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!