In so many ways it feels like I was gone for a long time, and yet the time in India sped by too. It was a wonderful trip thanks to Raju, who facilitated my movie adventures and is in the midst of making a film which I just can’t wait to see; and my new Bengali “family”—Suhan, her friend Gautam, and their relatives, who all showed me that incredibly warm hospitality that Indians are justly famous for. I made new friends and met old ones; explored more of India’s rich history in Hyderabad, Delhi and Calcutta; and discovered the unspoiled beauty of the Sundarbans forest. And of course one of my fondest dreams came true!
I know you all want to see photos from the sets, but I was pretty negligent in taking pictures of Aamir and Kareena and the others; I was too busy having fun just watching them and hanging out. In any case, I was not really supposed to take pictures (beefy men in uniforms warned me against it). I think I have mostly covered everything of note in my comments earlier so I won’t repeat them here. I will just reiterate that I had great fun with the cast and crew of 3 Idiots, and it’s going to be a really good film.
I did take the usual photos of stray dogs and children:
and managed (when allowed) to document the historic monuments I visited (this is part of the Qutb Minar in Delhi):
I loved the Charminar and Golconda Fort in Hyderabad, and the tombs there. I have decided that I need some built-in shelves like the women in the zenana at Golconda had:
The intense heat in Bengal nearly killed me, but Suhan’s beautiful mother lent me a cool, airy Bengali cotton saree to wear one evening. The handlooms there are just so gorgeous!
In a village on the way to the Sundarbans I saw a new (to me) kind of school bus that cracked me up, where cyclists towed along cages crammed with small boys. They seemed completely untroubled by this form of transportation and waved at me happily.
The Sundarbans are gorgeous even though I felt like I was being slowly roasted on a spit:
And though we didn’t see a tiger we did see spotted chital deer and a creepy gigantic monitor lizard which was almost as large as the deer:
I discovered the luscious, mouthwatering joy of mosambi (fresh sweet lime juice):
Why do we not have this fruit here in the US? Why? Or do we, and I just don’t know it?
Also keeping me hydrated: a very special kind of bottled water:
It uses Reverse Osmosis AND Ozonisation. Drinko!
I ate way too much fried bread as usual and don’t really regret it one bit:
I always gain weight in India!
I was very happy to meet the talented Banno (and Dhanno and Teja)—they fed me a yummy lunch at their home and gave me some lovely gifts including two of Teja’s drawings. Yay! In Delhi I met Madhu, who went shopping with me (not a task for the faint of heart!) and took me to a great Italian restaurant for lunch (owned, apparently, by a guy from Sicily who came to India to escape the mafia). It was just great to meet my filmi soulmates in person finally! They also both took me on auto rickshaw rides (I love auto rickshaws) and I accidentally caught both of them in the rear-view mirrors.
And as you all know by now, back in Bombay Shammi graciously agreed to meet me (thanks to Aamir). Raju went with me, and we were greeted at the door by Shammi’s lovely wife Neila Devi, who laughed when I told her that I was more envious of her than any other woman on earth. She said: “I was a big fan of his too when I married him!” When Shammi appeared, he took my hands and looked me over, and I really did almost faint. Those eyes of his! So green and sparkly and penetrating! We were there for about an hour (we had afternoon tea with them). Shammi is still very handsome and charismatic. I am even more smitten now than I already was. They both told Raju how much they like his films (Shammi said that Lage Raho just blew him away), and we talked a bit about some of Shammi’s early ones. He said that he himself has not seen Miss Coca-Cola, and that he would love to see Coffee House again since it’s the film where he and Geeta met and fell in love. His wife and I both want to see Raat Ke Rahi too, but it doesn’t seem to be available either, in any form.
I told him that I wished he’d directed more films, and he said that he really enjoyed making Manoranjan and had wanted to make it since he saw Irma La Douce on a London stage in the early 60s. (He also confirmed that the “Goyake Chunanche” lyrics which had initially puzzled me were indeed just nonsense). I think he found my taste a little suspect when I told him that I also liked Bundal Baaz—he said he had meant it to be a children’s film, but didn’t seem to be as fond of it as I am. We talked about computers too—we are both Mac users from the early days, and he showed me the room where he sits and surfs the net. Before we left Raju took some photos. Here is another of me with Shammi, and one with his wife. I really really liked her. Shammi is a lucky man!
I feel pretty lucky too.