Mayhem of meeting ‘Mr. India’

Word gets out that Anil Kapoor is filming in Mumbai.
It’s been said that India is full of beggars. I became one of them, before I even arrived

My assignment – for CNN’s ‘My City_ My Life’ travel program – was to fly to Mumbai to film with the Bollywood legend Anil Kapoor. He’s currently starring in the hit film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, that’s sweeping the boards with award success. The shoot very nearly didn’t happen. My flight from London Heathrow was cancelled – hence the begging. After much coercion, I managed to rebook onto a different airline and was finally en route to India’s commercial capital. Arriving at the airport in Mumbai is quite an experience. I may have landed in the middle of the night but the city’s inhabitants weren’t sleeping. Judging by the sea of faces outside, they’d all turned up to welcome me. Not so, apparently it’s always like this. After dodging a giant bull and scores of ‘roadie gangs’, my driver delivered me to my hotel. I briefed myself on all things Bollywood but was quite unprepared for what would happen during the actual shoot. I discovered very quickly that Indian people love their film stars. They particularly adore and idolize Anil Kapoor. He’s known as “Mr India”, after his role in a famous film of the same name. To say he drew a crowd is an understatement. See photos of Anil Kapoor in Mumbai » Quite literally, everywhere we went we were mobbed. Thousands of people “enveloped” the CNN film crew, just to catch a glimpse of Anil. People were clamoring over each other, climbing onto rooftops and shoving scraps of paper under his nose for an autograph. He’s quite clearly a national hero — which made filming a logistical nightmare. Mumbai is not the easiest of places to film anyway. It’s red tape central. As soon as you get a broadcast camera out, the “officials” pounce on you — demanding permits and often some sort of “filming fee”. Trying to work out who and what is legitimate is virtually impossible. Negotiations can be fractious, confusing and time consuming. On the phone, there is a lot of message passing. In person, it’s more about shouting, hand waving and chai drinking.

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Getting by in Mumbai

Mumbai: A local’s view

We knew security would be intense around the city, following the terror attacks last November. Everywhere you look you see armed police and guards — and tributes to the 176 people who were killed. Mumbai is a city in recovery but still fragile. People have come together and you sense there’s new-found determination to fight terror. We visited some of the locations where the attacks took place – including the stunning, colonial Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the beautiful Taj Mahal hotel. It was here that we jumped on a double-decker bus to escape the hordes of fans. It turned out to be a private birthday celebration — and the party-goers were delighted. We then embarked on a spontaneous ‘joyride’ around Mumbai, taking in some of the city’s spectacular sights — the waterfront, stylish café scene and the Dharavi slums, considered the biggest slum in Asia.

Our next mode of transport was a Victorian horse-drawn carriage, which came to abrupt end when the driver took an illegal U-turn (not an easy task in sardine-like traffic) right in front of the police. I’m not sure exactly what was said to get us out of this sticky spot but we all scattered quickly. By this point my nerves were frazzled. Exhausted, I needed to escape the chaos. Anil and his team found this amusing. They get a kick out of the craziness. I enjoy buzzing, cosmopolitan cities and Mumbai certainly fits that criteria — but it really is mad.