US Immigration & Bollywood !

Coming into the Customs/immigration area in LA, I am always looked upon really suspiciously. I used to look like a Columbian drug smuggler when they were in vogue. Now I look like an Arab terrorist. They are the latest in fashion. Yesterday something strange happened..

I look my innocent charming best. I smile. I get a haircut and trim my beard. Nothing helps. I can see everyone zooming into me. It’s just my personality I guess. I just feel suspicious.
“So why are you here ?” he was big, white,threatening and had a gun by his side.
” I’m here because I am film maker, am here to meet with my actors”. I tried to sound really confident.
“How long ‘r you staying”, he boomed”
“A day” I replied now looking as timid and honest as I could.
“A day ? and you have all that luggage for one day ?” He was really suspicious.
“I umm… am travelling .. to London from here ..”. That’s it. Bag opening time.
“what were you doing in India” he asked as he was running his hand over my bags.
“I live there” I replied, a bit of my pride creeping back. Surely he had heard of the IT boom and the growth rate of 7.5% of the Indian economy. Aspiring to 8.3 % next year. Surely he is an avid reader of the Wall Street Journal.
He eyed me suspiciously agaim. “Oh my God” I thought ” He thinks I am outsourcing American jobs, his best friend probably lost a job to an unknown Indian outsourceror.”
“So what kind of films do u make ?” he asked.
Now I knew I was fine. I could get through this time without the indignity of having people pour over my badly packed bags and unwashed shirts and underpants. After all my film was nominated for the Academy Awards and this is LA.
“I made this film called “Elizabeth” – you remember ? The one with Cate Blanchette and was nominated for 8 Oscars ( lie ! It was 7) ?? You know the one ?”. He was not looking impressed at all. ” And then I made this one with Heath Ledger – do you know..?.
“Never go to the Movies”, He cut me in.
No more weapons in my arsenal. I am giving up to a physical examination of my body parts too, I am thinking. I have been on a plane for 30 hours. I will go to jail for smelling bad.
” But watch them Bollywood DVD’s at home. Love them, wife and kids love them too”. He said.
As I looked at him, a bit speachless, there was other Indian guy behind me. He suddenly piped in. “This guy is one of the most famous of Bollywood’s Director’!”.
Big Smile ! A huge hand on my shoulder. No gun in it, thank God.
“Why didn’t you just say earlier ?” he said.
So what’s this big white all American guy, an undercover agent for Homeland Security, with a gun by his side, who never goes to the Movies doing watching Bollywood films ? I tried to picture him and his family ordering a pizza dinner and settling down to watch Shahrukkh Khan singing/dancing to Kajol. Doen’t quite fit does it ?
OK. I have decided that as soon as Golden Age is over, I am going to direct a Bollywood Movie. Done.

69 thoughts on “US Immigration & Bollywood !

  1. As a musician/ producer/ sound sculptor/ soundtrack artist and whatever perjoratives im unable to dream up of at this ungodly hour right now (mein U.K. ka vaasi hoon), I had a not too dissimilar experience when i was in new york last year. Because of my shaved head and slightly blunt features, they couldnt figure out wether i was perhaps :-
    a) an underground terrorist of some sort, who somehow has no issues regarding orbicular articulation.
    b) wether the name Shekhar Raj Dhain is perhaps an anagram or amalgam of some terrorist regime
    c) Just there to arouse suspicion and paranoia cause id had a delayed flight which meant id been awake for 23 hours and was perhaps starting to blather a little bit.
    I had the “luggage search and pull aside to the room with others who wanted to know why i was there” option on their security “meal of the day”, so to speak.
    It didnt spoil my enjoyment of nyc, but was annoying cause all i wanted was a shower, and a bed to rest on.
    Chalo, jo bhi ho…chalega 😉

  2. Some Humor Please….
    I hope Mr.Kapur wont mind this joke on himself!
    One fine day after Mr.Kapur completed his Queen films (long list of queen films..)…he was bored. He woke up just like he does…and then he realized he is in New York! (readers must know, sometimes even ‘The Shekhar Kapur’ does not know where or which country he will land up next) …So he is in New York.
    He takes yellow pages directory to look at psychatrists numbers and finds a name…Dr.Woddy Alan! He takes the address and gets an afternoon appointment.
    Dr.Woddy Alan clinic is bursting with pretty teenage girls taking councelling sessions with the doctor. Finally Mr.Kapur is called in.
    Mr.Kapur goes inside the room, sits blankly while Dr.Alan is studying him. Strangly Dr.Allan wants to give him time and then Mr.Kapur talks…
    “Doc..can you make me split personality?”
    Dr.Allan is quite surprised.
    “In the name of holy cow…why would you want to be split personality? You’ve just made another film with Kate…?”
    Shekhar looks seriously at psychatrist and then smiles his trademark professional smile…
    “That’s because….I am bored with myself…can you make me split personality ” !!!

  3. Some Humor Please…
    This section needs attention!
    Ok I am not posting jokes…
    but can Humor be classified?
    one kind of humor is people laugh at others…as trival as a man falls down putting his foot on banana…
    second is…well, laughing on ourselves…
    third…the most prescious…the most important of all…can we laugh for no reason? just for laugh…just for no reason…
    So, in India on occassions like Holi or particularly north of India in Gujarat and Rajasthan people take “Bhaang” and then one cant stop laughing…So go ahead and try this thing and see what humor is….

  4. Dear Shekhar
    I am an academic from Ahmedabad. I teach Culture studies in the Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad. Among the various things I work on, in terms of research articles, and books, one is the journey of the English language in India, and urban India’s emotional affinity and comfort with it in recent years. I am currently working on a book on ‘Hinglish’ and also plan to organise a conference on the same subject in Bombay. I would love to have you over, would you mind giving me your email address so that I can send you an invite?
    Meanwhile, you could look me up on
    so long

  5. Dear Shekhar
    I just loooooved your story! Can’t wipe that smile off my face… You’re not only warmhearted and wise but also very funny! Please keep on sharing your stories…
    Hugs from downunder,

  6. hello shekar saab,
    whenever i feel low, i read your writing. it makes me happy. you are so talented shekar. you can make good, sensible movies, as well as write beautifully.
    regarding the sharukh saab dancing to kajol, umm i dont know how the westerners like it. perhaps they find bollywood movies better than the ones that they make. i say this because i assume that they want a change. so for a change why not watch SRK dancing to kajol.
    another thing that i noticed that i havent seen infact we indians have not seen SRK dancing to kajol for many many years. last we saw was kabhi kushi kabi gham.
    probably the westerners have just begun to wacth our movies.
    i read an artcile by shobha de titled ‘Bollywood and Beyond’. interestingly i came across the fact a german lady with a catch in her throat said,”In our culture, mothers and daughters do not display their emotions so openly… we dont hug or kiss like in your(bollywood) movies. we are taught at an early age to suppress our feelings. thats why we love bollywood”. umm quite impressing, isnt it?

  7. The power of Bollywood or is it cool to be associated with anything and everything from India these days! I used to work in San Francisco and my IT support guy (acutally a Filipino and mexican) would infact tell me about the latest bollywood movies on the block! truly amazing

  8. dear sir,
    i am vipin kumar sharma & i have a small group sky home entetainment house & we r make a album of eight songs & one song based on delhi sir we r require a sponsor for this album because we r need some money for this. i hope u r help us.thank u

  9. hahahahaha….I liked the way you have narrated the entire incident….that’s fabulous…. 🙂

  10. Dear Shekhar,
    I saw your movie Drishti just the other day, it is GREAT!
    Unfortunately my name is Drishti.

  11. Shekharji out of patriotism must have made up this story…in fact the current Bollywood is just an old discarded Hollywood musical era which they have grown out of.
    There is no harm in the current Bollywood style of movies but it is definitely not original and no true Americans are interested in Bollywood movies and Aishwairya Rai Bachchan and they are released in some remote bug infested theatres where the Indian exhibitors sometimes announce on the sound systems about the Vada Pav on sale interrupting the movie…Mostly Gujjus(Non Mumbaikars)migrated from remote Gujrat villages, Pakistani and Guyanis flock the theatres who think Mumbai is comfortable and cool and clean and all the people are beautiful as seen on screen, sitting in an air-conditioned theatres.
    Shekharji is the only director who doesnt’ abuse cast and crew while filming movies and is polite and polished and maybe Yash Raj group and Aamir Khan also. But rest of the Bollywood is filthy distasteful arrogant and cheap in every possible way. Most stars don’t even know what they are wearing…look at Hrithik’s shoes at the Cannes festival!

  12. I am a summer time student at Harvard… and was shocked to see that Americans follow “Indian Cinema” more than in UK (where i study full time). It’s just the way we project in the media and the celebs blabber about London that it gives us an impression that Indian cinema is not that famous in US compared to the Queen’s Land…
    And i am young enough to miss out the opportunity to watch Mr. India in a theater. So would love to watch a bollywood movie by you.
    And U r amazing at India’s got talent.

  13. Dear shekhar,
    My name is Giles Clarke.
    I interviewed you at the Telluride Film festival a few years for Channel 4 in England.
    I am at present working on a documentary project about the water in Bhopal.
    could we talk sometime?

  14. Hello there Shekhar!
    That was very funny. Well, all things Indian seem to be ‘in’ these days. At least people recognize me as being Indian and no longer a Puerto Rican illegal immigrant, or a british Italian (they used to think Chacko was a variation of Giacomo!). Just wish I could somehow find the wave and ride it too!
    Remember me from KL? When you and your daughter were staying with Vinod and family. We went to watch a rehearsal of a play together and spent a couple of evenings at Vinod’s.
    Am in LA exploring options in Hollywood as an actor and have also just written a screenplay based on an improbable but true love story which began in 1950s, Penang between a brilliant Bohri Muslim young lawyer (who become one of the Commonwealth’s greatest judges) and an older married illiterate Chinese woman.
    Just finished playing the main villain, an Afghan drug lord on Mars(!) in the Princess of Mars opposite Antonio Sabato Jnr and Traci Lords (amazing how she has made the cross over, shall we say different genre’s of films), for the Sy Fy Channel and for DVD.
    Be awesome to meet in LA if dare face immigration in this town again!
    Warm regards,

  15. Hello,
    I like the story very much. Did you ever think of writing a book ?There is a lot of experience you made, people you meet, news you discover, topics you like to discuss and stuff which go under the skin , from brain to a laugh and with a looping they enter in heart.You are someone special. Nice you share it with us.

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