All Creatures Great and Small

The hairy work of a prolific Bollywood animal handler

01 January 2017
Iyer’s dog Tiger appeared in a Pepsi advertisement with Shah Rukh Khan.
COURTESY SHANKAR NARAYAN AIYER
Iyer’s dog Tiger appeared in a Pepsi advertisement with Shah Rukh Khan.
COURTESY SHANKAR NARAYAN AIYER

A few vanity vans were parked on the bank of a lake in Mumbai’s Film City studio complex, where a scene from the upcoming Marathi film Idak was about to be filmed. As the crew adjusted their cameras to accommodate the blazing November sun, the director, Deepak Gawade, sent for two of his lead actors: Sandeep Phadke and Somaih. Phadke arrived within minutes, but Somaih was nowhere to be seen.

After 20 minutes of waiting, Gawade sent Shankar Narayan Iyer to hurry Somaih up. Iyer, a bearded man wearing a cap, disappeared into one of the vans, where another member of the production team was struggling to bring Somaih onto set. Within a few minutes, Iyer emerged with the actor. When I asked him how he had managed it, Iyer said, “I promised him a good meal, provided he gives his best shot.” Sure enough, after Somaih performed well, Iyer gave him a pack of Parle G biscuits and herded him back into the van.

Somaih is a goat, and Iyer his dedicated handler. When Iyer was hired to work on Idak—whose central plot explores the bond between a man and a goat—he purchased Somaih and Namaih: two Malabar goats from Cochin, both white with brown spots. “Shooting continuously for long time can be stressful, and this way, both can share that burden,” Iyer said. Apart from him, he claimed, no one on set could tell the two animals apart.

Sayoni Sinha Sayoni Sinha is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist who writes on films, food and everything in between. In her 12-year career, she has worked with Times Now, Mumbai Mirror and Yahoo.

Keywords: Bollywood Animals animal handler Idak Kapoor and Sons
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