Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bollywood Audition?

India continues to have moments of absurdity... A Canadian friend, Mark, who lives nearby, recently had a chance to do a screen test for the Bollywood director, Onir. Mark met him through a "friend of a friend." Apparently Onir's latest project includes the role of a middle-aged, "European" man. Mark rang me up a week or so ago to see if I might be interested as well... He gave Onir my number and sure enough, I received a call from the project's casting director, Swati. She asked for a few photos.
The whole thing seemed kind of silly, but I emailed her the photos, letting her know that I wasn't really an actor. Apparently I look sufficiently European and middled-aged to her. Swati sent me a text message requesting I attend an audition with some other actors at 6pm the next evening.

Chauhan (our driver) drove me over to a neighborhood in Delhi I'd never been to before. It was a maze of narrow streets, town homes and small businesses. Swati was waiting for me outside. She waved me over and let me inside a somewhat shabby three-story town home. We went into a brightly lit, large room where an assistant director was discussing the script with a group of actresses. Swati handed me the script.

The short film, called "Afia," is slated to be part of a 5 film project about some of the malices of India. I was definitely feeling like a fish out of water. The part they wanted me to memorize was multiple-pages long.... I am not used to memorizing lines, and I do not feel natural speaking them in front of a camera and people I have just met.
Then I read the description of the scene. I'm swimming in the scene. I had to re-read it twice. Swimming. I'm swimming and then the main character, Afia, flags me down at the edge of the pool - she's urgent and has to speak with me. Then I have to get out of the pool and wrap a towel around myself before the dialog starts... Can you visualize me actually doing this?

Each actor had about 15 or 20 minutes in front of the camera. I tried to stay away from the filming in an adjacent room. I helped one of the actresses run through her lines and she did the same for me. It was finally my turn at about 7:30. They saved me for last. At this point I was pretty nervous.
"Since there's no pool," I asked, "Do I need to take my shirt off for the scene?" There was a long pause, then everyone laughed. "No, no, no. We just want to see what you are like on film."

I have to say, everyone was very nice and very encouraging. They shot footage of me for about an hour and thirty minutes. Standing, walking , sitting, attempting to exchange dialog... wide shots and close-ups. They were very patient and cordial. We joked and laughed through most of the audition. I am definitely not a natural at this sort of thing. My guess is, maybe I had some part of the look they wanted, but in the end I am just not an actor.

Anyway, after some tea, and a few final shots I thanked them and off I went into the darkness and the ride back to Noida with Chauhan. He and I laughed about it most of the way home. Lesa and I are still laughing about it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Indian Houseboats

We spent a night on an Indian houseboat while we were down south in Kerala. (near the village of Alleppey). House boating seems to be a fairly common thing here in India... You can do it is several locations throughout the country - the coast of Kerala being one of the more famous places. The Indian Houseboat culture here reminded me a little of the sail boating culture in the US - both are definitely relaxed, special ways of living.Our houseboat was very similar to the one pictured above. The boats use what is essentially a river-barge hull with "cane" mobile-home on top. The boat we were on, called the "Mind Sweeper," had 2 air-conditioned state rooms (each with a bath), a kitchen in the stern and a dining room/lounge area towards the bow. The boat had an inboard diesel engine that was actually fairly quiet. Most of the cabin is is made of wood, cane, and bamboo. At the peak of the season (winter months) there are about 250 houseboats cruising the lake waterways and canals around Alleppey!
The crew consisted of a captain, crewman, and cook. - They were all very friendly and competent and served us great, fresh Keralan food, chai - even a cold beer in the evening! The kids had the run of the boat. We just kicked back, read, but mostly just enjoyed watching the South-Indian village life slowly glide by as we wandered down backwaters and canals....

Monday, August 10, 2009

Behind The Wheel

I finally accomplished one of my big goals for self-independence here in India. Last week I got fed up enough to get behind the wheel of our Maruti sedan and start driving. It's been 9 months since we moved here (if you can believe that). Chauhan (our driver) was off and we needed to get some things at the store. It was hot and I couldn't stand the thought of taking an auto-rickshaw. Out the gates of ATS I went into the relative chaos that is driving in India... My only two real challenges are getting my left hand used to the gear shift and confusing the windshield wipers with the turning signal levers (opposite on a RHD vehicle). Accelerator, brake and clutch pedals are all in the same order as a left-hand drive car.

Since last Wednesday I have driven on the Noida Expressway and have handled the traffic at the local mall... not sure I will venture into Delhi traffic anytime soon, but I am out there now handling the local road-chaos. Chauhan will still do most of the driving, but at least on weekends, evenings and holidays I no longer feel dependent on the skills and good will of others.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Raksha Bandhan

Today is Raksha Bandhan - a Hindu holiday celebrating the relationship, respect and love between sisters and their brothers. Its my basic understanding of the holiday that the sister places a Rakhi (bracelet) on her brother as a sign of love and respect. The brother also expresses his love and promises to be a protector for his sister. Often sweets or gifts are exchanged. Instead of sharing a sweet, Evan chose to take Audrey to the movies as his "thank you" gift for the Rakhi.

Since Lesa was working, and our driver was off for the day... we headed out first by bicycle rickshaw (in search of an auto rickshaw driver in our neighborhood). After finding a driver and a bit of price haggling we headed out in the three-wheeler to take us across town to the mall. Unfortunately, our first auto rickshaw broke down after just a few blocks.
The kids and I waited in the hot sun for a few minutes until we managed to hail a second auto. Off we went through Noida traffic to enjoy a cool movie theater, popcorn and "Ice Age 3."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Back from South India

We returned safely from a wonderful trip to Kerala (South-west India). The weather was cooler, and in the mountains we even needed to wear jackets most days and nights! It was a great break from the dust and heat in Noida.
While in Kerala we spent a few days in Fort Cochin (a former Portuguese - Dutch - English colony). We all enjoyed the beach near Alleppey and an overnight stay on an Indian-style Houseboat. The trip wound up with four days up in the mountains near Kumily. This is where tea, coffee and spices are grown - very famous for its spices! The Periyar Wildlife Reserve is also nearby. It is a Cloud-forest preserve with about 1,500 wild elephants, and (at last count) sadly, 37 tigers.

I am excited this week because I have my first big voice-over assignment (Mahatta Media) ...I am putting in a few hours each day in the sound studio. More to come on our adventures in South India in the next day or so...