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.