I’ve been told that I have an amazing capability to put myself in the weirdest situations.
Well, it happened again.
The principal of my school has a friend who is a singer here and is making a Valentine’s Day special – and needs some pretty, white girls as extras for the music video. Myself, Darcy from Canada and Akiko from Japan were asked to participate. We meet with the singer who seems nice and arranges us to go to the studio.
If anything great comes out of this, it’s meeting Darcy and Akiko. They work for the IOM (International Organization on Migration) and UNESCO (United Nations Education, Social, and Cultural Organization). After mentioning to Darcy the topic of my project, the next time I saw her she handed me a list of valuable articles on the topic. I hope to visit her office next week, maybe make some connections and get started on this research. Akiko is asking her boss at UNESCO if I can tag along for one of their site visits. I hope this luck continues.
We meet on Thursday night at the language school and get into a car with the singer and his driver. We were three Chatty Cathys (as my mother would say) in the back seat, sharing our projects and goals. After a bit, we realize we are in a part of the city that we’ve never been in, and we’ve been in the car for 40 minutes. Then we turn into this alley that only the width of one car. Pulling up to this building surrounding by wall, we jump out and scurry inside from the rain. Following the singer through these thin hallways, also only the width of one person, we sit in his office with his manager and producer. He shows us some of his past photo shoots. Darcy and I make eye contact as the singer comments on how he wishes that better production equipment was available in Bangladesh. I’ll say, my own awkward cribs video and my old point-and-shoot camera take better pictures than this. And cheesy is not a strong enough word to describe the clichéd and mushy poses between ‘lovers.’ One scene was a fight scene, and if anyone remembers Connetquot High School production of Les Miserables, our make-up was more believable.
So we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into. Is this even a legitimate singer? To be honest, we felt guilted into it. When our principal sat us down to tell us about the project, she called it the ‘Bangladeshi hospitality’ – that we were doing her a favor of helping her friend.
We are then ushered into another room which they called the practice room. My living room is bigger. There are a dozen Bangla girls sitting on chairs circling the room. Then this short, tubby man gets up and starts dancing the typical corny dance moves of Bollywood/Dhallywood. Then asks us to get up and learn the dance. Darcy and Akiko were nervous and felt silly, but the moves were terribly easy. Whatever dance move was done on the right side is repeated on the left. I learned very young that that’s a sign of amateurs. I like to describe the dance moves as “clichéd and unelaborate regurgitation of *NSYNC circa 1999.” The music itself is a whole other story.
The moves were so easy that I was picking them up before he was finished teaching them. Darcy and Akiko had me break down the moves into counts and words and we were silly school girls giggling the whole time. The producer kept yelling at us, and believe me, he’s menacing looking. The Bangladeshi girls got up to learn it, and they weren’t much better than us so we felt better.
Of course, from hearing music, I was becoming silly and did a little pirouette on the side. The singer stops and says, “What’s this art?” Then they made me dance ballet around the room in front of everyone. I was so embarrassed, man. My body is not as flexible as it used to be and it looked terrible. But I’m not sure if they’ve ever seen it, so they were all impressed. Darcy and Akiko are laughing at me and I’m turning seven shades of red.
So after two hours of practicing the same dance moves, they invite us into the office for dinner. I don’t know if the Bangladeshi girls got food. The three of us were so uncomfortable that we just chatted to ourselves as the singer, producer and manager keep eyeing us. We ask to be taken home around 8:30 and with night traffic, we didn’t get home until 10.
As per the music video, filming was finished last night and taped a bunch of it and am working it into a Behind the Scenes video. Akiko backed out but Darcy and I had a good time. They asked us to wear Western clothes and we laughed because we moved to Bangladesh: we didn’t bring much. We hoped our backpacker clothes would be enough. Then the bought us the shirts above...
And if anyone ever wants to lose a belt size in four hours -- come to Bangladesh, get convinced to be a 'VIP' white guest in a Bangla music video, propelled into a stage surrounding by at least 60 sets of eyes staring you down, under spotlights in a studio with no air conditioning. Swear to Ganesh, inbetween one take, I had to tighten my belt another whole notch. Darcy saw me trying to hide it but laughed and said she did the same thing.
I was asked to be in another movie, but I am going to pass. This was a funny experience, I gained extra insight into the country, I met Darcy and some sweet Bangla girls and funny guys, and it will be a riot to watch the final cut on TV and eventually show my grandkids. But it’s not why I’m here. I think I’ll take a hiatus from my movie career and hide out in the French Rivera, or, you know, somewhere more remote, like Dhaka.
Coming soon --> Behind the Bangla Scenes: VIP Treatment