Here are two young men from Sweden who have left their comfortable Swedish life to experience the uncertain world of Bollywood, and they’re loving every moment of it.
Sweden is one of the best countries to live in the world, and its work-life balance (6-hour workdays) is envied the world over, by employees in the corporate world.
Despite these incentives, two young business school grads – Meet Johan Bartoli (26) and Hampus Bergqvist (25) – from Stockholm (capital city of Sweden) have decided to stay back in Mumbai and experience the uncertainty (yet exciting) of a career in Bollywood.
Right now, they are enjoying every bit of it, working as Bollywood extras.
Till now, Johan and Hampus have worked as German engineers, Russian hippies, generic white badminton referees and of course Bollywood’s favourite – British officers.
“We didn’t want to become bankers,” says Bartoli. Besides, the Swedish film industry is tiny, compared to Bollywood.
The two had heard about the crazy energy of Mumbai. So the duo landed in Mumbai, leaving the “calm, structured” city of Stockholm behind.
Seen any Bollywood film before coming to India?
Yes, DDLJ being one of them.
Accommodation is a challenge
Once, after paying their deposit, they moved with bag and baggage to a flat in Andheri, but when the owner realised they were foreigners, he refused to let them move in.
Earlier, when staying as paying guests, “we were told we can’t bring people home or host parties,” recalls Bartoli, who hates being hemmed in by rules.
So surprisingly, their fair skin didn’t help them in Mumbai, at least for finding accommodation (I thought most Indians were in awe of the foreigners).
They eat everything in Mumbai
Unlike most foreigners, these two didn’t want to play it safe. Bartoli says their strategy was to eat everything. “That way, we may get sick but we will know what we like.”
Bartoli, who misses the reassuring crunch of the crisp Swedish bread, knackebrot, and loves black coffee, has even learnt to make a mean cup of chai (tea).
In their initial days in Mumbai, they would go to any place, the name of which caught their fancy. ‘Kamathipura’ was one of them. “We loved it but later, when we told locals about it, they said that was a red light area,” says Bartoli, referring to Kamathipura.
Is Bollywood racist?
The Indian entertainment industry is NOT racist. “It is massive and chaotic but somehow it works,” says Bartoli.
The two have been in Mumbai (living in Andheri) for a year now, and they no longer have to make calls to land auditions anymore.
The marketing principles they learnt in school helped them build contacts.
Great Sense of Humour
Their facebook fan ‘2foreignersinBollywood’ page reveal their sense of humour, with several posts that have turned into into viral sensations.
Berqvist, for instance, recently borrowed an auto and pretended to be a driver who rejects a passenger in Hindi.
For another video, Bartoli spilt coffee on a shirt, then wore this short, ill-fitting shirt with flared pants, inverted a plastic bag over his golden hair and pushed a vegetable cart along an Andheri street, shouting names of vegetables in credible Hindi (One lady thought he was an Indian afflicted with albinism).
Bollywood is not just ‘Song & Dance’
Whenever the top Indian film celebrities go abroad, they take every opportunity to educate the foreigners that Indian films are not just about ‘song and dance’. Slowly, after almost a year in Mumbai, the Swedish guys are aware of that fact.
“We know that song and dance is one type of cinema but there’s also the other kind,” says Bartoli, who watched Marathi film ‘Sairat’ and loved it.
Creative people yell, and love to do ‘Big Talks’
On set, Bartoli has seen frazzled directors pacing up and down, looking stressed and yelling. In fact, most of them like to yell.
Once the 26-year-old stifled a laugh when a producer told him he was planning to get Justin Bieber to play the lead in his movie.
Best advice to newcomers?
“Go to every audition and do not give up,” Bartoli advises strugglers.