27 December, 2009

A Piece of Sky

(Do you like the new page? Less boring, huh? And I got the RSS subscription button to work--so now you can subscribe for reals!)

In case you missed it the first thousand times I said it 12 months ago, I proclaimed near and far that 2009 was going to be MY YEAR.

Near and Far!   Grover is Near and Far (<--Something my brother and sister and I laugh at all the time.)

And it was my year. :) Until 2010, that is! But we'll get to 2010 in a bit...first, let's talk 2009!

It started off promising, with more auditions than I'd usually gotten. Call-backs and workshops and more training! I accepted a couple roles in some short films, for no pay, as usual. :) Toward the middle of the year, I decided I wouldn't work for free anymore, unless I really liked the project. I'm done padding my resume and am ready for juicy, meaty roles that satisfy my soul as well as the bill collectors! ;)

One such project that I really liked was THE HERE BETWEEN, a short based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce ("An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"). I'd loved the story as a teenager, and Ilian Iliev adapted it for a short, putting it in the early 1920s and adding a few characters. It was filmed in Bailey, CO over a weekend in August. I hesitate to say I had a blast with it, because it was a serious subject matter...but, as with every project, I did have fun. :)It's a powerful piece, and I look forward to seeing the finished product. I know they're still in post-production now, but plan on making the rounds of the festival circuit in 2010. I have a feeling it will do very well, so I look forward to keeping you guys updated!

Here is a small album of some of my gigs this year. I haven't gone crazy and put hundreds up there, like other albums, so don't worry! :)

THE HIGHWAYMAN finally started production this year, as well. As you know, my part is very small...I play The Highwayman's grandmother in flashbacks--I'll be surprised if my total screen time when completed is 5 minutes! Darlene Cypser (writer/producer) has added a backstory to  Alfred Noyes's famous poem of the same name (I am SO in my element with literary adaptations! Loving it!), and that's where my character (Lady Catherine Stiles) comes in. Her adaptation is fantastic, and she's put together a wonderful cast! We're still filming--also still seeking locations!--but hoping for a 2010 release date.

The biggest news of the year, though, was getting the lead female role in CHHEVAN DARIYA (THE SIXTH RIVER), filmed in Punjab, India!!! If you've been a faithful reader of my blog--ahem!--you'll know all about it. :) It was definitely the highlight of 2009--as well as my career to date.

I am so blessed to have been a part of this.

What can I say, really? I spent two months in India doing two of the things I love most in this world--acting and traveling! I played an American researcher writing a book on the various states of India. When she gets to Punjab (Land of Five Rivers), she realized there is also a sixth river--to her, it's the people and the culture...but in reality it's the drugs and alcohol poisoning the land. There action, intrigue, romance...and yes, there's also a dance number!

I have my own forum now on Punjabi Portal--how crazy! I love it!!! But it's so weird, too...about as weird as seeing my picture blown up on a huge poster for the movie.

They're still in post, but last I heard they're planning on releasing it in India in February/March-ish. Ish Amitoj Kaur (the director/writer/producer) and I also hope to submit it to a lot of major western film fests. If that's the case, I don't know when it would be released in the western world. It may be another year before you're able to see it...that's just how this business works. :)

So now what am I up to?

Well, I no longer have a "survival job," much to my husband's chagrin. I'm considering it a blessing in disguise. No, I'm not making money at the moment, but I finally have time to get other projects started. And here are my plans for 2010:

1) I'm starting a new webseries loosely based on a modern-day Ricky and Lucy. We film our first webisode in three days! I'll post them here when each webisode is finished...as well as You Tube, Facebook, etc! I may start co-producing at some point, if I ever start a production company!

2) You may remember me talking about WILD GEESE, the short film I was wanting to write. I still hope to do that! India sort of interrupted that project--a good interruption, mind you! But I have to make my brain go back to that place...find out what research I'd done and get back into the groove of 1691 western Ireland. And yes, I still plan on writing it in Irish...and YES, I still hope to get Cillian Murphy attached!  Somehow.  Someday.  Some way. Can't you just picture it?

[caption id="attachment_137" align="aligncenter" width="141" caption="(Only, looking more Irish and less Dutch.)"][/caption]

3) I started a novel in the summer of 2008, putting it down that December because life got so hectic with work and travel, etc. I never picked it up again, unfortunately. I recently did, though, getting re-acquainted with all my old friends. I had such Good Things in store for them--I'd hate for them not to experience everything! So I must trudge forward and get it finished this year! (I even knew what was going to happen in the sequel...!) I kind of left Plum and Henry, et al, stranded in the middle of a story. That wasn't very nice of me.

4) I hope to complete an album this year, too. Such lofty goals and ambitions! But why not?! Why can't I dream big? It's my world, after all...I can do whatever I want. :) I've never written songs...always said I couldn't do it. But I never tried, either. I think it would be best to start co-writing some...and I have so many talented friends and family that I'm hoping can help. I've created a new playlist  called The Muse--with artists I love and hope will inspire some good songs out of me! (Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Feist, Amy Winehouse, Muse, Jason Mraz, Simon and Garfunkel, etc. I also included Dead Can Dance's \"Summoning of the Muse.\" Seemed rather apropos.)

5) Get cast as Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrmann's THE GREAT GATSBY.

And so there you have it. Of course, there are lots of little things I hope to accomplish through the year, but these are the biggun's.

Please click on the piece of toast on the right to suscribe to the RSS feed! That way you'll be able to stay "in the know" with all my goings-on. :) Hopefully my posts will get more and more exciting as time goes by!

Until then...it's well past lunchtime and I have a dog who wants to go play in the snow. :)

Here's to a fabulous 2010 for all of us!

Tell me where...
Where is it written
what is it I'm meant to be?
That I can't dare...?
It all began the day I found
that from my window I could only see
a piece of sky.
I stepped outside and looked around.
I never dreamed it was so wide
or even half as high.
The time had come
(--Papa, can you hear me?--)
to try my wings
(--Papa, are you near me?--)
And even thought it seemed at any moment I could fall,
I felt the most
(--Papa, can you see me?--)
amazing things!
(--Can you understand me?--)
The things you can't imagine
if you've never flown at all.
Though it's safer to stay on the ground,
sometimes where danger lies
there the sweetest of pleasures are found.
No matter where I go,
there'll be memories that tug at my sleeve.
But there will also be
more to question, yet more to believe..
Oh, tell me where?
Where is the someone who will turn to look at me
and want to share
my ev'ry sweet-imagined possibility?
The more I live, the more I learn.
The more I learn, the more I realize
the less I know.
Each step I take -
(--Papa, I've a voice now!--) Each page I turn -
(--Papa, I've a choice now!--)Each mile I travel only means
The more I have to go.
What's wrong with wanting more?
If you can fly - then soar!
With all there is - why settle for
just a piece of sky?

Papa, I can hear you...
Papa, I can see you...
Papa, I can feel you...
Papa, watch me fly!

~ "A Piece of Sky," from Yentl.

I will remake this someday!

03 December, 2009

To Be a Woman in this Business...

"For an actress to be a success, she must have the face of Venus, the brains of Minerva, the grace of Terpsichore, the memory of Macaulay, the figure of Juno, and the hide of a rhinoceros."

~Ethel Barrymore


Ms. Barrymore said this sometime in the 1950s.

Nothing has changed.

But let's break this down a bit...

VENUS: The goddess of love and beauty. The most important thing for an actress to be, or so it seems, is beautiful. Nobody wants to go and see normal-looking women, do they? Thank God this is changing, ever-so-slightly. There are very few actresses who are drop-dead gorgeous, who look fabulous no matter what. Most of us look just like everyone else. Every photo you see has been photoshopped and airbrushed. We're made to look skinnier and toned with flawless skin. No one looks like that! And trust me, everyone gets airbrushed. EVERYONE.



But as women, we let that happen. We keep buying the magazines with impossible beauty on the covers. We keep looking at those pictures and think, "I'll never look like that." Well--that's true--we won't ever look like that. But it should make us feel at least a little better knowing that they'll never look like that, either! :)  The things that they have and we don't are: good lighting, good make-up and hair stylists, a good photographer who knows all their best angles, and a guy to photoshop the finished product.

Yet we still have to strive daily to look our best, at all times...at any cost. Magic creams and potions and injections and going to the gym, all to keep us looking glamourous and beautiful. This is fine for those who have been able to make a successful career out of acting, but for those of us still struggling, it's not easy. I can't afford most of this--and I don't have a personal trainer egging me on to work out. I hate working out. So how can I keep up with those screen goddesses?

I can't. I just have to be Me.  And I'll keep hoping that casting directors see something different in me and will take a chance on that.

MINERVA: The goddess of wisdom, medicine, the arts, dyeing, science, trade, war, and the inventor of music. Good golly! That's a lot for one person to handle, don'cha think?! Yet actresses have to do this daily. The stereotype used to be that actresses weren't exactly the smartest of creatures...but it's next to impossible to be a "dumb blonde" in this biz. You have to have common sense, good judgement, and (I would say) a higher-than-average intelligence to make this work. Not only do we need to be creative--after all, our very job is to "pretend" we're someone else--but we also need to have a business-minded brain. That's not easy for some of us--me included. We have to be able to read a script and decide if this would be good for us as artists, and as businesspeople. It ain't called "show business" for nothin'. You are a brand. You must be marketable. People must be able to make money off of you, which means you need to be making plenty for yourself. (This part also falls into the VENUS category--being marketable!) And when/if you are making money, you need to make sure it's yours and that it's not going anywhere--which is a whole other side to the business that I'm not going to get into. :) I'll hire someone for that! ;)

TERPSICHORE: The Muse of dance and lyric poetry. An actress must have grace. She is under pressure and strain, as well as the microscope much of the time. She must exude an ease of grace or face the harsh critics in the press. She must be graceful not only in body and face, but in language as well. She must speak kindly about all, she must not be ribald, she must be this and that. Honestly, I can understand how some of these young actresses throw their hands up and go crazy. I understand, but I won't condone it. Ish Kaur, the director of THE SIXTH RIVER, told me I was graceful in everything I did. I laughed at that and told her I'm such a klutz! But that didn't matter. Tripping over everything (and sometimes nothing) doesn't mean I can't be graceful. It just means I have to be extra-charming to make up for my sense of gravity. ;)

MACAULAY: Lord Macaulay was a poet, historian, MP, and Secretary at War. He was known to say that, "if by some miracle of vandalism all copies of Pilgrim's Progress and Paradise Lost were destroyed off the face of the earth," he would undertake to reproduce them both from recollection. How he fits into an actress's life should be obvious. We read, we commit to memory, we perform what we have learned. But it goes a bit deeper than that. We shouldn't forget anything in our lives--personal, professional, whatever. The pain we've endured, the happiness we've felt, every emotion from any time in our lives can be brought forward to use in our craft.  Though we'd like to forget high school days or embarrassing moments, they help a lot in connecting to and with  the character we're playing. Those old emotions help us become the character, not just act like her.

JUNO: Queen of the gods and protector of Rome. She is often identified with the Greek goddess Hera, who was mostly worshipped as a goddess of marriage and birth. Which brings me to one of the more interesting aspects of being an actress: marriage and children. Oh, lordy, this could be a long one! First, marriage: When an actress gets married, she takes herself off the market. Producers may not like that because people might stop fantasizing about her, and stop buying tickets to see her. (This is all bull hockey, but whatever.) Producers may not like the partner she chose...he or she could be bad for her career. And then there's the whole "my wife simulates sex with other people for a living" thing. I've often joked with Andy that the only reason I'm an actress is so I can kiss other people and get away with it. The truth is, it's really not a joking matter. It can't be easy for someone to watch their partner making out with another guy or gal. Insecurities are bound to pop up--real or imagined. And telling them that it's the least sexy and romantic thing to do doesn't help. You're there in front of dozens of people, all eyes on the two of you...it's not exactly a picnic. But that doesn't help--your partner will be thinking things like, "Does she touch him the way she touches me? Does she enjoy it? I'm gonna go punch that guy's lights out!" No matter how normal and sane and level-headed they are--and believe me, I've got one of the most even-keeled guys out there--this is not an easy thing to go through. So this in itself takes a little bit of Minerva and Terpsichore--wisdom and grace--to tread lightly on the subject, to be gentle and reassuring and maybe a little blasé about the whole thing. If the actor happens to be a good kisser...you know, my husband doesn't need to know that.

This can be very dangerous territory for those of us who have partners. As an actress, I will myself to develop a bit of a crush on my co-star. It helps with the chemistry and makes things more believable. But actors in general can take those feelings too far. (And I mean "actors" as in guys and gals.) It's the easiest thing in the world to think yourself in love with that other person, to really believe it. We see it all the time in the tabloids--people leaving their spouses for their recent co-star. But most of the time, it's just the intensity of emotions on set, it's not anything real--it's not anything to build a relationship on. If you have a strong marriage, it's just a bump in the road and you can stop yourself from tripping. If you've been having trouble in your marriage, this can be a huge boulder  you run smack-dab into, face first. It's up to you. It's always up to you.

Onto kids: Yay, kids! Everyone asks, "When are you guys gonna have kids? You've been married a while now! Come on!" We're under constant pressure to reproduce! Most of our friends have already finished, and we haven't even begun. Going through our friends, 97% of those who do not have kids are actresses. Coincidence? Hardly. We have the usual worries about starting a family: time, money, career, etc. But then we've got the added worries about changing bodies and not getting a role while we're pregnant...and trying to get back to our pre-pregnancy bodies, not an easy feat. And for those often playing romantic leads, there's the worry that now we'll only get cast in the mom roles, that we won't be seen as cute and sexy anymore. For an actress to be out of commission for an entire year is a tough thing. People forget you in this business, unless you're always out there. You have to continuously fight to be heard and seen, to get the roles you want. (Remember Minerva's also the goddess of war?) Once you start a family, you'll be fighting for the above, plus to spend time with your family. This can be a cruel career--odd, long hours...often filming on location no where near your home. Can you bring the kids? Sure. With someone else there to watch them. You can see them in your trailer between takes--but I don't know many kids patient enough to hang around the studio for any length of time. It's hard enough for the kids who are in the film to be patient! (And that's true of some adults, too! ;)   )

For many years of an actress's life, her career has to come first. Otherwise, there will be no career. Some might argue that there may be no children then, either. So each actress has to decide for herself what she can and cannot live with. If knowing you sacrificed a family for your career is going to make you distraught, then don't focus so much on the career. For me--I'm at that awkward age, where both are pretty important. Career outweighs children, but not by much. I have a few more years before I really need to start worrying...so I won't think about that now. I'll think about that tomorrow, with Scarlett.

I'm in a business where my height and weight are on my resume. A change in weight becomes a change in characters that I can play. So...yes, that's always the first thing on my mind when I think about starting to have children.

RHINO: As if all the above wasn't bad enough, we also have to be strong and tough? Geez Louise, you're asking a lot. In this profession, you hear a lot of "NOs." You're not right for the part. Come back after you've done this. Lose 5 pounds. Too tall, too short, too this and that. No, no, no, no, NO. The physical attributes that you're super insecure about are the things the Powers That Be will bring up. I've heard two very good pieces of advice for those wanting to be an actor. 1) If you can't take criticism, forget it. You'll never make it. 2) If there's something you're just as passionate about, do that instead.

Even if you've made it, you're still under critique. And everyone's a critic. Everyone's scrutinizing you and taking pictures of you...and you can't scratch your nose in public anymore, because US Weekly will have it blown up and claim you were picking your nose! Gain a few pounds, and they'll circle the supposed "baby bump" that is your tummy! Kiss an old friend on the cheek and suddenly you're in a passionate affair. Cover your face from the cameras and you're rude. On and on and on. For someone like me, who wants everyone to like her, that can be difficult. First of all, I have to understand that not everyone's going to like me. Second, who bloody cares?! Just let it go. Serenity NOW!

So there you have it. The Life of an Actress. I hope that brings a little more understanding into what we go through, and why we make the decisions we do...and why so many of us are older mums!

Ethel knew exactly what she was talking about...and in 50+ years, it's still the same.

22 November, 2009

She's baaa-aaaack!

15th November, 2009

Wow...the last chance I had to update my blog was the 28th of October. Been a while, eh? Sorry 'bout that.

The last couple weeks of the shoot were pretty hectic, and Andy and I have been traveling a bit since then. This is the first moment I've had to myself, really. Andy left this afternoon...:(

I've been trying to keep a list of things to write about, but I wish I'd taken better notes! All the dates will be fuzzy now! Ah, well.

Let's see...we covered a lot of scenes in a just a little over a week. The one night I was able to get to sleep before midnight, the company threw a party and we all stayed up dancing. I tried to leave so many times, but people were literally pulling me onto the dance floor for more. Got a good workout that night!

I had said earlier that we only have one song-and-dance number, but that's changed. We have two more that will be more front and centre, though not being sung in the movie. One is the love song—we did a lot of awesome things for that, can't wait to see it on screen. We spent over two days on it—one in the sugar cane fields and the other on and around a farm. It was a ton of fun. This was where the big kiss was supposed to be—but it wasn't so big after all. Just a brush of the lips...even that might be too much for Punjabi audiences! This will be a first, so we'll see how it's accepted. I did see some of the sugar cane scenes, and they used the lighting to wonderful effect—it looked like we were kissing quite a bit. Those were actually tough scenes, because we were surrounded by mirrors reflecting the sun onto us, and we had to look at each other lovingly. I had to keep my eyes closed until “action,” it was too much.

I think one part of the song will have me lip synching...and I think for the promo they have another part with me lip synching...we'll see!

Speaking of sugar cane—they peel it and eat it! It's nasty to me—it's SUGAR! Blech. There was a scene where I had to eat it, so I'd take a bite and chew, and then spit it out on the “cut.” Bleh.

That was a fun day—Lakhwinder and I got a lot of promo shots taken between takes, and I even convinced the village children and women to take pictures with us. That took a LOT of convincing! I'm probably the only white person they've ever seen—these were in farm villages, with huts and everything. One child even let me hold her—she was adorable. They all were, really!

The day after that was on the farm, and we did takes on a tractor with kites (and village boys with kites) and a swing and running through the hay fields—and my personal favourite, on a HORSE! I'd been telling them that we needed to have a scene with a camel, and another with an elephant, and then with tiger cubs--the dance master asked if this was for National Geographic. Well, no elephant, but I got some goats and a horse! Lakhwinder and I were both supposed to be riding, but he chickened out! So I sat on Lajo, who was pretty fussy, and Lakhwinder took the reins and walked us around. He laughed at me the whole time because I was talking to the horse a lot. (I talk to all animals, and Lakhwinder thinks it's the funniest thing. His impression of me is actually pretty funny, though. Maybe I should film him doing that!)

Oh!!! I got to play with a puppy that day, too!!!! He was adorable! And I let him lick my nose and we cuddled and then Ish made me put him down. :(

I learned a new word in Punjabi a few weeks ago. It's not one you ever want to learn, but sometimes it's necessary! ooltee. It sounds so pretty, doesn't it? It means “vomit,' though. Not so pretty. That was a fun morning! I made Lakhwinder pull over on our way to set...and then once we got there we had a major argument scene to film. I got better! (She turned me into a newt!)

I've done pretty well with Punjabi and Hindi. Picked things up a lot faster than I thought I would. I can't speak in complete sentences, though. Just a couple...but I know a lot of words, and can at least get my point across. Mostly. ;) No more, “what's up, chicken” incidences, at least!

Andy got here on the 3rd...that was actually my last day of shooting, but I didn't know. I was a little worried about him coming in, because that day there was a shut-down in Punjab, where no one could drive until after 5 PM. There were some demonstrations going on and the whole of the state was affected, I guess. But he actually made it to the set by about 3—so that was a very nice surprise! I showed him off to everyone as my “pati”--husband-- and then we took a catnap. He'd been traveling since 4 that morning, and I'd been up since then, too. (Our wake-up times were about 4.30-5ish during the last week or so.) And then we went home early, which was really nice.

The next day we got up early and went to set...but it turns out I didn't have anything to film, after all. We got there before the make-up crew, even, and then we were given a room and I slept for 5 hours. I kid you not. Part of it was the cough medicine I'd bought that morning, and part of it was just pure exhaustion. When I asked Andy what time it was, I didn't believe him. I couldn't remember a time when I'd been in my hotel room for that long a stretch!!!

I wish Andy had been able to see me shoot a scene or two, but he did get to see a couple other scenes being shot, so that's good. And he saw the tractor scene—I was bouncing all over the place on that particular take, I guess. I didn't see it—you'll have to get Andy to re-enact it for you, it's pretty funny.

The day after that, we headed to Amritsar with Lakhwinder. We had a great time—we met up with a friend of his who put us up at the Ritz. We got a traditional welcome there, and then had tea in our room. Later, a journalist and photojournalist from the Hindustan Times came for an interview. Andy got to witness that. He assures me I didn't say anything bad! (There was a nice big article with picture in the next day's paper, but I haven't found it online yet. And Andy gave away the only paper copy I had! There were some tourists who wanted my autograph, but Andy didn't know that was my only copy. I'll have to get more.)

Anyway, after that, we headed to the Wagah border—which was actually Lakhwinder's first time, too. Thanks to him, we got VIP seating and parking, etc. VERY nice. We still had to go through the two security checkpoints. They separate the guys and gals for that. The second checkpoint was mainly spent answering the guards' questions about the movie and Lakhwinder—it was so cute!

The Wagah border is right on the Pakistani/India border, and every night there's a big to do about closing the gates. It's actually pretty nifty, watching the ceremonies and seeing the soldiers of both sides act all macho. They were cordial to each other, which was nice to see. We got a ton of video of this...I think Andy's going to put some of it together when he gets home.

After that, we had tea and then went to the Golden Temple, which was just as gorgeous as everyone had said it would be. I'm glad we went at night, when it was all lit up. It's a very peaceful place, and I'm lucky to have been able to see it. I was able to post a few pictures on Facebook a few days ago—you may have already seen them. :) I told Andy I enjoy visiting the gurdwaras because it's peaceful and relaxing to me. I don't really pray--per se--but I do give thanks while I'm there. I have so much to be grateful for...I've found myself becoming much more spiritual since I've been here. I used to be a very religious Christian until a few years ago. I don't want to offend anyone, so I won't say more than that. Anymore, I consider myself spiritual but not religious, and I enjoy learning about all kinds of religions. The Sikh religion fascinates me—it's actually very similar to Christianity—and I'm learning more and more about it. I'd like to continue to visit a gurdwara on occasion when I get back to the States. Some of you might ask if I'd consider converting...and the answer is “no.” I can't really consider myself a Sikh anymore than I could consider myself a Christian. There are philosophies of both religions that I admire and try to follow, just as there are of nature religions.

Okay, getting a bit heavy for what's supposed to be my acting blog!!! To continue:

The next day, we did a bit of shopping and eating of special Amritsar foods...and then we took the bus to Chandigarh, where we were met by Ish's parents. I call them Mama Ji and Papa Ji. :) Ji is a term of respect, like “sir.” We had a lovely dinner at their new house. I tried to stay up for when Ish and Taran were coming in, but I couldn't make it. The next day we piddled about for a bit, and then we headed up to Shimla, Himachal Pradesh with Taran for a few days. It was something like 100 km away, if that, but it took 6 hours, because most of it was winding up through the mountains. It's a beautiful part of India—and Shimla was the summer vacation spot for the Brits when they were here. There's a huge British influence in the architecture and land. It's very pretty. And the best part: MONKEYS! Monkeys everywhere...all around the house and walking along and...oh, everywhere. So hard not to just stop to play with them, but even I know that's not the best idea. Though at the Hindu temple nearby, you can buy prasad (holy food) to feed them! And you can bet your sweet bippy I did! Andy wasted most of it by throwing it at me! (Video on Facebook!)

Before I forget—they don't really say “I play the lead,” or anything like that over here. When asked what part I was, I would say I was the lead female, but no one knew what that meant. Over here, it's “hero” and “heroine.” So I learned pretty quickly to tell people I was the heroine. That's more impressive to them. :)

18th November

I've found that I really have to watch what I say and do. I'm much more aware of the things I do in public. Good practice for when I actually am famous, I guess! ;) In Punjab, most people knew what I was in town for, so I got lots of picture and autograph requests, and the usual stares. Elsewhere, they don't know I'm an actress, but I still get the stares and people surreptitiously taking photos of me. (I didn't notice that often, but Andy did. There were a couple times I tried to get out of the way of the shot, and then realized it was ME they were actually taking a picture of!)

White people are not a common sight! You never really get used to the stares, but you accept it. The only time I hate it is when I go to a shop and all the salespeople stare and follow you around. That's annoying. I understand now what Braden and Erin went through while living in Japan.

Anyway...to continue...

We spent a couple days in Shimla, and then took a train down the mountain, and transferred to an overnight train into Delhi. That was interesting. The only other time I'd been on a sleeper train was in Kenya, and four of us shared pretty comfortable rooms that had a door. Here, everything was open, with a curtain to shut yourself away. I fit in the bunks a little better than Andy (we had to keep some of our luggage with us), so I'm afraid I got a bit more sleep than he did. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love being short and petite? Well, I do. :) )

We made it to Delhi around 6 AM, and then dragged our luggage up and down stairs (no coolies for us! They take too much money!) and found a cab to take us to our hotel in Karol Bagh. We slept for a few hours, and then got ready to go SHOPPING!!! Yay!!!

But I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. It would have been better to have an Indian with us. They see white people and automatically double the price, so bargaining with them doesn't get it as low as it should be. I was proud of myself, though—I managed to do pretty good. I was hoping Andy would handle that part, but nope, no...it was all me. I know I could have bought so much more for the amount I spent, but not by ourselves. Ti ke, ti ke. It was still better prices than in the States!

Obviously, everyone thinks white people are rich and loaded. I try and tell them that's not quite the case, but I don't think they believe me. :) They say, “We can't afford things in America!” To which I tell them, “*WE* can't afford things in the States, either!”

Some understand, especially those who have spent time overseas. Manpreet was in California for about 6 months, so he got a taste of it.

Andy and I did get used to the cost of things over here, though. If we spend more than five or six bucks for the two of us to eat, we fuss a bit! (Not to the restaurant, of course!) We did have one nice candlelit meal in Bombay...and we still walked out of there for less than $20. That was our most expensive meal. We tried to bargain a lot while buying gifts for our family back home, so we could get them more than one thing. There was one item in particular—for my brother—that was more expensive than the rest, and we worried about it. But what's funny is it's not like it was a huge amount in dollars! We would have spent a lot more on everyone back home.

I think everyone will like their gifts. There's more I'd love to give people, but...after all, I'm still a starving artist. By the way, men are so hard to buy for here!!! It's not like they'd appreciate the fabrics or anything. Grrr. Men.

Anyway—the day after our Delhi shopping, we hired a driver and car and went to Agra to visit with my friend Shiv (the asst director) and see the Taj Mahal. Agra has a lot more to see, but I really just wanted to do the Taj and a little bit of shopping. It took 5 hours or so to get there, and then we stopped in a marble place to see how the inlaid marble is made—now and in the 17th century, when the Taj was built. It's a fascinating procedure, and the marble is gorgeous! We'd like to buy a tabletop next time we go. We bought everyone little knick knacks to see the inlaid marble.

After that, we met up with Shiv and our guide and headed to the Taj. You know it's going to be gorgeous before going in, but...there's nothing quite like it. It's...stunning. We got a ton of pictures, but I'm afraid they just don't capture the beauty of it. (And yes—I DID get my Princess Diana photo! Had to! Can't wait till I'm a VIP and they can shut the Taj down for me someday. ;) ) Anyway—it's absolutely gorgeous, and all the tourists didn't subtract from that, as I worried they might.

It took 22 years to build, and the guy had even started building his own tomb behind it. (I can't remember his name! His wife was called Mem Taj.) His was going to be the Black Taj Mahal. The foundation was laid and a tower or two completed before his son had him arrested and locked up in Agra Fort for spending so much time and money. He's buried in the Taj with her, and it's the only asymmetrical part of the whole palace. She's directly centre, and his tomb is to her right. Everything else—EVERYTHING-- is in perfect symmetry. The tombs we saw aren't where they're actually buried. Their tombs are down below so we don't trample over their graves, and are not decorated at all (according to the Muslim faith, I believe).. The ones above are very decorative, but they're blocked off, too.

It was a fun day. We got to see how the carpets are made, as well, did a little shopping. Our driver insisted we see the musical based on the Taj love story, so we did that. It was all in Hindi, so we only caught bits and pieces. However, the dances were great and I loved the costumes! (And the melodramatic acting, too! Tee-hee!) After that, we went to Shiv's house for dinner...where, once again, everyone gathered around to watch us eat. Very odd, but that always happens! We got in to Delhi around 2 in the morning, so it was a long day. The next day we just sort of piddled around the neighbourhood and uploaded pictures. And I can't remember if that's the evening we left for Bombay...but I don't think so. Maybe. Actually, I think it was.

I have no clue. Like I said, I didn't take good notes!

But that's what we eventually did—flew to Bombay. We stayed south in Chembur until Andy left, and the day after he left I moved to Andheri West back at the YWCA.

We didn't do a whole lot in Chembur. That's actually Manpreet's neighbourhood, so we did get to spend some time with him, tasting special treats and what-not. Yummy, yummy. I told him I really wanted to see a movie, and he thought that was a bit strange because there would be no English subtitles. But I insisted! I HAVE to see a movie here!

The experience is pure Indian, that's for sure. The tix are so cheap—no candies, but the typical movie snacks are popcorn, soda, and a samosa. No one turns their cell off, and they talk to their friends or on their cells the entire time! There's also an intermission in every movie, not that it's super-long. We saw Tum Mile (When We Met), which is a love story set on the day in July 2005 when Bombay had major floods. It was pretty good. Andy and I understood a lot more than we thought we would, though I did wonder why people go to the movies if they're just going to talk through it. Like I said, distinctly Indian. (Everyone has 2, 3, 4 cell phones, and they're on the phone CONSTANTLY. I joked about Lakhwinder being a call centre, but really, they all are one!) Anyway, the movie: I was disappointed that there weren't any big Bollywood numbers, but I enjoyed the songs featured.

There's a movie coming out this week that I've really been looking forward to seeing. It's been advertising for a month now, and it looks completely different than any other Bollywood movie. I'm really excited for it. It's called Kurbaan (which I think means Sacrifice), and stars Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan, who are the Brangelina of India. Saifeena? From what I gather, it's set here in India and New York, and I think it's around 9/11. I saw an interview with the two of them, and Saif was saying that as a Muslim, he was glad to have a Muslim character depicted in a realistic way. He said Muslims are always thought to be terrorists, but in truth, if you're claiming to kill for God, you're not a Muslim. I think that could be said for every religion—why would God want you to kill for Him? Doesn't that kind of go against everything He stands for? * sigh * Anyway...getting too deep again. :)

So—Kurbaan looks REALLY good, and I plan on seeing it this Friday or Saturday. I bought the soundtrack yesterday—good stuff! They provide the lyrics, so I'll have to google them to figure out what's really being said. There's been some fuss made from certain groups unhappy with the movie posters—it shows a bare-backed Kareena! L'horreur! I guess there are some pretty steamy scenes, too, but maybe since they're a real-life couple, there's not as much to say about it? I don't know. I don't pretend to understand the movie industry here. Some kisses make it through, others get censored...there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to it...I'm just glad our censorship isn't quite like that.

Anyway, after Tum Mile, Manpreet took us to his house for dinner with the family. I've mentioned before that Indians eat late. We arrived a little after 8 and didn't eat until 11.30! We'd had plenty of appetizers, though, that started around 10. And we actually ate early, with another couple. There were three other couples besides us and the family—they were good friends of the family, and great fun. :) I overheard one of the gals say to her husband, “They're serving us early since we don't eat late.” I laughed—11.30 was early! After we ate, everyone else started to—around midnight—and around 12.30 or so, Manpreet offered to take us home. We protested at first, saying we could leave when everyone else did, and everyone assured us they'd all be there for several more hours yet. So we went home!

Yesterday, I was dropped off at a mall—all by myself! So I wandered around for a bit, bought a couple things at FabIndia—sorry, Andy! Got the Kurbaan CD and lunch, then headed back to the Y. Late last night, a handful of us went driving around looking for a dance club. Tuesday nights are not big dance nights! But we found a nice one and stayed for a few hours. Ish and Raju actually stayed dancing the night/morning away, but I got home around 2. I can't party like that! Never really could. :) I like going out for a bit, but I always look forward to getting home. Is that sad?

This evening I start my dubbing. I may actually be able to finish it tonight, too. I know the movie's changed a bit from its original form—it's now less a love story and more an action movie, I guess. I'm not in it as much as was I think originally planned, but I'm still the lead female. So that's okay. :) They've only edited my scenes, since I leave soon...and Ish says it's fantastic. She keeps thanking me for my hard work and dedication and the good job I did, and said that everyone—everyone--came up to her to tell her how much they enjoyed working with me. She liked my humility, too! I laughed and said that I like to pretend to be a diva, but I could never actually be one. Ever.

I know once I get to the studio tonight, I'll disagree with Ish's opinion of my performance! I always think I can do better...always.

Anyway. Tomorrow I head into the recording studio to record “One Life to Live,” the duet with Lakhwinder. I think I know most of my part, from listening to it over and over again while we filmed those scenes, but I'm not sure if there are other parts. Haven't really heard the whole thing! Guess I'll find out tomorrow!

The 21st I have another photo shoot. Originally it was to be with Lakhwinder, but we already have a lot of couple shots, so they need a sort of Angelina Jolie action shot. I have no clue what they're looking for. I'll do my mad karate skills and see how that goes. ;) Har, har. I think maybe they're just looking for a serious, dramatic shot, not necessarily one of me doing anything. I dunno. Again, I'll find out that day!

I'm hoping I'll be able to have lunch with Amir Khan, one of the big stars here. I like his work and he seems like a nice guy. A couple people in the crew know him really well, so...we'll see! Maybe I can talk him into doing a movie with me! He's a very rare sort here—he only does one film a year..it's always released on 25 December, and it's always a hit. Most actors are in several films in a year, which is rarely done in the west. Just in the 7 or so weeks I've been here, I've seen 5 or 6 actors star in 3-4 different movies. Insane. How do they do it?

20 October

So—finished the dubbing already! They were thrilled with how quickly I caught on to it. It was my very first time...I hadn't wanted to tell Ish that, but she asked a few weeks ago. I had to admit that no, I'd never done dubbing. She said that I'm a fast learner and maybe I'd pick it up. And I did. Good thing—there were 20-some-odd scenes I needed to dub! I didn't see all of my scenes, but I did like the ones I got a chance to see. And I got to correct my Punjabi pronunciation—whew!

I think they want me to dub the whole thing in Punjabi. I protested at first—I hate it when movies are dubbed. I much prefer to see the original performances and have subtitles. But subtitles are expensive, and they'd just be in English. Because Ish and I hope to enter this into the big western film fests, we need the subtitles for everyone else. So I don't know what the plan is. We're kind of running out of time—I leave the night of the 22nd. I hope they don't get someone else to do it...I hope they just keep the original English. They did keep reminding me to speak with more clarity, so Indians could understand me—so maybe that means they'll stick with the original.

Last night I went into the recording studio for the song...the music master is confident I can do it, so I go in this evening for the real thing. Yesterday were just tests, and to me, they were horrible. They at first said they'll fiddle with it and the original vocals, but I said NO. I will never have someone else do my singing. Apparently, very few people in Bollywood do their own singing—but I told them I'd feel like a fraud. I will NEVER have someone do my singing. Ever.

I'm supposed to have a lot of rest today, so my vocal cords are in good health. Hello, sinus rinse and mucinex and Throat Coat tea!

Oh—there was something else I wanted to talk about. Servants. If you're at least middle class here, you have a servant or two. It's just expected. People are surprised we don't have them in the States. They were shocked to hear that I do my own cooking and cleaning and driving and everything. No oil foot massages at the end of a long day! Having servants isn't a bad thing, I guess—it gives them a job and income that they may not otherwise receive. But it is strange to see...and to know that if Andy and I lived here, we'd have a house staff, too! (Man, I've always dreamed of a house staff! Who hasn't?!)

I do sometimes embarrass myself by doing things that the maid or whoever would do. I've been stopped several times and told that someone else does that. Oops.

Anyway...I'm going to read for a bit. Have no clue when I'll get wi-fi next, so I don't know when I'll be able to put this online. I'll just keep adding to it, though. :) Sorry for the length! This is 7 pages, already...

22 November

So I leave just before midnight tonight. Much still to do, but I can't get a hold of anyone to get the driver. Ugh.

The recording went very well—it only took half an hour Can't wait to hear the finished product. I always think I can do better, but I'll never be satisfied, so I told them I'd go by their satisfaction, rather than mine. They were very happy with it—whew!

Yesterday we had a photo shoot for the movie poster and various promo shots. HOT!!! Good stuff taken. It was me and Lakhwinder and Manpreet in various combinations. The one they selected for the poster is me and Lakhwinder in shadows. I saw a few of them, but I'm not sure which shot they went with. Still—how cool is that?! Me on a movie poster!!!!!! And we got one of the best photographers in the industry out here, so it was a pleasure to work with him.

Actually, we somehow got the best all the time! Our DP (Inderjit Balsan) is fantastic, and works with everyone in Bollywood. He made me look good, that's for sure.

I've enjoyed my two months here immensely, but I'm definitely looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and getting into a “real” shower and “real” toilets. ;) And snuggling with my baby girl!!!!!!! And not screaming in traffic.

Oh—the other day Manpreet and I were walking around Chembur, eating at the various vendors. I tried to stick with him while crossing the streets. But one time he went forward and it freaked me out with how fast the traffic was coming and I stayed there in the middle of the street, tried to follow him, watched a car coming for me and not slow down, screamed, and ran back to the other side where a bunch of ladies passing laughed at me.

It's terrifying here, I tell ya!!!!!

I really hope I can get internet today.

My flight gets into Newark a little after 5 AM on the 23rd, and then I've got a nice 8-hour layover where I'll be trying to catch an earlier flight home. If I don't, I land in Denver sometime after 5 PM. Looooong couple days of traveling.

Right-i-o. I'm going to see if they're serving lunch downstairs. It's a Sunday, so I'm not exactly sure what they do here at the Y. I heard services going on downstairs. (You can hear everything here in India. Sound proof only exists in the recording booth!)

23 November.

Here I am! Obviously didn't get wi-fi before I left—not even in the Bombay airport.

Landed about an hour ago, maybe a little more. Got through customs, tried to get an earlier flight (no luck), wandered about looking for wi-fi spots, got a yogurt parfait and mused on Stateside expenses. :) Definitely not in India anymore. $5 for a luggage trolley?! I spent that much on the SUITCASE I bought yesterday!

Ah, well. You take the good with the bad, I guess, no matter where you go. :)

The 16 hour flight wasn't too bad. Managed to watch 2 movies, 4 eps of Friends, and half of Gandhi before all the monitors quit working! Slept here and there, read a bit...longing for a massage, but since I'm back in the states, I'm no longer considered wealthy, so no special treats for me!

My flight leaves in 8 hours...yay. :) What to do, what to do?!

Guess I'll start by uploading this blog, then check the hundreds of (mostly junk, I'm sure) emails...maybe upload some photos, too!


27 October, 2009

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

24th October, 2009

Hallo, again!

I was able to pop online yesterday, but I hadn't really had time to write anything until now.

Diwali was wonderful—so much fun! First I went to a gurdwara, then we came back to the hotel for a Hindu ceremony, which was so neat to participate in. Then I went driving around Ludhiana city with Lakhwinder to watch the fireworks and people. There's some pictures on Facebook already.

We've been busy filming wedding and sangate scenes for the past week. A sangate is kind of like a bachelorette party, but with all family and friends. This is where we're having the big song and dance number, and we're filming at night...so we've been filming till 3 or 4 in the morning. We were supposed to finish up yesterday (uh, this morning), going till 6 or 7, but we had major camera issues that couldn't be fixed, so we got to pack up a little after three. We're having a new camera sent from Bombay today.

This is good news for me! I'll take any delay I can get. We're supposed to finish filming around the 3rd of 4th, but Andy doesn't get here till the 7th. The day after we wrap, we're all planning on heading into Amritsar, and I'd like Andy to join us for that (though we can also go again separately).

Neena Gupta and Gulshan Grover have already finished their filming, so once the dance sequence is over, we'll be concentrating on the big scenes between me and Dev (Lakhwinder). I need to lose a few pounds first!!! Ugh.

Yeah, I've gained a couple pounds, for sure. It's so easy to do. It's not like I'm eating all the time or anything, but the food is just sooooo delicious. And a lot of it is carbs. It's my own fault for eating so many carbs, but I can't pass up the roti...tsk, tsk. I've only been to the hotel gym once since we've been here—I never know what the schedule is, and I have to make sure my hair gets done before we leave for location...with all the late eating times (something else contributing to the weight gain, I suspect), it's hard to go to the gym in between meals and naps.

Yes, naps. Everyone knows I loves me a good nap! But I'm not the only one—we artists are kings and queens of naps! We have to! Especially on days like today, though I don't have time for a nap before we leave. You get in after 4 AM, in bed by 5, interrupted sleep for 4 hours before you begin the day.

We're supposed to be on set by 5 this evening, and hopefully we'll be able to go till 6 or 7 AM. But like I said, any delay is good for me. ;)

Haven't been able to sleep well these past few days, as I have one of the dancers rooming with me until these scenes are over.

We're in the papers a lot here, but I can't understand what's being said! ;) I'm also finding myself holed up in our dressing room more and more. When I go out, people want pictures and pictures and more pictures. Which is great, and I'm happy to oblige, but sometimes I just want to walk around and see what's happenin'... ya know? But fans decide my fate, they're what keep me going. So of course I'm going to take pics and give autographs. (Can you imagine if I were actually famous?! Wow.)

I'm getting used to being an Indian girl. I don't let the guys touch me. Last night, a couple guys kept squeezing in on me—not touching with their hands, but getting in really close—and I kept scooting forward. And then someone did try to put his arm around me, so I had to step forward. Navneet and Manpreet were very proud of me! I'm learning! This particular guy had alcohol on his breath, anyway, so there was no way I was going to let any familiarities happen. Things are very different over here. They will try to grab and see what they can get away with...and gorian have a reputation of being easy. That's just what the perception is of white girls—they'll hop into bed with anyone. So me being my normal friendly self only perpetuates that misconception, even though to me, an arm around the shoulder means nothing. To them, it does mean something.

I think this is mainly for northerners, as things are more acceptable down south. That's the general impression I'm getting, anyway.

I did get scolded by Manpreet—yet again—on Diwali. When Lakhwinder and I got back, we met up with some of the cast and crew. Those who were not Sikhs had been drinking, which wasn't a big deal to me...and they gave me hugs, which also wasn't a big deal to me. Hugs are normal amongst friends. But Manpreet insists all they were trying to do was feel whatever they could! Ehhh...maybe, maybe not. I didn't notice anything.

The dance scenes have me nervous, but it's been okay so far! My theatrical background has been coming out, though, with a wide open smiling mouth...so I have to be aware of that--”not graceful,” Ish says. ;) The first night I was terrified and nervous and unsure, so I really had to loosen up—where's a glass of wine when you need one?

Last night was great...I felt comfortable and had fun, and that's what it's all about. Well, that and putting your right hand in and out and shaking it all about.

Ack—have to get down to the vans in 10 minutes. Maybe for once we'll be on time! Tee-hee. First, Indian time is very different—I've found I have to add half an hour or so to whatever is told me...and then, there may be one or two divas amongst the cast, though I will neither confirm nor deny that. ;)

25th October, 2009

Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy. We got to location a little after 5, and left after 6.30 this morning. Got a lot done! Our van stopped for breakfast on the side of the road, so I was in bed and asleep by 8.30 (location's about an hour away). Call for lunch at one, and I've had my shower and am doing my hair. We were supposed to be leaving for location at 2 PM, but I don't think that's happening, since it's 2 now...and I think most people are still in bed.

My shots didn't come until after 3.30 this morning, so I had a lot of waiting around to do. Took a small nap around 2.30.

Ummm...28th October? I'm not positive! And I think it's Wednesday!

So I did end up going onto set relatively on time.

This is going to be very stream-of-conscious, as I now can't remember what happened when!

So let's see...Thursday night I was up late writing emails, when things got a bit dizzy. I wasn't sure if it was me and my lack of sleep or if maybe something else was going on. And then it happened again...and I knew I wasn't crazy! I wondered if we'd had an earthquake. And sure enough...two days later I read in the paper that there was a 6.1 earthquake near Kashmir, and we got the tremors.

My very first! I lived in California for over 3 years and never felt anything! So now...I've done tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards. I think I'm satisfied with that. No need for typhoons or anything else. ;)

Elephant spottings are the coolest thing to me...but I'm always in the car. And yesterday we passed by SHEEPIES!!! It was near the house where we're filming, so Manpreet accompanied me to take pics. They had already disappeared...I was more than a little disappointed. Pooh.

Looong hours, late nights...but this afternoon I have off! I'm not filming till the evening, and since it's not being filmed at the house, I don't need to be there in the morning! (The house is 45 minutes away, so no matter what time you're shooting, you have to go with everyone else. I've been able to grab a few naps that way.)

We're starting to get into out serious scenes, now that the stars have left us. Gulshan Grover was wonderful to watch. He was able to silence everyone and still come across as a nice guy. Very professional. I hope to be like that one day, too. But right now, I'm not brave enough. It'll come with time.

Neena Gupta was a pleasure, as well. And Deep (whose last name I've forgotten) was a ton of fun! His parents named him correctly—he has such a pleasing, deep bass voice. :)

Just found out I've become very popular here in Punjab. Wow!!! I don't know what to think about that!

Turns out Andy can get here sooner than the 7th, so I'm excited about that! Yay! Everyone can meet him, and he'll be able to spend some time on the set. And I shall have him be my sport dada—my assistant. But don't tell him that. ;)

Okay, I am exhausted. I crawled out of bed at noon today...that sounds like I slept a lot, but I went to bed late and was up for most of the goings-on between 6 and 7.30 while everyone left for their shoot.

Okay, think I'll grab lunch...nummy, nummy!

Oh, and maybe I haven't gained much weight, after all! Either that, or I already lost it. ;)

16 October, 2009


14th October, 2009

Wowww....my body is sore all over today!

It's been pretty hectic. These three days we've been filming the major action sequences, and we have an action director for that. Each day has begun at 3 AM so we can begin early enough to catch the right light.

Monday we started with the gurpurab festival, and then moved location to another spot where I have a major scene. You'll have to see the film, and then I'll tell you about shooting it. :)

Yesterday was spent back at the gurpurab scenes. Gurpurab is an early morning walk/processional in the Sikh faith. It was fascinating to watch, even just in spurts as they filmed it. They sing about how they will never leave the battlefield, even if they should be cut to pieces. There was some swordplay and other fancy battle-gear-dancing-stuffs. Don't you love my descriptions? I bet you can see it all so clearly.

Anyway...so after the light left, we began my chase sequence. And that is what I'm sore from. I did a lot of running yesterday, in a pair of unsupportive flats. But it's all good. :) I did ALL my own stunts, too! And by that, I mean...tee-hee...okay, so I'm running and running and the pants I'm wearing—wait, back up.

For this sequence I'm in traditional Punjabi clothes, and the pants are very wide. Think MC Hammer. So when I ran, they would start to balloon out in front of the opposite leg. And at one point I took a spectacular fall...flat out, arms and legs straight out like Superman. They liked it so much, they kept it in! I was more embarrassed than anything else, though I did manage to bang up my knee pretty badly. But the other scrapes I had were minimal and you can barely see them today. Anything for the sake of my art, right? I can't wait to see it on screen!

The next three days Lakhwinder and I have off...so we're going to spend a lot of time hanging out and rehearsing. The next scenes we have are a bit more comfortable (with each other, I mean), so we need to get that down pretty well. I'm hoping to do double-duty and go sightseeing and shopping, too. :)

Diwali is in a few days, and I'm super-excited about that! I think a few of us will be heading out to Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple and then the change of guards at the Wagah border. I think. I'm not sure.

It's like Christmas over here, with Diwali sales and lanterns everywhere. I'm so excited I get to celebrate my first Diwali actually in India. And a few days after that is the birth celebrations of the first guru (for Sikhs), so that's a pretty big deal, too. Perfect timing!

Gulshan Grover arrived Monday evening. He had his own hotel to stay in, but he decided to check out and stay here with us. I spent a bit of time with him Monday eve—haven't seen him since then, though! He was incredibly friendly and charming, and down-to-earth. He's huge here—and he's not exactly small in the States, either. He's a very experienced character actor, usually playing the baddie. Here, though, he's not the antagonist, so I can't wait to see what the press says about his role.

(Here's a bit.)

I think some of the extras in the gurpurab have become fans. :) The second day, they came up to me and said “Christa Cannon Dot Com!” And then today one of them showed me my pictures on his phone, taken from the site! It made me laugh--what else can you do? I got a lot of pictures with them, and one insisted on bringing me my breakfast, instead of me doing it myself. It was very sweet, though he filled the plate with a lot of food I couldn't finish!

For the past several days, when I got back to the hotel, I got a shower and brought my iPod out to the lobby to read the paper. (I spend a lot of time in my room, so it's nice to go elsewhere for a change.) Yesterday, I had several people come up for pictures with me—sans make-up and everything. Too funny...it's all so...surreal. I keep using that word, but it IS surreal!

I forgot to mention something about my very first day of shooting.

I'm a worrywart. I have anxiety and I will worry about everything under the sun...constantly. On other shoots, I've worried about the next day at work—getting home in time to get decent sleep, or the things that need to be done...worried about the house and its mess and various other things.

At one point I was sitting down and thought, “I'm not worrying about anything.” Which—yes, okay—worried me a bit. Surely there must be something to worry about. And then I relaxed...completely and totally. There was nothing to worry about. Nothing. This is my work now, and everything else gets taken care of.

I can't tell you the relief I felt, after years of struggling with that. Yes, I still worry about things, but on set, in between takes, all is perfect. Normally when I perform—on stage or screen—everything in my head disappears. Every worry, every piece of baggage is dropped off at the door, but some of it's picked back up again between takes or scenes.

Not here.

16th October, 2009

Okay...Getting Lakhwinder to rehearse is like herding cats! I remember seeing an interview with Jodie Foster about Richard Gere during the filming of Somersby. She said she had such a hard time getting him to rehearse—she'd tell him she'd stand on her head while they did it—anything to rehearse! That's exactly what I feel like!

Anyway...I'll deal with that tomorrow. That always worked for Scarlett O'Hara.

Last night was a lot of fun. Some of the extras from the gurpurab scene came to pick me and Manpreet up, and we rode on motorscooters into the city. Here in Punjab, a small two-seater can easily fit a family of four. I've even seen 4-5 grown men ride one. What a waste to have just two people on the bike! ;) So we rode three and three. I started out American, with my arms wrapped around Manpreet, but was reminded this is Punjab! Hands lightly on shoulders only! If I wanted to be a true Indian woman, I would also have ridden side saddle, but I wasn't brave enough for that. (It was fine with Manpreet, since he's from the south, but I'm trying to be Punjabi, so he's been helping me. I did pretty good last night—we had a car to return home later that night and one of the guys told me to get in, but he was sat in the middle, which would have put me next to him. A no-no. So I looked to Manpreet, who held up his hand to say, “Wait.” Then he got in to sit in the middle. It's all very strange, but I'm getting the hang of it. I can be friendly and touchy with cast and crew, or even southerners...but outsiders—especially here up north--I must keep my distance. Well, from the men and teenage boys, anyway. They'll try to see what they can get away with, I'm told, though I have yet to see that happening. Still, best not to take any chances!)

I was scared to death when we started on the scooters! But it wasn't too bad...it was actually kind of fun, weaving in and out of traffic and cows and people and dogs. I'm amazed we didn't crash into anything. Everybody's packed in like sardines on the roads, and in the alleyways, it's a mess! Remember, there are no rules here.

So our first stop was a gurdwara—I'd brought my own dupatta, this time. :) This particular one separates men and women...I almost embarrassed myself by sitting with the guys. There weren't many women, so it wasn't that obvious (the separation).

After that, we went to one of the guy's houses, where we met his family. And here in India, that means parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents maybe, cousins, neighbours, friends, etc. We stopped in at their...uhhh...mini-gurdwara to give praise before heading up the stairs. I'm not sure what it would be called—Sikhs have a room dedicated for worship in their home, if space is available. You can't leave Punjabi homes without taking something—drink, food, etc. So we had both. It was my first homemade dinner—it was delicious! The same that I've been eating, but at a home. What an experience! The immediate family, Manpreet, and I were sat on their bed eating...everyone else was sitting or standing around watching us. This was around 10.00 at night—you'll remember that we eat late here? I think the others had already eaten at their own homes...they'd really just come to see the new people, get autographs and pictures. (I'm trying to post a video on Facebook. I'm hoping since it's only 25 seconds, it won't take long to upload. Yay—it worked! So I'll post short videos here and there. You can find them on www.facebook.com/oodelally3 If I get a moment, I'll add them on YouTube.)

I really enjoyed it—both the home and the people. If I'd come here to visit on my own, I wouldn't think I'd get a chance like that...to visit with the people and see how things really are. (But maybe—the Punjabi people are so incredibly friendly, they're always inviting me into their home to eat with them and meet their family!) At first, I didn't realize it was a house...it was all so open. No doors, really, and the windows had no screens or glass. In the States, we're all so worried about people breaking in, we can't imagine being so open like that.

It took us a while to leave, as we had to take photographs and sign autographs, and Gurpreet's mom gave me a very pretty sweater as a gift. Then we stopped in to their mini-gurdwara to give praise, and then headed back out to a big gurdwara. (I've worshiped more in the past week than I have in the past few years!) We worshiped there, and we came late enough to where we could see the closing ceremonies, putting the holy books away. I got some video of it...

Just outside, the extras who did the swordplay were waiting to give us a demonstration of dhutka. I think that's how you spell it—it's a form of martial arts. I got a lot of videos of this, too. :) It was a lot of fun to watch...so graceful. Sikhs are “saint soldiers.” I'm learning more about the religion as time goes by...I'll be an expert by the time I get back to the States! I'll probably go through gurdwara withdrawals. ;) I don't think they have many in Denver, if at all.

Diwali is tomorrow—everyone's getting ready for the festive season! I can't wait. :) I don't think we'll be going to Amritsar, but we're going to be doing something! Fun, fun, FUN!

The paper had a great Helen Keller quote the other day, I thought I'd share: “No loss by flood and lightening has deprived man of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his intolerance has destroyed.”

I know this is my acting blog, but while I'm here in India, you'll have to deal with me writing about everything else, too!

But back to business: the language difficulties on set aren't as bad as I had feared they might be. It was tough working with our action director, though...he didn't speak English, and his style is very frenetic. We had little to no rehearsal before doing actual takes, so I was always nervous I was doing the wrong thing. But then we'd do just one take.

That's one difference I'm seeing here...we don't have nearly as many takes as we do in the States.

I'm kind of liking the treatment I'm getting. I hate to admit that—it sounds so snobbish! But I like being taken care of on set. They call me “madam,” which is more than a little odd, and I'm always brought tea and water and made sure I have enough snacks and food. They discovered the first day that I can't be in the sun too long, so they bring me my sunscreen or an umbrella...and I don't have to hold the umbrella. I've offered to—and I've tried to decline sitting when a chair's not available, too...but someone always runs off to get one. It's awesome—I'm secretly enjoying it! But I do have twinges of guilt, too. I don't want to be a diva. I thank them for everything, that may be unusual. But I'd feel even more guilty if I didn't acknowledge and appreciate what they do for me.

When I get back to the States, I may want a personal assistant. I'm just saying. I don't want to do anything myself anymore. ;) Tee-hee! I can pay in goldfish crackers, filtered water, and hugs...any takers?

17th October, 2009

Happy Diwali!!! Ish's parents woke me with sweets, a traditional Diwali gift. They gave me a box of pinni, which is a Punjabi cashew bar.

I've just uploaded a few videos on Facebook—I'm going through and finding the shortest ones I have!

Ummm...I just found out we may be moving to another hotel tonight or tomorrow, in a different city.

Okay, one bad thing here: we're not really kept up to date on what's going on. I have no clue when I'm filming until that morning, and most of the time I don't even know what scene. So I'm going to have to start calling the assistants, and Ish said I can call her as well, anytime day or night.

So who knows about internet access during the next week? I'll do my best. :)

Oh--Lakhwinder and I were able to spend a few hours rehearsing last night--*whew*  :)

Here is a bit from an email back home last week:

"I'm having  a blast here, even if I'm not allowed to wander about alone. ;) I signed at least a hundred autographs last night--it reminded me of my Disney days! Only this time I could actually see everyone. And I didn't have to sign "Pooh." I'm learning to be an Indian girl in my interactions with the public. It's not an easy lesson, as Western sensibilities are much more open and friendly. But my actions and demeanor can be misconstrued, and it's safer for me to keep my distance. I'm told men should not be able to touch me for pics--just putting their hand on my shoulder or something simple like that. It's odd standing there, several inches away from someone--I feel like a statue or something! But the children I can interact with as much as I want. :)

I told Andy yesterday that I've started doing the head wobble...I caught myself several times doing it yesterday!  http://www.google.co.in/search?q=indian+head+wobble&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

I've got a nickname here on set--Billo Rani. "Cat Eyes Queen." Over here, light-coloured eyes are "cat eyes," so I am the Queen of Cat Eyes. There's a song, too, they sometimes sing. It makes me laugh!

Don't forget to click!!!!

Seriously. It really helps. Tell all your friends to click, as well...and don't forget to become a fan on Facebook! At this point, I need to prove not only that I'm a good actor, but that I'm a popular one, as well. It's all very silly, really, but why would anyone cast me if they think people won't like me? If they know I have somewhat of a following, people will start taking notice.  So become a fan!!! And force all your friends to, as well. :)

Oh! And how can I forget?! I'm to find Lakhwinder a soni gorian! (A pretty white girl.) "Gorian" is used as an expression to mean fair lady, so it's not a slur against white girls. :) His only request is that she's not a "dirty" girl. So make sure you shower! No, kidding...what he meant by that is she doesn't...uh..."get around." I don't know who reads this, so I must keep things PG, right? ;)

So, anyone interested?! He's a cutie! His voice is fantastic, and he'll sing to you all the time. He's sweet and funny and charming, and he comes from a very well-known and well-respected family. :) He says he'll teach you Punjabi and you can help him with his English!

Which reminds me...everyone asks if my marriage is a "love marriage." Arranged marriages are still the norm here. I can't say I've met anyone with a love marriage since I've been here. But they grow to love one another, and they're very close. It's sweet to watch, but I have to wonder what it's like those first few months!

Manpreet and Lakhwinder both say they want a love marriage...but we'll see. ;)

Had another dream about Cillian Murphy...and Sarah didn't try to steal him this time. ;) (Thank you, Sarah!) Instead, I had invited him to visit with me and some friends. We didn't know each other, and I knew he wouldn't show. But he did, and he gave me a big hug. And he took his shoes and socks off...and one of my friends from middle school (Janelle or  Michelle! I can't remember!) forced me to steal his socks. I was so embarrassed, especially when he was looking all over the place for the socks.

These dreams make me laugh, that's why I share them. And I promise this is as risque as they get! I'll dream about people I haven't seen in years (or haven't met!), but very rarely will I dream about someone I see all the time. Not even Andy. :( Maybe my subconscious thinks I get enough of them when I'm awake and thinks I should spend time with those I don't get to see anymore.  ???  Dreams are funny.

Okay...I'm kind of just babbling at this point. :) I'll publish this and try to write more later, after we've had Diwali celebrations!

09 October, 2009

This and That. Ti ke? Ti ke.

Sat Sri Akal!

That's hello/goodbye/goodnight, etc. Do you know there isn't a Punjabi phrase for Good Night? Strange. :)

Let's see...today is the 8th. First day of filming was yesterday! And what an experience!

It started at 4 AM...make-up and hair came to my room at 5 and we headed to location at 6. This was for my jogging sequence. Luckily I did all my jogging before it got too hot. Later in the day, just standing there I was melting. Literally. I had to get major touch-ups between every take!

When I woke up yesterday morning, my throat was a little sore. That's always where my colds start, so I thought I'd better knock it out quick. Everything was fine on the set until lunch (around 1.30-ish). I felt it. Ugh. Luckily, I was finished for the day. By the time I got back to the hotel, my cold was in full force! It didn't stop me from shopping at Big Bazaar, but the rest of the day was spent in bed flipping through the TV channels. I was miserable.

I'm doing better now, so I'm hoping later today I'll be up to snuff. I told Ish to strangle Lakhwinder for me!

I'm hungry! It's almost 8 AM, but breakfast, much like dinner, is served late. So I'm sitting here, listening to the horns in traffic, and the whir of my glorious AC. :)

Oh! How could I forget?! I'm sitting down between takes yesterday, sipping some water and getting my make-up touched up, when a huge, gorgeous elephant strolls through the set! I want to ride an elephant and a camel while I'm here, so I was thrilled to see her! Him? He had beautiful stencils all over him, and I got to get my picture taken with him. He wrapped his trunk around me, it was wonderful! One of the pictures shows him grabbing my boob—I didn't even notice it at the time. It made my day, though. (The elephant, not the boob-grab.) How often do elephants just stroll through your life?

I told you in my last blog that I wanted fans. I have some now! Two of them! One gentlemen at the market where we were filming kept coming up and talking to me and introduced me to his mom. He wanted my address, but I gave him my email. He wanted to make sure that I would respond, and he was going to go write me when he got home. I told him I don't have internet access very often, but assured him I'd respond. :)

And later on another gentlemen asked for my autograph! So...outside of theatre productions and my dad...that was my very first autograph-seeker. :)

What else has been going on...? Ah—Lakhwinder, Manpreet, and I headed further into Ludhiana to go to one of the gurudwaras. (They're found about half a mile apart from each other.) Lakhwinder drove his fancy tinted-windows car, and I sat in the back chanting, “Waheguru, waheguru!” It made him laugh. “Waheguru” is sort of like, “Oh, my God.” You use it as a term of reverence or as we use “Oh, my God!” So while freaking out in the back seat, I chanted!

The first gurudwara was packed, and outside in the shoe removal place, both of the boys had to stop for pictures and autographs and talking with fans.

Lakhwinder is a very famous Sufi singer over here, coming from a long line of Sufi singers,  and Manpreet just finished a movie called “Sat Sri Akal,” where he was the first Sikh playing the hero. It's a big deal. Normally they have non-Sikhs playing Sikhs, and it's pretty obvious because of the beards. And even then, they're not really the lead.

We headed across the street to the BIG gurudwara, so I got to worship at both. The second was massive, and very elaborate. It had a guy reciting from the book—I got some video from the outside. And video of Manpreet's fans. The kids loved him—but they weren't interested in Lakhwinder there, so he and I had fun watching all the kids.

After that, we did some shopping for costumes and props, a bit. I found a t-shirt that said “Come, let's learn Punjabi!” and had the alphabet and various other sayings. It made me laugh, so I bought it.

Okay, I'm getting a sinus headache...and I think I'll go in search of food. It might still be too early. Oh, by the way, I'm off today. No filming for me! Good thing...I can take time to get better. But I know soon we'll be filming a big action sequence which will be choreographed and involve a lot of people! Some bad guys are after me and get to me in the middle of a big guru-parade (for lack of a better term). I won't tell you what happens, though. :) You'll just have to see the movie!

Later that day...

Okay, so Ish just called me and told me we have a press conference today. Aack! My eyes are bloodshot with bags underneath, my nose is raw and red...well, of course we have a press conference! ;) I'm a little nervous...okay, no, I'm freaking out a bit inside. This is my first press conference, and most of it will be in another language! I have no idea what to expect, but I'm excited. This is incredible!

Two months ago I was sitting on my sofa wishing something would happen. Now it has! Almost in the blink of an eye, I'm in a new life.

Later that evening:

Wow. That was fun!

They were actually filming a scene in the movie with my picture blown up in the background... Holy cow, was that a little odd! Anyway, while that was going on, I had interviews with a bunch of people from the press. And thousands of pictures! Finally!!! I'll get enough pictures of myself! Tee-hee! Traveling with Andy is difficult, because he doesn't like to take pictures or be in them!

Not that I'll see most of these pictures, mind you.

The first interview was one-on-one, with me sat in a wicker chair. It got quite “heavy,” as Marty McFly would say. The interviewer asked me what I felt about Sikh terrorists in the US, and what I thought about global terrorism and all kinds of things like that. How on Earth does one answer a question like that?! I did my best...and am proud to say I didn't put my foot in my mouth at all—not once! (It's a miracle!) At one point I had to say that I didn't know enough about it to comment.

The other interviews were more light-hearted. * whew * Lots of questions about my character and how I liked India, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary.Though I'll admit I got stuck when asked who my favourite Bollywood actor and actress were! Oops. I couldn't remember the actor's name, so I told them the movies I'd seen him in. And for the women, I said they were all so gorgeous, I couldn't choose just one!

Oh! I saw a paper today...and my picture was in it! I was jogging—and I didn't look half-bad. No pansy-ness. :) The article was in Gurmukhi script, so I have no clue what it said.

I'm staring at the card Mom gave me before I left. I have it propped up on my little table. It made me cry when I opened it, and I like to keep it with me.

“When pride in yourself is the wind for your wings, how high and how far you can soar.

When hope and hard work are the sails of your ship. What remarkable worlds you'll explore...

When dreams are the stars that you never lose sight of in spite of the dark or distress,

In time you'll discover, wherever life takes you, the treasure your heart calls success.”

What is today...? Saturday, the 10th of October!

Yesterday was a lot of fun. Lakhwinder and I had driving scenes to shoot all morning, so we headed out into a village. It was really awesome getting to see more of the countryside. It really is very beautiful, and the Punjabi people are incredibly nice. I was able to use one of the villager's toilets, even. :)

I'm afraid I have not made much headway in keeping India green! Everybody just throws everything on the ground...it's quite shocking. I throw mine away, unless I can't find a bin. Then I keep it with my stuff till I get home.

Last night we shot in a shopping centre, where hundreds of onlookers stood by for hours and hours. :) Kind of funny. We never even got to my scene!

We all came home—it was around 1.30 AM—and they all had dinner! Dinner! At 1.30 in the morning! A few of us sat out in the lobby talking, and then we headed to bed.

Learning more and more Punjabi, but that's not saying much! Do you remember when I said, “ki ddang, kukard?!” was like, “What's up, friend?” Well, I've been saying it all over...and even to the press when they asked me for some Punjabi phrases. I assumed the odd expressions I was getting were because of my American accent, but no. No. I've been saying, “What's up, chicken?!” this whole time!!! I strangled Manpreet, so all is good. :) Ti ke!

We've been in the papers several times already. I always think I look fat, but then, Navneet thinks she does, too. :) Girls. What can you do?

Got my first fan mail!

I should probably answer it. :)

Besides, Andy said my last blog was way too long, and I need to keep them shorter! ;)

I'll work on finding a way to get pics and videos posted...no promises, though!

Having a blast—something new everyday! Cast and crew are wonderful...

Love to you all!