Christmas day 2013, my then girlfriend and I decided to take a month long trip to India, flights from Bangkok to Kolkata were ridiculously cheap with Air Asia, around £100 return if I remember correctly so why the hell not?
We had a lot of destinations in mind but finally settled on Jaipur as a starting point. The inspiration came from watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie which made Jaipur look like an incredible destination. This would be our gateway to Rajasthan and our month long motorcycle adventure.
We took the train from Kolkata to Jaipur which took over a day on a cramped, intrusive train and arrived in Jaipur on the 1st January, the day before my birthday. Ridiculously tired and ready to crash we checked into our hotel at around 1am, passing out almost instantly. The next day was a day of walking and seeing the sights without too much planning or commitments then back to crash again. Back in Bangkok we have a great Facebook group called Bangkok Expats which is always updated with local events and local advice etc. so I checked to see if there was a Jaipur equivalent, there was and I checked out a few things including a call for foreigners for a local movie. I’d heard before about travellers being picked up on the street for Bollywood movies, being paid about £20 for their days work. I was definitely up for this, one of my goals was to be in a Bollywood movie during our trip and yes, we were accepted and filming would start in 3 days!
The morning of the 3rd, Emily wanted to treat me to a birthday high tea and we read that there is no better place than the Rambagh Palace, Jaipur, an old 5 star luxury hotel which can run up to £1000+ per night. High tea was much more affordable at around £15 for two.
We walked out onto the lawn, where some of the guests were also sipping their tea, when my eyes glanced across to a face that I recognised. Standing in the middle of the lawn Skyping on her iPad was non other than Judi Dench… Why on earth was Judi Dench here in Jaipur? For those that don’t know, Judi Dench was the star of the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and for those paying attention you will know that the reason we chose Jaipur as our base was the fact that this movie was based and filmed here…what is going on?
After 15 minutes or so Bill Nighy strolls out and walks over to join Judi on the lawn for tea. It clicked. They must be filming the second instalment of the movie, a quick internet search informed me that my suspicions were true, a movie called The Second Best Marigold Hotel was indeed being shot on location in Jaipur. What are the chances.
We decided that, instead of intruding on their morning tea, we would write them a note and send it over with the waiter, this seemed like the sort of thing that should be done in this situation. The note read something along the lines of, “Good morning and what a pleasure it is to see you in Jaipur. The reason we are here right now is due to your amazing movie a couple of years ago. Thank you so much.”
The waiter took over the note, they read it, turned round to seek out the source and spotted us. They beckoned us over to join them, how could we refuse? Judes (that’s what I call her now because we’re pretty much best friends) seemed really happy to chat to us and she ended up giving us a few tips about the area and Rajasthan. We said our goodbyes and wished her all the best for the upcoming movie.
About 30 minutes later by brain kicked in prompting me to send a message to the guy that organised the movie casting call, I asked what the name of the movie was, he replied: “The Second Best Marigold Hotel”. Wow, we were actually going to be in this movie.
A couple of days later, we were on set with the rest of the extras getting our hair and makeup done and pushed out in front of the cameras. We were shooting a scene which appeared midway through the movie, we were attendees at the tech conference in Mumbai (actually filmed in Jaipur) and then at the conference afterparty seen sipping champagne (coloured water).
And that was that, we were paid £20 per day for two days to do something that we would have paid to do. I mean, how often can you say that you bumped into Judi Dench and Bill Nighy then accidentally ended up being extras in the movie that they were filming…in India.