By Nishika Patel
MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - Bollywood may be all about glitz, glamour and all-star line-ups, but when it comes to casting foreign extras, any Western tourist will do.
Bollywood's more liberal tone and rising global recognition has prompted a demand for Westerners to fill up scenes for the increasing number of movies that are set in foreign locations.
Casting agents regularly scramble for Westerners in tourist spots across Mumbai as part of a drive to give the historically insular industry a cosmopolitan edge.
Movie, television and advertising director Aloke Gupta said there are a handful of casting agents dedicated to recruiting foreign extras, most which are tourists employed for two or three days while they pass through the city.
"The whole media industry is moving so fast now that we need to keep up with the times. Films are becoming more liberal," said Gupta, who is CEO of Open Window Media Entertainment.
With several films being shot outside India, Aloke said movie-makers find it cheaper to shoot the exterior shots abroad and use foreign extras in Mumbai for the interior shoots.
Barring a handful of foreign actors that have starred in leading roles, most Westerners feature in the backdrop as scantily dressed dancers in nightclubs or drinking at bars.
A casting agent who would only give his name as Polo said he often scoured the tourist district of Colaba for Westerners. If there were multiple film shootings taking place, he said he often struggled to find enough tourists.
"They know about Bollywood because there's a section in the Lonely Planet guide book. I try to find anyone who is white. They do not have to be beautiful," he said.
BITTER TASTE OF BOLLYWOOD
But some tourists, who were plucked from the street by casting agents, complained that their Bollywood experience was not as glamorous as they had anticipated.
Evan Hunter, 17, from San Diego in the United States was approached by a casting agent in Colaba and jumped at the chance to appear in a movie. The next day he was ferried to the film studio on a bus along with 20 other tourists.
Hunter was told he would receive 500 rupees for the day but according to industry players the rate should have been at least 2,000 rupees for 14-hours of work.
The group was promised free breakfast, lunch and drinks but were made to pay for some items. Hunter and the group spent most of the day waiting outside the crumbling studios in the heat.
Then the casting agent who had picked them up tried to leave without paying them, Hunter added.
"Everyone felt used. We expected to be pampered more. We were told it would be a great Bollywood experience but we left disappointed," he said.
"I guess they play with people's desire to feel important and play on the fact that we are ignorant tourists."
University student Matthew Ince, 19, from London, was also part of the tourist group picked up in Colaba. He was selected for a scene in which he was told to stand still while other foreigners ran around him.
"I was not told what to do - I was really confused. I expect this is a low-budget film. I thought it would be more glamorous," said Ince, who is traveling around India.
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)