, Ipictured my life as a movie. The location being Manhattan, the camera always had to be positioned far above and behind me so it could perfectly capture me walking briskly down the streets in my knee-high boots with the gorgeous buildings on both sides. Occasionally, the camera would have to, of course, pan down and zoom in to watch me enter Saks Fifth Avenue or Sephora, but it usually stayed above. Idid more in those few weeks in NYC than Ihad in the past year. Irealized how much Ihad missed out on while being in a job.
I actually got to enjoy the apartment Ipaid enormous amounts for. Ihad a small studio apartment on 23rd Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Ihad a single bed that doubled as a seating area, and those days Iactually got time to wake up and make the bed in the mornings. My studio had a tiny but cute terrace attached to it, which Ishared with my neighbours. Of course, this being NYC, Ihad never once even seen the people who lived next door. When Ifirst signed my lease, Ihad imagined myself sitting on the terrace, sipping a cup of coffee while browsing the NY Times, and maybe sharing a laugh or two with the impossibly good-looking couple next door. Perhaps he would be a musician and she a writer, and they'd invite me over to meet their friends, and we'd all drink wine and be beautiful together. In reality, Ihad spent almost every morning chugging coffee from Starbucks on the train while reading about Kim Kardashian in the NY Post over someone's shoulder. But ever since my days had freed up, Iactually made use of my apartment. Iwould sip my coffee, look out at … the next building, and attempt to make lunch and have a few friends over for drinks and such. It was nice. Iactually bought cushion covers, a martini shaker, and a DVD player. Ieven got a $200 knife set, but that went unused. Oh, and Istill never drank wine with the neighbours.
I went for auditions and signed up with an agency, Whittle and Reade. My bank account was not as reassuring as earlier, but it was not yet empty enough for me to begin worrying. My agency was fantastic and very protective of me. It wasn't too small, and Iwas their only Indian actor, so at least Iknew they wouldn't shelve me and give the meaty auditions to other Indians on their list. Some agencies are notorious for taking on clients who fit the same demographic so that they can control their own competition. Whittle and Reade really spoiled me. Auditioning in New York was so no-nonsense.
They would send me the lines in advance, I'd walk in, interact with a few friendly people, deliver my lines, and get back to walking around the city until they called me with the news. Ididn't book much work in those weeks. Ihad expected to be flooded with offers, but it wasn't quite that. It wasn't completely dry either, though. Imade a few thousand dollars one afternoon by doing an ad for Microsoft. It had a Chinese man and me as computer whizzes. It took quite a few takes, though, because I'm a painfully slow typist and Ihad to look like Iwas typing away efficiently, not randomly jabbing at the keyboard with two fingers.
One audition was particularly depressing. Iwent all the way out to the Chelsea Piers to audition for the role of a glorified extra in one of those popular courtroom dramas. Iwas running late, and it was so far out, there was no train access; so Ihad to take the bus all the way across town. For no particular reason, I've always disliked the buses in Manhattan and loved the trains. Anyway, Imade it all the way across town and then searched around the Chelsea Piers for a while before Ifound the audition room. The Piers were weird. Ifelt like I'd been transported to Queens every time Iwent to the Chelsea Piers. In any case, the audition room had a sign-up sheet outside, so Isigned up and stepped into the room. There were about six South Asian men, four South Asian women, three African American men, and two East Asian women sitting in a tiny, badly ventilated room. The South Asian men and one of the women were all in their late thirties, perhaps even early forties. Irecognized one of them. He had played the lead in a big off-Broadway production a few years ago and was being touted as the next big thing. India Abroad sang his praises and all the Indians who read India Abroad talked about him in the same breath as Brad Pitt.
I quickly grabbed the seat next to him. Not only did he have perfect cheekbones, but he was also likely to help me make some contacts. Ireally needed to know more about how this whole South Asian acting scene in the US worked. Iat least needed someone who was willing to put me in touch with Mira Nair, and he seemed the likeliest candidate. That, and my love life was rather dry, so Ireally had nothing to lose.
I sat down next to him, smiled seductively and said, 'Hi.' It was meant to be a sexy whisper, but Ihad something stuck in my throat and hadn't spoken in a while, so it came out sounding guttural and wet. He nodded. Inodded back. Idecided Ihad to grab the reins.
'What role are you auditioning for?' Iasked him innocently.
'The same one everyone here is auditioning for. One of the jury members. Isn't that what you're here for?'
'Yes, yes it is. I'm so excited. I've just started acting.'
'I've only done one play so far. But, it's going really well! What are you working on? Ididn't catch your last show. Iwas still studying … at Princeton. Not theatre … but anyway, Iheard really good things about it.'
'Yeah, it was fun,' he answered without even a flicker of interest.
'So what are you working on these days?'
'What? Nothing. I'm helping my boyfriend decorate his apartment.'
Damn it. Gay? It was time to change tactics. He clearly wasn't going to ask me on a date, but Icould still get Mira Nair's contact information. Icontinued talking.
'Oh, it's nice that you're taking a break. What agency are you working with?'
'Look, shouldn't you be studying your lines?'
'I already have them memorized.'
'Okay, good for you.'
'I just signed on with Whittle and Reade. Ireally like them so far.'
'Listen, just stop talking, okay? Iam not with any agency right now. There just aren't that many roles. Which is why I need to focus on this audition. So please stop talking.'
I shut up. I felt a bit embarrassed. Not to mention really, really sad. For him. For the rest of them. For that audition. I got up and walked out. Idon't know why, but Iknew that Icouldn't be in that room. Icrossed my name off the sign-in sheet, called my agents and told them Iwas unwell and so wouldn't make it to the audition, and then walked all the way down to Soho. Iwas on the brink of depression. Ihad reasons galore. Ididn't have a job, no real friends, and my bank balance was entering dangerous territory. so Iwalked straight into Anthropologie and spent some money Iwasn't earning. Of course, the red wraparound dress that Ibought that day is now sitting in a stupid box in my father's basement.
Some of the days started to get a bit lonely. Iromantically imagined my life as a Murakami character, except the reality wasn't that romantic. Most of my friends were still in high-pressure jobs, so they rarely had time to hang out and walk around. And when they did, they wore suits and checked their blackberries incessantly. They didn't have all that much to say. They had been filling out more excel sheets while Ihad been sitting in the dark comfort of a movie theatre. Every once in a while Ibegan hating watching movies alone. Walking alone got a bit tiresome. Eating every meal alone began to bring me down. Ifound myself wandering the streets thinking that if Iwere to drop dead, nobody would cry except my father.
But then Whittle and Reade called me with the first exciting theatre audition in a while. Bollywood Nights … a faux-musical that was going to be staged first at a popular experimental theatre in Soho but was sure to be picked up for Broadway for next fall. They needed a lead girl who could act and dance. The singing, like in Bollywood, would be playback.
I was happy and decided to hobble back to life. Iprepared and prepared and prepared. The audition was in the theatre itself. There were several Indian, or Indian-looking, women waiting to audition. Who were all these people? Ihad absolutely no idea that NYC had such a large population of aspiring Indian actors. There didn't seem to be that many roles. And most of them definitely were not nearly attractive enough to be on stage or on screen, nor enough to just be trophy girlfriends who had their indulgences funded. So what on earth were they planning to do with their lives?
It was there that Ifirst met Nal. She was pretty, but more in a hunt-for-the-beauty kind of way. She was … what are we calling it these days? 'Curvy'? 'Voluptuous'? Certainly not 'in shape'. Her eyebrows were in desperate need of plucking and she could also use an upper lip wax. She was dressed a bit frumpily but Iwon't deny it, she had something. We got chatting while waiting to audition and Irealized that one of the somethings she had was a personality.
She sat down heavily next to me, smiled warmly and said, 'Hi. Ilove those boots.'
'Thank you. Ilike your … handbag.'
'From Target! Under twenty bucks!'
I had never heard anyone admit to shopping at Target before. Ieven went as far as buying generic Target-brand pain-killers and then putting them into an old Tylenol bottle.
'Wow. That's a good bargain,' I said.
'Iknow. Amazing! Ihaven't seen you around before. What have you been in?'
'Oh. Not too much, really. I've just started acting.'
'Really? That's so fabulous! You're so pretty. You'll do well. Ican just tell.'
How could Inot have fallen in love with her? 'Thanks. I'm a bit nervous. Idon't really know much about how this whole scene works.'
'Oh, don't worry. You'll get the hang of it. Who's your agent? Are you doing ads? Ican send you the contact information of some great advertising agents. Ads really help pay the bills.'
She was amazing! Icouldn't believe she was willing to share contacts with me. Plus, since Ididn't really see her as a threat, Ienjoyed chatting with her. She knew NYC's theatre scene well. She didn't seem to have huge aspirations, and was finally someone Icould speak to about my new interests. And she kept telling me Iwas really pretty. It's hard not to be friends with people who find you really pretty and are willing to repeatedly tell you so. Anyway, before she got called in to audition, we exchanged numbers and Iwas pleased to have a new friend - one who, Iwas pretty certain, would not steal this role from me.
'Good luck with the audition!' she called out.
'You too,' Isaid weakly.
When Iwas called in, Iwalked into a huge, intimidating rehearsal space with a row of six people sitting in the distance near a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out onto the L'Occitane Store on Broadway and Wooster. At this point in my mental movie, Ithink it would be apt to have Gershwin playing loudly as the camera lingered slowly on the façades of the buildings in Soho. Ihad to walk from the door to them - it felt like at least a mile - to hand them my pictures and résumé (which didn't have too much on it at this point), and then walk back to the middle of the room to audition. Idid. Idelivered the lines, danced up a little storm and auditioned better than ever. The people seated clapped, thanked me for my time and said they'd be in touch. Ismiled and walked out. Ihad been eyeing a navy blue dress at Bebe and, as a treat for a good audition and consolation for not having anyone to share that with, Iwent and got it for myself. it also went into the box in the basement.
Within forty-eight hours, Ihad a call-back for a second round of auditions. Iwent again, met with eight people this time, delivered a few more lines, danced some more, chatted with them, and felt great. Iwalked out, and into The Body Shop. Iwanted some pampering. Irealized that working in Soho would result in all my money vanishing in a month.
The whole process moved so efficiently! Jon Reade called me, thrilled, in another forty-eight hours, and told me Ihad the role. 'They loved you, gorgeous. Iknew they would. You're going to rock this. Rehearsals start next Monday morning at nine am I'm sending over the script and details. You're going to be a star, love. Muah, muah.'
Jon never left room for me to speak. Rehearsals in a week's time! A New York City week is just a handful of those famous New York City minutes. Things were moving fast.
The next week, Iwas back in the same intimidating room where Ihad auditioned. Except this time it wasn't that intimidating. There were about sixty or seventy people milling about. A few of them looked like actors - you could tell because the actors were being ignored. The rest of them seemed to know each other and were friendly enough with me. We sat and drank coffee and chatted. Then the first rehearsal began. The director introduced everyone. There was the stage designer, the lighting designer, the assistant directors, the music producers, the stage manager, the assistant stage manager, the costume designer, the prop manager, the sound designer, the assistant sound designer, the publicist, the publicist's assistant, and so on and so forth. There were about eleven actors. Despite being a production about Bollywood, Iwas one of only two Indians on the set. The male lead was a gorgeous Egyptian with deep-set eyes and cheekbones so sharp, you could cut yourself against them. The rest of the cast consisted of actors from all over the world, ranging from Brazil to Turkey to the Philippines. The director was half-American, half-Vietnamese and had studied in England and the choreographer was Canadian and had spent two seasons choreographing for Dancing with the Stars. All in all, it was about as perfect a New York City production as was possible.
Nal wasn't part of the team, by the way. But she was genuinely and fantastically supportive of me. We became manically fast friends. It was a best-friendship at first sight and Ididn't mind at all. Ineeded a friend and Ireally liked Nal.
That first day, Ifelt as though Ihad walked into a bustling Hollywood set. This was certainly not how Ihad envisioned the theatre world, but Iloved it! Ididn't see a lot of the crew again until opening night, but Ijust loved knowing how huge and significant the behind-the-scenes was. What Iloved even more was the knowledge that in front of the scenes was me.
We rehearsed like mad. It was a more professional set-up than Icould ever have imagined theatre to be. We rehearsed twelve-hour days and it was the most fun Ihave ever had. We danced, we improvised, we accidentally fell into bed with each other, and we became friends. Iwas itching to start performing, and impatient for fame and glamour. After the initial weeks of rehearsals, our show went into previews. Ihad never heard of the preview concept before. It was a four-week period during which we had shows and also had rehearsals so the director could tweak things while gauging audience reaction. And then, four weeks later, came the night Ihad dreamt of, been waiting for - OPENINGNIGHT!
There was a buzz in the green room that day. There were rumours about who all were in attendance. Anna Wintour, Steven Spielberg, Matthew Broderick, Gwyneth Paltrow … the adrenaline was pumping. Iwas thrilled and terrified. Though we had already been performing for four weeks, opening night was different. That night there was press, the next morning there would be reviews. My father, my harshest critic, was in the audience, ready to see what Ihad given up my stable career and income for. His being in the audience was especially important since he rarely drove long distances after my mother's death.
The show went smoothly, though. The audience laughed when we wanted it to, swelled with excitement when we expected it to, and stood for the applause when we desperately wished it to. As Itook my final bow, Ifelt smug with satisfaction.
After the show was the after party, but before that was the backstage celebration. Champagne bottles were uncorked; costumes gave way to backless dresses, super-skinny jeans, stilettos, and fashion statements of all sorts. Ihad had a legitimate excuse to shop for that night and so was wearing a classy yet just-slutty-enough purple knee-length dress from Banana Republic. Ihad combined it with a pair of dark brown Guess slingbacks and 2 1
the whole look was very polished and sexy. Ialso had a green faux alligator-skin clutch from Aldo, but as long as nobody opened it and checked the label, it looked much more expensive. The night was ours! Except it wasn't, really. We got to the after party and did the stroll down the red carpet. Iloved it. My first red-carpet experience! Iposed and preened and even did the turn and look-over-the-shoulder bit. We posed individually and as a cast, and then got ready to party. Iwas all set to give some clever bytes to journalists, but they didn't come to me for any.
Some of the rumours turned out to be correct. Anna Wintour, queen crazy at Vogue, was there with her trademark thick bangs and zillion-dollar trench coat. Ionly saw her from a distance, but her presence could be felt everywhere. Even my father, who had no idea who she was, was mesmerized. He nodded vaguely when Itold him that she was the inspiration behind The Devil Wears Prada. Spielberg was there too, and he's surprisingly short. Gwyneth Paltrow wasn't there, but someone who looked a lot like her was, so Iknew that when Itold people about the night, Gwynie would have been there. A lot of other NYC names and faces that Ifelt Iought to know were there. Shimmering dresses, sky-high heels, beautiful hair, perfectly done make-up and intoxicating perfumes - Iloved it all. Istrutted around feeling like a princess. Except, Irealized, once the cast had finished posing for pictures, we 2 2
were somewhat irrelevant. Nobody on the cast was a 'name' and we were left to our own devices while the cameras continued following the others. All of us seemed to realize this, but nobody mentioned it. Instead, we sat and drank wine and felt special. And tried our hardest to ignore being ignored.
The reviews the next day were a bit less loving than we had hoped for. Well, Igot lucky. The New York Post was fairly cold about the show, calling it indulgent and uninspiring, but it did lavish some praise on me. According to them, the show 'belongs to Naiya Kapur. Ms Kapur, who looks every bit the beautiful Bollywood star, thrills with her histrionics and perfect dancing ability, right down to the chest heaves and hip thrusts. If Bollywood doesn't steal her away, this is a talent to look out for.' Iwas thrilled. Didn't matter if they didn't like the show, at least it belonged to me. The next day nobody mentioned the review all morning even though we all knew we had read it over and over again. Well, I had read it over and over again. In fact, one framed copy of that review is now on my father's mantel and one travels with me everywhere Igo. The rest of the cast probably growled at it and tossed it aside. When someone did finally mention it, it was only to say that the review was garbage and that the reviewer was obviously biased. Ipersonally thought it was fair, but Ikept my mouth shut. We knew then that we weren't Broadway-bound any more. The show would have its regular run and close. I can't say Iminded. My attention span was a bit short and Iplanned to do other, bigger things once the show got over.
I was sure that other offers would just come flooding in once the regular run began. Imean, Iwas one of the leads in a hugely successful off-Broadway production, Anna Wintour came to our opening night, and the NY Post liked me. Ishould have been on the cover of Vogue but found myself on three different occasions in three different rooms with middle-aged South Asians, waiting to audition for bit parts in various TV series instead.
I started going to fewer and fewer auditions. Ican never make myself do things Idon't really want to. That worries me since Iknow Ican't have my way all the time, but Istill don't make an effort to change it. I'd rather just watch TV or go and shop.
The NY Post review had sown a seed in my mind that was beginning to sprout branches. I had a cousin who had lived in Michigan for a few years after college and then moved to India in search of love and spirituality. Then there were a few older male friends who went back to India and came back with a sari-clad, allegedly virginal wife. That seemed to be what a lot of Indians did. Moved to India in search of some outdated definition of love. But Iwasn't looking for love or a spiritual high. Iwas looking for something much bigger - a career. Gradually, the Bollywood idea became stronger and stronger and Icould hear Bombay calling out to me.
Bollywood Nights closed with great hoopla. There was a party, there was drunkenness, there were celebrations. But at 3 am, when the festivities ended, Iwas sitting alone in a taxi, going back to my apartment. Iimagined my NYC camera now on the right, outside the taxi window, recording my pensive face behind the reflections of the lights of the city.
The next morning Ihad no idea who Iwas, let alone what to do with myself. Ihad played a role every single day for the last twelve weeks and suddenly Iwas expected to go back to reality. What was my reality? Who was Iif not a lip-synching, dancing superstar who fell in love every single night? My own life had nothing. It definitely didn't have a Bollywood-on-Broadway soundtrack and flashing lights. Ihad nothing to go back to after that last curtain call. Ihad loved taking on someone else's persona so much, Ihad forgotten that some day Iwould have to give that persona back and find my own. Ididn't know where to turn. Even Nal was off in Connecticut for some silly local theatre. She suggested Ijoin her there and consider working in regional theatre, but there was no way Iwas wasting time doing anything 'regional'.
I decided that very morning that Iwould go to Bombay and find my reality there. Iwanted to wait until the end of my lease. Ionly had another month to go and felt Icould use it to do some more walking around and shopping. Iwouldn't go to any auditions.
I didn't really want to go to. Iended up not going to a single one. Ivisited Nal in Connecticut and it reaffirmed my belief that regional theatre is soporific. Nal looked happy, though, and that was nice. Itried to convince her to come to India, but she didn't seem to want fame and fortune all that much. She was happy living day to day and refused to be separated from James, her equally curvaceous boyfriend. The month passed, Ipacked, and the next thing Iknew, Iwas on a British Airways flight to a city Ihad never been to in my entire life. Iknew that Iwas going to land in a place where Iwould look like everyone else but would still be an outsider. But Iwas about to step into the city of Bollywood! Forget the Anna Wintours and Steven Spielbergs. Iwas about to be in the same town as Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan's sixth finger. Ihalf expected to bump into Aishwarya Rai while waiting for my luggage at the airport. Bollywood was going to be mine...
Book: Opening Night; Author: Diksha Basu; Price: Rs 250; 288 pages; Genre: Fiction; Publisher: HarperCollins India