Last Tuesday, we headed back to OM for casting. I met with 9 little girls from the DEC (Dalit Education Center) there on the campus. They were a little nervous, so we played Simon Says with their teacher and that seemed to loosen them up and help to them to relax. They are only 7-9 years old, so there was a pretty big language barrier. Fortunately, one of the teachers was there to help translate. I talked with each of the girls individually, asked them some questions about their families, what they liked to do, how old they were, etc. and then would have them say a few lines from the script and role play some improv situations. It was cool to see them respond – some more than others – to the games and the situations. They would giggle at each other and the teacher would sshhh them – it was fun. Hopefully, we can find a Kavya in that group. If not, we’ll keep looking.
After the casting, we shared lunch with the other Friends team and then headed off to Ramoji Film City – kind of like our Universal Studios. Only this place is 3,000 acres big! Because of an OM contact, we were allowed to drive right through the gates and were met personally by someone who toured us around to the various sound stages that we were interested in – train station, airport, night club, etc. During our tour, we saw them filming a Bollywood movie – it was pretty cool! Evidently, the male actor is one of the biggest stars in Bollywood films – how cool is that! We also met with their equipment department regarding our need for rentals. They will be extremely helpful. Ramoji is the biggest film studio in India – and it is right outside of Hyderabad (well, OK, that means it takes 90 minutes to get there!). They can also help with casting, crew and location shoots, too. This was a great part of the trip and gave us many answers.
On Wednesday, we got up early, checked out of our hotel and made our way to the airport. We flew to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and met up with another OM friend, Rev. Mahadeb Mondal. He was with Jon, Abe and me in February as well. It was great to reconnect with him. He has been working in Kolkata with OM for over 16 years. He took us to the places that we visited in February. We went through the Red Light District (well, one street of the 10 streets that make up the Red Light District in Kolkata). I was pretty blown away. In February, we saw maybe 10-20 girls. This time, there were 10 times that many – probably close to 200 girls, many of them appeared to be 12 years old – on just the one street. The streets are more like alleyways and as our SUV honked it’s way down the narrow passage, the girls were literally right outside of our car windows. Some of them made eye contact and flirted with us as we drove past. It was nauseating and disgusting. It isn’t their fault – their pimps were sitting right there telling them what to do as this car with, in their minds, potential customers drove by. It was pretty awful.
After this, we headed to the Ganges River – the holy river of India. We toured through a Hindu cremation temple and saw bodies burning before being pushed out or dumped into the river. Again, this experience continues to blow me away.
We headed to the old train station in Kolkata next. It has over 25 platforms and it was busy with activity (video above). So many people getting off of trains or waiting to board trains to unknown destinations. We hope to shoot here as well. We also found the street that we discovered in February. It has an old, abandoned house there. Oh, yeah, and a mongoose that is leashed! It was there in February, too! Gotta love India!
Our host took us to an amazing Chinese restaurant for lunch. It was different from the one we went to in February. It was probably the best Chinese food I’ve ever had. Since Kolkata is in the northeast of India, it isn’t far from China. The Chinese influence can’t be overlooked on the city – and especially the food. I want some more of that Wonton Soup!
After lunch, we headed to Mother’s House – where Mother Teresa spent 58 years of her life. It is such a peaceful place. She is buried there and people come from all over the world to visit her final resting place (pictured above). In the middle of this city, boasting a population of over 12 million people, this little, humble house still stands as the headquarters for the Sisters of Charity that Mother Teresa started so many years ago. This amazing, Godly woman changed the culture of a nation from that house. Her selfless, sacrificial example is still being felt today. You can feel the peace and the humility permeate your body while you are there. It is life changing.
We traveled back to the airport and flew home to Hyderabad where we spent a quick night in a local hotel and then headed to the airport early the next morning for our 25-hour journey home. As our plane took off, I was eager to get home to my family (my wife, Elaine, has been really sick since I left and now has a secondary infection in her airways). At the same time, I can’t wait to return, to see how God will use this movie to impact the world and the country of India. There is so much to be done. I am humbled to be a part of it. God, please do amazing things.