Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Upper Class Virgin

On our way to Dubai, I got stuck sitting the middle section next to big guy who kept usurping not only our shared armrest, but the head rest on my seat as well. I gave him a couple of hard nudges as he slept -- which I regretted later, because my GOD did he smell BAD. Though it was only a 7 hour flight, it was horrible, and I decided that me and Vaishali were going to indulge ourselves on our way back by upgrading to Upper Class.

Virgin Upper Class -- A Flying Experience. They're really not kidding when they say that. Virgin has changed the normal structure of side-by-side seats to diagonally placed seats, so everyone gets a window, and there are walls separating you from the passenger next to you. They kind of looked like open caskets, lined up next to each other.You never have to get stuck next to an overly gregarious passenger again! Personally, I didn't like the system as much because it meant I had to reach my head high enough over the wall to talk to Vaishali. It didn't really matter though because Vaishali slept the entire 8 hours without even waking up for the bathroom, forget about meals.

Virgin also offers a choice of various 'amenities' in the course of the flight. I chose the head & neck massage, and anxiously awaited it through the flight. I was paying a sh--load of money -- I wanted every penny's worth.

I was lying down about to take a nap when the stewardess told me that it was my turn for the massage. I excitedly got up and walked towards the back room where they had set up a chair, separated by a curtain. I felt a little disoriented and thought that maybe I got up too fast. As she began my massage, I took deep breaths, to make this strange feeling go away. But it didn't go away -- and I started seeing blackness in front of my eyes. I asked the stewardess if I could get some water, and I remember feeling around for the glass that they placed in my hands. And that's all I remember.

I woke up, what must have been a few seconds later, and I see a male steward kneeling in front of me, and he says 'Oh, she's all right, she just fainted.' He removes the oxygen mask from my face and hands me the glass of water. Oxygen mask!!! How embarrassing is that?! They walked me over to a bed and told me to rest.

As we were about to land, the stewardess asked me to fill out a form, as they have to report any 'health incidences' that take place on the flight. Kutu tried to peer over from her seat to see what was going on -- that was the first time I liked Virgin's coffin-style seating.

Moral of the story -- don't drink wine in high altitudes. Even if it is only 1 glass.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

NOT a funny story ... yet

One of the many wonderful items from my wedding 'trouseau' includes some fabulous bedding. These 1 million count Egyptian cotton sheets make us feel like we're soaking in the lap of luxury. Really -- it's amazing what a difference nice sheets, pillow covers, and blankets can make. They're ridiculously nice, and come with a ridiculous price tag too.

I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed that King was only covered by the blanket, and not the flat sheet underneath (that protects my blanket from having to be washed every week). So I get up and hand him some of the sheet, and say 'Here, take this.' I turn back to go to sleep and hear a loud rrrrrip! I turn back in shock, and ask 'How did it rip?!' and he says to me 'You told me to tear this, so I did.'

I couldn't believe it. My He-Man Husband tore right through my brand new sheets!! He aplogized, saying he was asleep and didn't know what he was doing -- but why would you rip something up without question?

Anyway, I'm trying to get customer service to replace my sheet. Of course I'm leaving out the part about my testosterone driven husband with latent tendencies to rip things to shreds out of the story.

I hope you're not laughing at this story -- because it's still not funny to me -- not until I get my replacement sheets in the mail.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Durga Puja


This was my first Durga Puja, and definitely an important one, as I'm officially a Bengali now -- how strange is that? I was actually quite excited about it, and we came to San Jose the night before so that we could easily make it to the Sunnyvale Temple in time the next morning.

Jhumi aunty had given me a beautiful silk & brocade sari that I was looking forward to wearing, especially when I found a blouse at home that matched perfectly with it. I have tied chiffon/georgette saris on myself before with reasonable success, so I figured, if someone helps me with the pleats, I should be able to handle a silk sari, right?

Wrong. After about 5 attempts over the course of 45 minutes, I still looked like a big, poofy ball of silk -- not at all the classy, svelte Bangali Bou I had envisioned when I saw the sari. I finally had to make a desperate emergency call to Hina aunty, and drove over in a rush to have her tie my sari. She had two customers sitting around, waiting, as she tied my sari. Embarrassing to say the least, but a huge relief at the same time.

We headed out for the temple -- 2 hours later than the scheduled time. Lucky for us, we were just in time (IST zindabad). I couldn't believe how crowded this place was. Hundreds of people stood in front of the stage where all the idols stood, and a man on loud speaker said something in Bengali, that I of course could not understand. When he finished, Jhumi aunty grabbed my arm and said 'Come, let's go.' And we began fighting through the crowd to get to the front. I lost King to three aunties behind me -- I guess he was being slightly more polite about getting through than us. I'm glad we fought to get to the front because I got to see the entire stage -- Durga in the middle, and her four children, 2 on each side -- Saraswati, Laxmi, Ganesh, and Kartik. I didn't even know Durga had kids. Probably because I didn't realize until that moment that Durga is an incarnation of Parvati.

We grabbed flowers from the aluminum (pronounced 'aluminium') trays being passed around, and then started repeating the words of the Pandit ji. That was a fun challenge for me. We repeated the entire thing 3 times, by the third time I knew what was coming next sometimes. If it's the same thing said every year, then in a few years I might even get it all down! Understanding it is another issue however.

Traditionally, you are supposed to throw the flowers on the goddess. But, the lazy organizers at the Sunnyvale Temple didn't want to bother with cleaning up flowers on the asphalt parking lot below, and found another solution they deemed suitable. After distributing the flowers from the aluminum trays, they simply collect the flowers back into those same trays, and one designated person will offer some of the flowers onto the goddess. Is it me -- or is that just LAME? They've taken away the whole essence of the 'pushpanjali,' the offering of flowers.

And that was my first Durga Puja. Oh, and during lunch I tripped and dropped a whole tub of sambar onto my chest, and was stuck with wet and dry dal all over me for the rest of the afternoon. And then when we were leaving, I had a parking ticket waiting for me too.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Get the Hint?

My birthday and wedding gifts are still trickling in ... which is nice because it feels like an ongoing Christmas. In the last two weeks, I've received 6 cookbooks and a full (silver) silverware set for 8, amongst other things. I don't know about you, but I'm definitely taking the hint.

So to inaugurate my new cookbooks, the other night I made 2 dishes from 2 different books. An eggplant-tomato-basil risotto (the hubby loves all my risottos, lucky for me), and sundried tomato-feta mini cupcakes. I thought the dinner was quite a hit, if I must say so myself. We even had a guest eating with us (Alexis), so that made it all the more motivating.

Now I'm trying to figure out today's menu.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yay!

Today we bought a TV, dresser, mirror, dining table ... and a few days ago we bought an entertainment system and cabinet for the bathroom. All of these items will be arriving in the next few weeks -- I can't wait!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Feels like I'm married

I think this weekend was the first time (in our one month marriage) that I felt like I was married. The impetus behind it was my whole family left for England, leaving me and the hubby in the U.S. all by ourselves.

I'm making it sound more dramatic than it is, but seeing off my parents and knowing that I wasn't going on a family vacation with them is definitely a first in my life. After dropping them off, King and I went furniture shopping for the first time for our apartment. It was a lot of fun -- agreeing and disagreeing on many things. We ate out most of the weekend, or did take out, and would come home exhausted, and plop down in front of the TV and watch hours and hours of BSG (Battlestar Galactica). I know it probably sounds boring and domesticated to other people, but it was really a lot of fun.

So -- to answer the question you hear the most after you get married -- 'How's married life?' The answer is -- married life is great :-)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Muhavare

I've been fortunate enough to have a mother that forced me to speak in Hindi as I was growing up -- something that I cannot thank her enough for. On top of that, she is a very literary person, with excellent language skills. Even my father, who is more left-brained and doesn't boast of poetic license, grew up hearing many idiomatic phrases from his mother. This combination has resulted in me developing a love for Hindi muhavare (मुहावरे- idiomatic sayings).

There are dozens that I've grown up hearing, and more that I hope to discover ... I've been trying to figure out what I wanted to share with this blog ... and I believe this is it. Of course, it will be interspersed with the mundane happenings of my life, and all my 'oh-so-important' thoughts on anything and everything ... but the muhavare will remain stalwart throughout.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Gym

The other day I saw a large man sweating away at the treadmill at my gym, and I thought to myself "Good for you!" and I felt happy for him.

And then I suddenly realized that there are never any fat people at the gym. Is it me, or is that just ironical? It reminds me of this card game I once played -- I forget what the game was ... but I remember that there were several positions you would be in the game, and your objective was to reach and stay at the top. The top being the 'president,' and the bottom being the 'janitor.' I noticed as we were playing the game that the person who was in the janitor position would be kickin back and enjoying the game because he had nothing to lose, whereas whoever was the president would be stressing out about which cards he would get next. We all laughed when we realized how indicative of reality a simple card game could be.

So the analogy I was trying to make is that the slimmer people are greedy about hanging onto their figures, whereas some of the larger people don't have that 'greed,' and just enjoy life and take it as it comes. Personally, I think that's the better attitude to have.

On that note, I need to start going to the gym.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Retroactive posts


Since I didn't write during the most important time of my life, I am going to retroactively write about some things that happened, as I feel like it.

All throughout the wedding chaos it never really hit me that I'm getting married. Sure, I was getting congratulated dozens of times a day, and everything in my family's life was revolving around the wedding, but it never really hit me all the way. The day of the haldi it hit me a little more, when all the aunties sang 'banni' songs and blessed me ... it invoked the image I had seen so many times before at other weddings ... and knowing that I was the one they were singing for was a big hitting point.

Even the day of the wedding, when I was remarkably composed and not stressing out or being a basket case ... I calmly got ready for the wedding. We even sneaked out onto the balcony in our bath robes and saw the baraat leaving -- even then it didn't hit me. We continued getting me ready out in the bedroom, since the lighting was better there. When all was ready, and we went in front of a mirror for the final touches, I saw myself for the first time as a bride, and it was a surprisingly overwhelming feeling. If I didn't have Smita and Shilpa didi there at the time, I would have probably burst out into tears right then and there. It's hard to explain what was so emotional about that image ... perhaps the lifetime of imagining this moment ... or the associations that Hindi movies (and other weddings we've been to) have created with a bride ... but the Indian bride has such a specific look ... and knowing that this is the first and the last time you'll ever look like this ... it bears more impact than you'd realize.

The only other time that it hit me that I was getting married was when my father was bringing me out to the altar ... and I stood there in front of all 150 guests -- friends, family -- and directly in front of me was my Dulha, again, in a very specific look that he will never repeat again in his life. I almost started crying then, but my dad was with me and said 'Don't cry yet! It'll ruin your makeup!' If that doesn't make someone laugh, I don't know what would.

And now I've digressed so much that I haven't talked about what I really wanted to say. Will have to save that for another post.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Dead Blog

My blog has died ... but I don't think anyone has noticed :-(

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Change of Pace

I never write on this thing anymore. There is so much that I'm going to skip talking about -- the wrap of the film shoot, the aftermath of nightmares related to the shoot, a 3 day trip to Paris with Vaishali, Mamta didi, and Rachana, which included the realization that Paris sucks unless you're the ultra-riche. And now I'm back in San Jose -- finally!!!

It's great to be back home. Chilling with my parents is great. Seeing my fiance, of course, is great. But the best is that I have nothing to worry about except the wedding. Which, frankly, isn't that worrisome, yet anyway, bc Vaishali has taken over most of the logistical coordination stuff -- I'm just giving my opinion on how things should be done. It's like she's the producer of the production, I'm the director (and the star!!) ... I guess that makes Dad the executive producer ... lol.

Vaishali and I have started a crazy, self-imposed bridal bootcamp. It's only Day 2 but I feel like I should have lost 2 lbs already because I feel that tired and hungry all the time!! Hopefully the results, 4 weeks from now, will be worth it, bc I miss pigging out on fries and triple chocolate muffins.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Just another Friday

When we're working on a film, everything in your life tends to revolve around that film. Friday is not seen as a Friday, or the end of a work week (because it's not) ... but is more like June 29th, Day 34 (of 42).

So when we began filming Friday morning, I couldn't have been bothered with what was going on in the world around me. I only happened to see the news the night before and knew that a new Prime Minister and cabinet had been instated into Britain's government.

And then we heard about the car full of explosives found in front of the Tiger Tiger night club in Leicester Square -- the same club that Kutu & I had partied at a few Tuesdays ago. A few hours later we heard that Park Lane and Regent's Park had been blocked off because another car full of explosives was found. Again, an area that is a stone's throw away from our own flat, and where we had been shooting just 3 days earlier. Had this happened then, our entire shoot would have been forced to evacuate the area, and shooting would have been cancelled. Notice how I only think about shooting. Not about how if the bombs had gone off, God forbid, what a calamity that would have been. Nope -- I just think about my shooting schedule, and how I would have to recover from those losses.

We continued to shoot throughout the day, deterred only by traffic and the rain. Dozens of police sirens rang loudly in the background of our shots, but nothing major. We heard about another car full of explosives found in Shepherd's Bush -- but when I looked on the net, I could find nothing about it. I had a lot of down time on that particular day of shooting (a rarity) ... and I reflected upon how close we had come to such a horribly frightening situation. How did the police manage to find these THREE random cars?? It almost felt like it was planned -- to make the 1 day old Prime Minister look like a hero. I mean ... when the first car was discovered, don't you think these terrorists would expedite the plan for their other cars and set those off asap?

Our shooting ended 12:30am that night, and as we drove home, we saw dozens of people in front of clubs, pubs, and bars. As always, I had forgotten that it was a Friday. But it really just felt like any other Friday night in London. Everybody had gotten a little anxious around the time they heard the news, but it didn't really affect anyone that much. I couldn't help but wonder -- is this the sign of a nation becoming immuned to terror?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blimey!!!

Just when I learn how to upload a video the hard way (manually), Blogger comes up with a simple 'Post Video' link for all posts.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

First Video Post!!

I've been meaning to put up a video on my blog for months now -- it's really not that complex of a process if you know what you're doing. Hopefully it'll be a lot simpler in the future now that I have an idea of what to do. This was taken at Mamta didi's house after that first night I went over there (and wrote on my blog abt it). Since then I've stopped taking photos and videos -- which is not something I'm proud of. But I AM proud of my effort to put up this video!!!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Just completed 4 weeks out of 7. There's still so much left to do, but at least it feels like if I've survived this long, it can only get better, not worse -- right?

Every day is such a challenge, on so many different levels -- personally, professionally, physically, emotionally. The growth curve is huge -- and like every film I've done in the past, I know I'm going to come out a stronger, smarter individual, with a plethora of newly gained knowledge. I'm never going to remember the stress, the minute-to-minute chaos, the dread I feel at certain times each day (like when there's a phone call you REALLY don't want to take, but of course they're going to call you, over & over again).

I often feel down about myself, because it's such a thankless job. At the end of the day, you may have resolved 10 issues, but there are still another 15 that have come up, of which 5 are just unavoidable, and you just have to bear the brunt of it.

But the other day, speaking to my friend Smriti made me feel soooo much better about myself. She's a producer & writer -- I can't imagine why anyone would want to produce, but that's a whole different story. She recently directed a short film, and was giving accolades to being a director, because she found it to be a huge challenge -- and it made her realize how important the experience was for her as a producer to see the other side of it. Somehow, even though I always knew that in the back of my mind, it just made me feel much better to hear it from someone in a similar position as me. That even though I may not be cut out to produce, it's an important skill for me to at least learn (even if I don't put it into practice) bc it'll only help me on the other side, as a director.

Anyway -- that was my two cents on it. 3 weeks left!!!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

End of Week 2

Week 1 ended with one of our lights setting off the fire alarm & sprinklers on the 8th floor -- where the whole building was evacuated for 45 minutes, and we ran around looking for buckets and containers to hold the water dripping onto the 7th floor. Eventually our shooting was shut down by health & safety, and weren't able to shoot one scene scheduled for that location. We're still waiting to hear what that location is going to claim on our insurance -- fun, fun.

Week 2 was fine -- the usual hiccups, but nothing major. It rained and was freezing cold for the first 3 days of the week, so we ended up rescheduling a lot of outdoor scenes -- eventually, we got pretty much everything in that location as well, except for one nighttime outdoor scene, to be rescheduled for some other time.

2 weeks - 2 rescheduled scenes. Not looking great, but not looking bad either. As of tomorrow, we are no longer parked at one location for the week -- we pretty much change locations everyday. That's going to come with its own hassles and headaches -- I don't even want to try to pre-empt them ... will deal w/them as they come.

Today was our second day off since the shoot started. I went to visit my Mausi in Finchley (treated myself to a cab rather than the usual tube). I had lunch, and then took a nice one hour nap, and headed back to Central London, as our producer, Arun had planned a dinner for the principle cast as well as close friends.

It's almost 1am, and I have to wake up at 6am everyday for the next 6 days, so I'm probably going to regret staying up and typing out my random thoughts -- but there was one really nice quote that I felt I had to share.

Naseer mentioned a quote, which he had heard from some actor, he couldn't remember who (ironically). He used himself as an example.


There are 5 stages to every actor's life:
1) Who is Naseeruddin Shah?
2) Get me Naseeruddin Shah.
3) Get me a Naseeruddin Shah type.
4) Get me a younger Naseeruddin Shah.
5) Who is Naseeruddin Shah?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Feels like a Holiday

It's been a beautiful week in London -- so rather than going to the gym (the first day I've gone this week) I decided to go for a walk to Regent's Park instead, since it's only a 10 minute walk away from the flat.

I swear, it felt like the whole world was sitting outside in a pub tonight. I kept seeing glasses of wine on tables of restaurants, and hearing laughter of people standing around in pubs. But surprisingly, I wasn't longing for it myself ... I think it's because today was (Mashallah, knock on wood) a good day at work -- no major crises, issues, etc. And I came back home with enough energy to work out, so that definitely made me feel good about myself.

Ok, I'm going to try to go to sleep by 11pm tonight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rushes

I was only on set for a few hours today (our second day of shooting). I've realized that my time on set, though useful in solving people's minute-to-minute issues, is not optimized. Arriving back at the office, I had 28 emails requiring immediate attention -- most of these emails contain documents of deal memos/budget quotes/breakdowns and take forever for each one.

So, needless to say, I was swamped when I got into the office. But it was nice to be in a quiet office, versus being on set where I was battling all day with various departments who kept insisting that it was required by law to have a medic on set, vs. other departments swearing that they got legal council and it's not required ... It was maddening.

I hadn't seen any of the shooting from the day before, bc I was busy coordinating a stills photo shoot for the principle actors (Naseeruddin Shah, Greta Scacchi, and two other actors). I came into the office and asked our editor Sanjeev how the rushes looked from the day before. 'Rushes' are the footage of what was shot the day before -- they don't have sound though. Sanjeev asks me 'Did you purposely keep this guy out of frame?' I frowned -- 'No -- show me.' I looked at the shots, and everything on the left side of the frame was cut out. In some shots it didn't show as much , but in other shots, heads and bodies were literally cut out of frame. I immediately sent Sanjeev to set with his Beta machine and monitor to show Jag the problem.

3 hours of confusion ensued -- was this a lab telecine issue? Should we print all 4000 feet that we shot yesterday (an £800 cost)? It was 5 minutes to when they closed -- we waited literally till the last minute to find out if there was any new information available to us to make this decision. Finally -- we found out that the grain glass for the camera was for a Super 35mm camera -- whereas we're shooting on 35mm. What that translates to is -- our framing guidelines were incorrect for the entire 1 1/2 days that we had shot so far. So everything was framed wrong, and that explained why things were cut off on the left side. (I would need to draw a diagram to be able to explain exactly what the 35/super35 difference means, but my blogging skills are severly limited -- and I just don't have the time).

The 80 person crew sat around for the next 2 hours, as they waited for the correct grain glass to be delivered to set (rush hour in Central London). Myself and our producer Arun sat in the office, wondering what this would cost us if everything had to be re-shot -- was this even possible given all the logistical constraints? Only until Jag arrived into the office after we wrapped our shoot, a few hours later, and watched all the rushes, were we able to assess what damage had been done. Lucky for us, it wasn't detrimental -- only about 4 shots needed to be retaken. Tomorrow we will watch today's rushes, and again assess what will need to be re-shot.

Amidst all this chaos, my friend Shaun came to visit me at the office. I think I barely spoke a couple of sentences with him ... he understood though and happily used our free internet and left.

So that was day 2 of 42!

Monday, May 21, 2007

D-Day

Tomorrow we begin our 7 week, 42 day shoot. The last two weeks leading upto this day have been absolute madness. In any given day, there are 20 absolutely urgent issues that need to be solved/taken care of at the same time -- you start concentrating on one, and you forget the others -- only to get an urget phone call/email from the person waiting on the other end for the answer to their query.

All our crew arrived this evening, along with our lead actor, Naseeruddin Shah.

******* And then I never completed this post *******

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Being an Aunt


It's funny that now that the didi's around me are having children, I find myself put in more positions of a 'responsible adult.' Like the time that Shilpa didi thought it would be OK if myself and King took Simran to the beach. I was so skeptical about the whole thing -- what if she started crying? It turned out to be a wonderful experience -- Simran was on her best behaviour, and it was the bonding experience that we all had hoped it would be. But at the time that I was struggling to put on Simran's car seat, all the while buttoning up her jacket and handing her the car toy to keep her amused ... I was wondering how Shilpa didi could possibly think that I could handle this.

Similarly, when I when to Mamta didi's house for dinner on Friday night. I was seeing Iain after a whole year. Needless to say he didn't remember me -- though he did know that I was the one having a wedding on '2nd of Septembah ... my birfday.' I really can't write out his London accent -- but cute is an understatement.

So Iain asked Mamta didi if I could put him to bed. I looked at didi -- skeptical, as always. What do you do to put a kid to sleep?? She didn't think it was a big deal. "Just make sure he takes a wee, brushes his teeth, get him a cuddly toy, then you read him a story, and sing him a song." It all sounded very complicated to me. "He'll guide you through it."

And guide me he did. Iain has exceptional language skills for a 4.5 year old (because I know sooo many 4 year olds). He not only speaks and comprehends completely -- but is able to express complex, multi-layered thoughts.

The bathroom wasn't so difficult, since Iain knew what he was doing on the loo, as well as which one was his toothbrush and toothpaste. He kept chatting the whole while brushing, so I had to remind him to brush and not talk at the same time. When I filled his cup half-way with water for him to rinse, I didn't expect he would keep sipping and rinsing until the glass was done -- it was about 10 rinses.

Next was choosing a cuddly toy. He found one that he wanted, but it was on Mamta didi's bed. 'I can't take it because it's my mum's, and I haven't asked her.' So we headed downstairs to ask if we could borrow the cuddly toy for the night.

Finally we made it to his bedroom. He chose a story book in English for me to read, and informed me 'We can read 1 or 2 stories from it.' He knew all the stories by heart, but still enjoyed them as if it was the first time he was ever hearing them. It's funny how kids love repetition -- I remember how many times we watched 'Love Story' and 'Karz' in one summer. Looking back at it, it's totally absurd, but it seems like pretty natural behaviour for a kid.

When Iain was in the mood for a third story, I had to tell him it was enough stories for one night ... I was still stressing out abt what song I was going to sing him. "Ok ... you can read me the other stories tomorrow. You're here tomorrow, right?" I told him I might be back next week. "Do you stay far?" I told him I lived in America, which meant nothing to him. I asked if he had ever been in a plane before, and he nodded. I explained that it would take 10 hrs to get in my house if you sat in a plane. He shook his head and let out a sigh, "I can't do that. It's too much."

I told Iain that I didn't know any songs. So he volunteered to teach me the one song that always puts him to sleep. Of course I didn't understand it, and there was no chance of learning it. I told him that I only knew songs in Hindi, and he was happy to hear that. I couldn't think of any kiddie songs, so just sang something that I thought had mellow notes -- Baahon mein chale aao. I guess he liked it, because he told me 'Whenever you have to sing a song for me, sing that song, ok?'

Five minutes later, he was asleep. Mission accomplished!! I waited a few minutes before walking across the creaking wood floor and downstairs to join the others. Again, like last time, I was happy that didi had put me in a situation which I would normally deem out of my comfort zone -- but gave me the opportunity to bond with my niece/nephew.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Desperate on a Dry Day


After a red eye flight, I landed into Bombay at 10am, and went from one place to the next. I was in Bombay to sort out cast and crew visas ... contrary to the what the travel agency had presented to me, it wasn't as simple as it seemed. And I was set on leaving for Chennai the next morning because I needed to be there for the final mix of my film 'Telling Lies.'
After all the work, my dad and I went out to dinner (I made him join me in Bombay bc I was feeling lonely). We reached this restaurant, desperate for a glass of wine, only to find out it was a DRY day in Bombay. My dad almost threw a tantrum. I sucked it up and made the most of the evening.
I called up Udayan afterwards, bc I knew he was in Bombay too. We made plans to meet up at my hotel (Holiday Inn) after dinner. When he arrived, he informed me that the hotel bar had a sign that said 'Alcohol to be served to foreign passport holders only.' Lucky for us, Udayan carried a photocopy of his passport in his wallet ... lol. So I grabbed my passport, and we went to the bar at the hotel next door (Sun 'N Sand).
And then the night began ... Udayan and I hadn't seen each other in months ... we couldn't even remember when was the last time we had seen eachother. So we had a lot to catch up on. And as the drinks kept coming (we had 3 at the first bar), the night seemed like it was only beginning.

At 1am, we had to find ourselves a new bar, since we were getting kicked out. We went to the JW Marriot (5 min rickshaw ride away) only to find their bar was closed too. So we came back to my hotel -- and that bar was closed to. The only solution was room services, which was the only place they would serve alcohol. But my dad was sound asleep in my room ... so we ordered the room service from the lobby, and waited in the hallway in front of my room till the drinks came. Udayan got 'laalchi' at this point, and made us order 2 little bottles of alcohol on top of our two drinks ... btw -- Udayan will do JHOOTHA now!! I had to see it to believe it ... and this was even before he was drunk.
So we had our drink ... and headed out in the auto rickshaw to JW Marriott again! This time to eat ... bad food ... Udayan and I parked ourselves on a furry couch at one point and kept taking self taken photographs, none of which we like, and sadly, I think I deleted them all bc we kept finding faults in them (mainly 'I look fat').
At 4am, we finally called it a night. I had to wake up at 7am to catch a flt to Chennai and go straight to work from there ... and Udayan had a crazy day of walking through slums, taking the local train (which is a life threatening experience, no joke), and whatever else it is that he does with his time.

All in all ... it was a lot of fun. I would say it was one of the best times I've had with Udayan ... barring maybe our classic 'Udayan and Antara's Day of Fun' that was never repeated after the first time. But you know ... there was alcohol involved in this night, so all the more interesting!

Friday, April 27, 2007

A World Apart

Anyone who has known me long enough has known what a fascination I've always had for Islam. So when I heard that we'd be visiting Mosques on our recce (pronounced 'rekky,' short for 'reconnnaisance'), I was internally jumping up and down.

The Regent's Park Mosque is perhaps the most prestigious and affluent Mosque in London. Lying in the heart of one of London's most posh neighborhoods, it is an architechtural beauty. A large golden dome, a tall white minnar, and lush, green grounds surrounded by tall iron gates.

I walked around cautiously and quietly ... there were few people on the grounds, and all men. The man who showed us around (the director of the mosque) was an affable Pakistani man, dressed in a crisp suit, with a light hearted demeanour, and made us all immediately feel at ease about shooting in the Masjid. We entered the main prayer room ... the carpet was rich in its pattern and shades; from the high domed ceiling hung an enourmous crystal chandelier. By the way, this Mosque is under direct jurisdiction by Saudi Arabia-- if that helps you imagine the kind of grandeur I'm trying to describe here.

The man asked me to wear a scarf to cover my head. I suddenly felt sheepish ... for someone who claims to be so 'into' Islam, that was a pretty daft thing to do. I had, however, changed my shirt several times in the morning when trying to figure out what to wear, because I didn't want to wear anything too form fitting or low cut. Oh well. It was a mental note to be made for when we came to shoot.

We confirmed our shoot of 3 days at the Mosque while the 5 of us sat at a 30 person conference table. This is the conference room where the Islamic (religious) leaders of 29 Muslim countries meet once a year. I thought to myself 'There are 29 countries with large Islamic populations ?' I think I could name 10.

I left that Mosque feeling like I had just a childhood fantasy come true. I really do look forward to shooting 3 days there.

Today, we visited a Madarsa - an Islamic school, that also had a mosque in it. A large brick building, right on the sidewalk in the middle of east London (i.e.ghetto), this place immediately had a totally different feel than the grand Regent's Park Mosque. I hesitated as the others in my group entered the 'Men's entrance.' An old man, in kurta pyjama, skull cap, with a long grey beard, befitting every stereotypical image I could conjure of a Maulvi shook his head smiling and said 'No, no, come in, it's ok.' I felt obliged, and walked slowly behind the men . Our production manager asked, 'Doesn't she need a scarf?' The man smiled, 'It's ok, humari beti hai.' I felt touched.

The man happily showed us the grounds. The 1st floor consisted of the main prayer room, the back room for funerals (as well as the room for preparing the body and the body refrigerator!) and the large kitchen with pots large enough to cook a whole lamb in, straight.

The 2nd floor was another large room where the Imam would preach sermons. This would be the room that we would be using for our shooting. Lucky for us, it was quite large, and the carpet was nice and rich looking -- similar to that of the other Mosque -- so it would work for us.

"In our Mosque," the old man proudly announced, "Men and women never see eachother."

He led us to the partitioned 3rd floor, where the students were taught. We entered a large room where 100+ young boys were seated on the ground in different groups. It was quite loud, and our entry definitely created an unexpected hush for the crowd: there was a girl their room. And that too, dressed 'immodestly' (I was wearing jeans and a sweater). I heard a 'cat call' of 'Subhanallah' as we walked past a group, but lucky for me, all the boys were under the age of 12, otherwise I would have felt really weird being there. I still felt weird being there.

We walked over to the girls section. I thought to myself, "Ok, now I'll feel at ease, and maybe the men will feel like the estranged ones." 40 girls sat on the ground at tables, all around 6-8 years of age ... wearing a black hijab that covered everything but their beautiful round faces, and curious eyes. To my surprise, I was still the object of amusement, and not the other 4 men accompanying me. I was allowed to see other rooms where the older girls were being taught, as the men waited outside. I also saw the separate women's entrance -- and couldn't help but notice that it had hard, cement steps, while the men's side had carpeted steps. Maybe I was reading a little too much into it?

We soon left the Madarsa, and I found myself rather in a rush to get out of there. Aside from feeling very out of place with four men, I felt like I was in a different world altogether. It was a world I was completely unfamilar with; something I had only read about. I know this experience will stay with me for a long time.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Alliteration: film festivals are fun


I really enjoyed myself tonight at the screening of Kamla. Deepti Naval was being honored with a lifetime achievement award, so they were screening 3 of her films at the festival ... one of which was Jagmohan ji's 'Kamla,' which was made waaaay back in '84. There was a Q&A for Deepti before hand, and then Jag introduced the film. We actually didn't sit around to watch the film (again!) bc both Jag and I had watched it recently.

I was feeling a little out of it at this point. I was tired of making small talk to the random people we kept running into. I also felt like I was tagging along with Jag, and just wasn't enjoying trying to catch up with his conversations with people. We were invited to a dinner that a small group of people were going to (abt 20) at a nearby restaurant called 'Tantra.' I was quite dreading it, to be honest, but knew it was something I had to do.

I sat at the end of a table of twenty people of which I knew about two. One of the guys sitting near us knew me from Cal (I have no idea how he placed who I was ... but he said Jag mentioned that I went to Berkeley when he introduced me the previous night on stage, so that's where he put two and two together). He seemed like a friendly guy; an aspiring actor and filmmaker, whose short had just screened at the film festival. He's from the Bay Area too.

But I spent most of the night chatting with the guy sitting next to me. He was nice and easy to talk to. Sometimes conversation becomes entirely small talk and forced at these kinds of things that you get tired after awhile. But he seemed a lot more ... um, I guess I would say real, for a lack of a better word. And then I found out that he was the director of a film that I had recently seen and thoroughly enjoyed at Cinequest, called 'Outsourced.' I was really happy to get to meet this talented, debut filmmaker and talk about his filmmaking experience. Unlike many white guys who are into India, this guy was really balanced and didn't come across as a hippie freak. Although he was vegetarian ... :-)

Overall, I had a really good time that night, and it made me want to frequent more film festivals ... except next time I want to go with a film of my own.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sleep Dep

It's my second day in LA and I'm already starting to feel sleep deprived ... I'm not used to waking up when I'm getting less than 8 hrs of sleep (more like 10) ... Yesterday was a fruitful day ... I did 1/2 hr of Kathak (and abs!), worked with Jag, ate healthy, hung out at Shilpa didi's for dinner, and came back and worked with Jag till 2:30 am. I'm sore today, both in my legs and my abs.
Now I just can't let the feeling of sleep deprivation take over.

Seeing Simran was a lot of fun. She was so excited to see me and Shashank arrive, and welcomed me with a big hug. She also quickly noticed the shopping bag in my hands and got her hands into it. And then she got into a photo session mood, and kept posing for pictures on my lap. I showed her a photograph on my camera display, so she learned to come to see the display after each and every picture. She's also at that parrot stage, where she repeats anything you say. It's really cute ... I'm glad that I got to see her just two months after the last time I saw her. Hopefully she'll remember who her Antara Mausi is :-)



Wednesday, April 18, 2007

'Provoked' Premiere at the Indian Film Festival


I am quite impressed with the well organized and smoothly run Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Red carpet, a lot of press, smoothly run, with people and drivers, constantly guiding and leading you in the right direction. Definitely a lot more organized than other Indian events and premieres I've seen in the past ... not that I've seen that many.


We got there and Jag was immediately swamped by the press. I hung out with Chandra aunty and other familiar faces I saw from the past -- some family friends of the Mundhras, other actors and crew I knew from previous films, and even a random friend from college. Nandita Das arrived, looking elegant as always, in a cream and gold sari. Nicholas Irons also came to support the film, with Sandra Teles. Thinking back at it ... I think Nick spent more time chatting with us than actually on the red carpet.

We went in for the opening of the film. Jag was introduced while we waited at the side. He spoke a little about the film, and his 27 year journey as a filmmaker. He went on to introduce Nandita, Nick, myself, and Uzma, inviting us on stage. After this we left, and actually didn't even get to watch the film, since the show was so sold out that we had to give up our seats. I don't think any of us particularly minded since we've all seen the film several times.

So we just hung out at the bar until the screening was over. My friend and I wanted to catch the reaction of the crowd when the film finished, but didn't make it into the theater at the end. I stood outside the theater, trying to listen to people's passing comments about the film. That didn't help. Finally, I just poked my nose into the audience poll basket ... it was filled with mainly 'goods' and a few 'greats.' I saw a 'poor,' and wondered who that was. That was the closest assessment I could get to the crowd reaction. Basing it on what people come and tell you is hardly indicative of the whole crowd ... those people who didn't like the film aren't going to come up and tell you that it sucked.


Afterwards we were guided to the Ivar, where the afterparty was. A really nice, big club, that I've never been to before. There was an area set aside for Provoked cast & crew, so we mainly hung out there. Free food, free drinks, decent company ... all in all it was a fun night. And, of course, the thing that made the night the best was the fact that the response of the film had been positive.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Nervousness?

I'm suddenly feeling nervous and anxious about the next three months ahead of me. I've become so accustomed to living my relaxed lifestyle out here; it's hard to change gears all of a sudden. I also have no doubt that as soon as I see Jag, I'll be back to my other 'normal' self, but I can't help but feel anxious nonetheless.
A lot is going to happen in the next three months; each day will be filled with many ups and downs, frustrations, accomplishments that often tend to feel overshadowed by other upcoming issues. Overall, it's an emotional roller coaster. And the lack of sleep doesn't help. But I'm psyching up for it ... this year is going to be more eventful than I had ever thought it would be!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hindi Blogging

Apparently, now you can blog in Hindi. And it's not like that old style complicated keyboard which requires a manual to understand. Unfortunately, it's not supported by Macs.

The best Hindi font I had seen was during the Dot-Com boom. There was a new email service called langoo.com. It supported writing emails in about 12 different languages, six of which were Indian languages. And it was the simplest transliteration I had ever seen. You pretty much wrote words out phonetically, and it had simple rules for different sounds ... such as the 't' in 'tasveer' versus the 't' in 'tamatar.' I actually taught myself how to read and write Punjabi from that website.

Alas, the stock market busted, and Langoo disappeared. I hope this blogger Hindi font is as easy to use as Langoo was.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

To-Do List

These next few days are going to fly by. I can think of a dozen things I need to do before I leave:
1) sign tax papers, 2) deposit & send checks, 3) close bank acct, 4) go to appt with florist, 5) look at photographer's work, 6) book the photographer, 7) book tickets & hotel for beautician and pandit for the wedding, 8) buy stamps, 9) get a haircut, 10) pick up pants from the dry cleaners, 11) send film for development, 12 )complete & print out address labels for wedding invitations, 13) buy mom & dad's India tickets.

I'll probably think of a few more as I try to go to sleep. I'm excited about heading out to London. Really looking forward to starting a new film. Today I let Jag (my boss) know that I would have to go to India for a few days in the beginning of May, and he was ok with it ... which is a big relief for me. Now I'm ready to tackle the project ahead of me. Inshallah, all will go well.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Wrong Question


Everyone in the media seems to be obsessed with the upcoming Aishwarya-Abhishek wedding. That's expected -- it's one of the biggest weddings of the decade. But what pisses me off more is the fact that the media keeps posing the same question 'Is Aishwarya going to quit films after marriage?'

I mean, c'mon, puh-leez! This is not the 1970's when Jaya Bhaduri decided that it was improper for a married woman to be working in films, and left her booming career to be a housewife, and later raise their children. All Indian actresses in this day and age continue to work after marriage: Kajol, Karisma Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit; albeit, in limited quantity, but that's a personal choice. It's quite foolish to even pose that as an issue. In fact, even Jaya Bachchan has come back to work in films, so it really is not an issue of 'impropriety' anymore, is it?

So asking whether or not Aishwarya Rai is going to quit films is the wrong question. What's a more pertinent in this day and age is 'Will Aishwarya Rai change her name to Aishwarya Bachchan after marriage?'

Hold up ... this isn't the no-brainer that the Bollywood 'film fraternity' would tell you it is. I'm sure most of Bollywood feels that having the 'Bachchan' label is a matter of prestige; almost like being marked as royalty -- so why wouldn't you take the last name? But Aishwarya Rai is an international figure. In the last 10 years, she has established herself -- her brand name -- as Aishwarya Rai. Is she ready to change the name that she has become famous with, to something else?

My guess is she won't. In our society, it has become quite acceptable for women to keep their maiden names. Because of that acceptability, there is reluctance on the part of many women to go through the hassle of changing their names (social security, license, passport, credit cards, etc.) ... not to mention the emotional attachment you harbor for the name. It's your name after all; the quintessence of your identity at a glance, and beyond. I personally feel that you really have to be crazy in love with someone to change such a huge part of who you are for them. I'm not saying I don't think Aishwarya loves Abhishek enough ... who am I to know such a thing or make such a claim? I just don't think she'll do it. She's Aishwarya Rai. She's not just a Bachchan bahu, and she'll make sure people know it.

Result: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. A 'happy medium' that actually leaves neither side satisfied.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Analysis Paralysis

I just critiqued my friend Shaun's script. I realized that I enjoy analyzing and critiquing scripts. I don't think I'm much of a writer, but I think in the last few years my sense of structure has developed.
I've also been trying to analyze for myself why I'm not liking this season of 24. The main problem was the unlikelihoodness of the plot itself. The situations are so improbable, and lacking motive that it's way too far-fetched to believe. Another thing that I've noticed in this season vs. the others is the lack of suspense. The moment we (as the audience) discovers something in the terrorist plot ... literally by the next scene, CTU has discovered the exact same information. There is no period when you're on the edge of your seat, biting your finger nails because you know something that the good guys don't know, or vice-versa. So there is an overall lack of suspense in the season.
And lastly, the pace has just gotten slower. They often focus more on political, beaureaucratic, personal dramas, rather than having action packed scenes. It's been disappointing that I'm not so excited about this season, bc I was such a die-hard 24 fan before this. Except for the first 4 episodes, there has not been a single moment where I've felt compelled to watch the next episode. Of course I will continue to watch the rest of the season ... the same way I continue to watch Lost, even though I think the writers are completely lost themselves ... but these shows have become somewhat lackluster.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Vlogging is the way to go!

Recently I've been obsessing abt how to post videos on my blog. Not that I think I'm going to do it anytime soon, but I still wanted to know HOW it can be done. Omg, it's complicated. I found this AMAZING website that walks you through it like a total dummy: www.freevlog.org.

Anyway, despite them making it totally idiot proof, it still is a lot of work, esp for a first timer. I guess it's kinda like when you follow a new recipe for the first time, and have to keep referring to the cookbook every half a step. I'm sure if I actually bothered to do it, a few video postings later, it would feel really easy to me.

So, ideally, I'd like to post one video to my blog before I head out to London. That is, if I can find something worth posting that's already in .avi format.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Week of Boredom

I wake up in the morning, and just stare at the wall. What will I do today? My mind is surprisingly active -- maybe it's because I've already slept 10 hours -- I can think of a few things on my to-do list: go to the gym, respond to a couple of important emails regarding the wedding planning, book airline tickets for my family and myself, deposit those checks sitting in my wallet. All in all, each individual item is not horribly excruciating. Nor is it terribly exhilarting. So I roll over. And stare at the ceiling this time.

That was all of last week for me. I couldn't figure out why I was so bored. This is perhaps one of the most exciting times in my life right now. I'm busy planning my wedding, I've been freelance editing at a production house where I'm learning new stuff, and the schedule is pretty flexible and chill, and next month I'll be heading out to London to start working on a new feature film that I'm really excited about ... after which when I return, the wedding festivities will have begun. So where is the time, and reason to be so bored??

Maybe it was 'that time of the month,' or just a random hormonal fluctuation, but I cannot remember the last time I felt so aimless, despite having such concrete goals set ahead of me. Lucky for me, after about 6 days of feeling like this, I've bounced back to my normal Antara self. The world no longer looks grim, skies are bluer, the sun is shining brighter. And except for the morning hours when I'd much rather roll over back into bed and sleep until the afternoon ... I'm looking forward to each day in these last three weeks before I head out to London.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Trying to Plan Ahead

It looks like I'm going to be heading out to London around April 15th. Inshallah, knock on wood, fingers crossed. That being the case, I've been going crazy trying to figure out how to fit in an India trip and a Hawaii trip before that. Answer: IMPOSSIBLE. So I think I'm going to have to officially let go of the wedding planning and let my family take care of it all. In theory, I'm happy about that, because that means I can just 'show up.' But in practical terms, I can see myself biting my nails over what's happening with my DJ (figuratively).

So my family will go to Hawaii and make the rest of the decisions abt the wedding. I will meet up with my parents in India at some point to (finally!) see my wedding outfits, and try them out and all that good stuff. I can't wait to be standing in the Rohit Bal store, in my wedding outfit, with all my wedding jewelry on (it's important to wear your wedding jewelry when trying on your outfit -- what if your neckline isn't low enough for your huge necklace??)

Shabba Khair...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Written about a Year Ago


Hangovers Suck

Saturday night ended up being pretty crazy -- first going to the Christina Aguilera concert (box seats). The Pussy Cat Dolls are H-O-T. And then the kids came over and partied at our house till 5am. I'm telling you, I'm getting too old for this sh--. I was so hungover the next day, I was pretty much useless all day.
And of coure, the famous last words were said the next day 'Let's never drink again.'

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Portland Trip, Cont'd


The second day in Portland was dedicated to surfing the web. We forcefully created a facebook acct for Samir, and then Kutu made one for me too. Then they tried to convince me to start a myspace page. But I'm going to do a little more research on myspace before I open up a page. I think if I like it, I might just transfer my blog to there. Blogs are pretty pointless ... at least if it's with myspace, there's a chance that people might see it. Then again, I don't know if the point to my blog is for people to see it. Anyway, I'm going to email my friend Samir, who works at MySpace to get all the facts about it.

Oh, and we also pigged out on some massively amazing food. Vaish made a complex Italian lunch. Then we went to a Mexican restaurant, followed by an amazing Fondue joint. All of these will be documented in my Yelp page ... another example of me going web crazy yesterday.

And the 30 minute run I went on with Samir and Kutu kicked my ass yesterday, and I'm still feeling the repurcussions right now. Back to San Jose today ...

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Trip to Portland


Vaishali & I came to Portland last night to visit Sapna didi, Vikrant Jija ji, and their new baby Savi. Oh my gosh, she's soooo cute! I can't tell if it's a personal aunt bias, or if she really is just absolutely adorable. I think it's the latter. Thinking back at it, both Sapna and Samir were one of the cutest babies I've ever seen till this date, so it's not an entire surprise that Savi is that cute.
Anyway, so we're just chillin around in our PJ's at 1pm. The grand plan for today is to make kadhi-chawal for when Mausi, Mausa ji and Samir arrive at night. I brought over Kingsuk's analog Nikon camera, that I've loaded a roll of black & white film in ... so my goal is to get some cute baby pix ... that way I can justify to myself that I like taking pictures, and can buy myself that new Digital Canon SLR that both me and Brahma have been eyeing for the last couple of weeks.
Ok, that's that. Maybe in a week or so I can post some of the pictures I've taken this time in Portland. Beautiful city, by the way. I just don't think we'll get out much to see it, since everything is so cumbersome with a cutie little baby around.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Why a blog?


I'm not quite sure. But if you don't try something, how do you find out whether or not you like it? Sounds like something my mother would say to me.

Anyway, I don't know what the purpose of this blog is, except that I'm fascinated with what modern technology has started providing us with for free. I've kept a diary since I was 9 years old; not that this is a replacement for a diary; but I obviously like to write my thoughts out. So maybe if I keep writing enough, I'll actually find something to write about.