|Detail of a photo by Ray Moller|
Bollywood dance video director Rohit Roy is sitting in his Mumbai office, chain-smoking his way through a medium-sized Guatemalan tobacco plantation, alternating between yelling into his shiny iPhone, and answering my carefully non-threatening research questions.
"Fuck man! People want to see a girl in a bikini, I'll show them a girl in a bikini! What's the big deal, man? I'm liberated. We're all fucking liberated. It's modern day India, man. When is the last time you had a hair cut?"
I hit the pause button on my cassette player and clear my throat. "I, uh..." I splutter.
"You're doing a PhD in California? You can make so much more dancing in my music videos. Why are you doing a fucking PhD?"
This is an excellent question, one I ask myself nearly every morning, at lunch time, and then again before bed. I think it is a rhetorical one, but I try to compose a suitably cheery answer in my head. His phone interrupts again, and he loses interest in the question. His hand apologizes to me. I beam reassuringly. My smile says that I don't mind that he's kept me waiting for three hours for this interview, that this is the seventh call he's taken in the last twenty minutes, and that his second-hand smoke is reducing my life span, as we speak.
I stare at the peeling paint on the lower third of the office walls, from when the monsoon floods hit Mumbai in the summer, at Rahul's ray-bans branded on to his forehead, his Lacoste t-shirt and the cardamom-spiced chai in his hands. His phone conversation finally comes to an end.
"So," I say, "tell me more about this woman in a bikini."