I always believed that the right things in life just happen – when the time is right, they land into our lap effortlessly. My first movie acting experience was one such gift from above.
When I first met Ms. Sanjivani Gawai, the Movie Producer of “Foreignchi Patlin”, she just finished her postgraduate studies and was contemplating how to make a Marathi movie that would be DIFFERENT. It was Valentines, Feb 14th 2007. My life partner and spiritual guide – Mohanji and I met only a month or so before that day, and this was one of our first outings together – we were aiming for a romantic Dhow Cruise at the glittering Dubai Creek, and landed with a not so enjoyable dinner (and definitely not so enjoyable Philippino entertainment) on a boat from which, unfortunately, one could not escape until the 2h-long ride finishes. We tried to make the best out of the situation and somehow managed to survive all the noise, smells and other stimuli to our senses.
Little did I know that this boat ride had a much larger purpose in my life. Throughout the evening, Ms. Sanjivani was actually eyeing me for a role in her movie. She was looking for an innocent, bubbly westerner
who would be able to carry the role of the heroine in her movie and TRANSFORM TOTALLY into a proper Indian wife. That evening I was wearing something semi-Indian, semi-Western, and kept talking about my Yoga training and deep appreciation of the spiritual richness of India. Since I was in a relationship with an Indian and kept travelling to India, she thought that I had EXACTLY THAT what she was looking for.
Later on, she organised a proper casting inIndia and considered several western ladies who are already involved with Bollywood industry, but none of them matched the role. Finally, she contacted me through her father who lives in Dubai and knows Mohanji from before.
The most unusual ‘casting’ followed. Sanjivani and Pradeep Ghonsikar, the Movie Director, decided to entrust her father with a task of buying one Indian sari and recording me with their Sony handycam wearing that sari and reading a few lines in Marathi that they prepared. I did not even take it seriously and fulfilled the task simply out of fun.
Soon enough, I was informed that the entire film crew agreed, with great enthusiasm, that I am THE ONE for the role of a heroine Jennifer in their movie “Foreignchi Patlin.” They thought that my Marathi pronunciation and the way I looked in the sari was just perfect. To say that I was surprised would be an understatement. I reminded Sanjivani that I NEVER acted in any movie in my entire life, not even in a school drama, and that this is not just any role that they are offering me, but THE main role. “How can you be sure that I will do well?”– I asked. She replied: “I don’t know, it is my intuition.”
At that time I had a part-time job in Dubai, in one Event Management company with a high-class lady from Mumbai as my boss. When I told her about this most unusual offer, she told me: “Don’t even think about getting into some low budget movie in the villages of Maharashtra. They’ll probably do some sloppy shooting and won’t even be able to release it. You will just waste your time and end up not getting paid.” I thought about the whole thing carefully and consulted with my dearest Mohanji whose faculties of deeper insight I trusted fully – his words matched my intuition: “It’s not a coincidence that this came to you. Why not take the challenge? You have nothing to lose.”
So there I was, on my way to India, ready for a serious ‘out of the comfort zone’ experience. The entire movie was to be finished in 25 days, before the end of Dec 2007. I’ll never forget the moment when I landed onto the miniscule ‘airport’ in the middle of a corn field, near Kolaphur village in Maharashtra. I knew it that very second – the adventure is on! Mr. Gawai and a few other members of the crew welcomed me with a big bouquet of flowers and recorded the arrival of ‘the star’ on the same Sony handycam.
The newly arrived ‘village heroine’ surely stood out – all the eyes were on me. We went straight to the shooting site, a shanty village house where they already started filming the scenes that do not involve Jennifer (my role). I was happy to meet my co-actors and the entire crew – all were very sweet, witty and natural.
I was surprised to see the amount of make up on the faces of the actors who were being filmed – the thick layer of facial powder made them look very funny. However, they looked most natural on the screen. That was the first insight I got about the difference between what we see in vivo, and what we see on the screen. Many were to follow…
(to be continued…)