Indian Idol OR How Not to Treat Your Studio Audience

A year ago today I was in India. I was interning for a film and media program. I also had frizzy hair and was, in comparison, very tall.

As part of our internship my co-intern, Aiess, and I had to observe how television was made, and contrast scripted versus live programs.

Enter: Indian Idol.

The day I was on set for Indian Idol was quite possibly the longest day in my short existence. I was in my second week of Civil War Dysentery* and was forced awake at the unholy hour of 9 a.m. after a night of…well, disgusting things, in order that I might go to Fimistan and see a live recording.

If you’ve ever had dysentery–and I don’t mean Delhi Belly or Montezuma’s Curse or any of that punk-ass silliness–you can commiserate with me. Being woken up from the only hour of sleep I had managed to get was rude. Being woken up and deposited on a film lot sans air conditioning and accessible bathrooms was a torture more keen than any other I can devise in my little head.

We did get to take a car, oddly. A beautiful, air-conditioned Tata something-or-other. The down side? Filmistan was exactly two blocks from our house. Rip off!

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(Ok, so I was super amped about the car…)

We got to Filmistan, checked in, looked at a scene being constructed for Ra.One, and were taken to the Indian Idol set.  We waited, and waited, and waited in the sun. We were told to come back for phase two of shooting. We hopped in the Tata Something and rolled home.

Insert two bazillion hours of waiting.

Before we were “cleared” to head back to the set and commence “phase two” it was past 6 p.m. Or 5 p.m. The point is, the sun was setting. We were shuffled into a TINY sound stage with TINY bleachers set-up for a TINY audience. There was a rather large stage, with fancy lights and smoke whirling around and sound people running around doing sound things and light people doing light things.

I have a feeling Aiess, Mukesh and I weren’t supposed to be IN the audience, that we were supposed to be on the side-lines observing and seeing different facets of the shooting process BUT the audience organizer got one look at my pale skin and vapid expression and said “gori!” with more excitement than I’ve ever heard injected into a word. Next thing I know I’m smack in the middle of the bleachers, the audience filling in around our trio and constantly being moved by the audience orgainzer to the best “strategic location”.

Mukesh just laughed. And laughed. This was actually all his fault. He caught me watching Indian Idol in the house one day and singing along to it**. He devised this plan based on my “interests”. I think.

I was dysentarious, remember.

ANYWAY after about 2 hours of being shuffled around it was time to start filming.

I think Indian Idol is hocked as a “live” show. Let me tell you something, my sweetums, there ain’t nothing live about this ish.

Each singer sang their song at least 3-4 times, and they got do-overs if they missed their intro!

MADNESS!

“This isn’t fair!” my opera-trained brain kept shouting at internally.

I ceased to care about my ethics when the guest judges were introduced.

Hello, Shahid Kapoor, my great, great, great, and most guilty weakness.

He swaggerd onto the stage and I turned into the most dithery of idiot girls. I blushed, for goodness’ sake! He shook my hand when he “greeted” the auidence! HE LOOKED AT ME!

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Anushka Sharma was there too. Whatever. She’s actually quite tall.

Shahid and Anushka were there to promote Badmaash Company. And to “judge”. All they really did was tell people how cute they thought their performance was.

Oh, and Shahid doodled. A LOT. If you’ve ever seen the guy’s tweets you’ll understand this but he’s totally like his tweets. Kind of… lost. Really, really, really nice; not terribly engaged upstairs. He was just there to look pretty and to act kind of awkward when the host asked him to dance on stage. Apparently, our boy Kapoor is a little shy.

I WANTED TO SEE HIM DANCE! AND HE DIDN’T! I stopped blushing.

At some point or another they went back to singing and judging.

I do remember being impressed with the judges commentary. Now, I know my Hindi is SO FINE (it is not) but I felt compared to the American Idol judges they actually knew what they were talking about. Comments were about technique, technique and more technique. More importantly, they told how to FIX problems. Each contestant got a great coaching session for about 10-15 minutes from the judges. Obviously only 2-3 minutes of that ever aired but it really did impress me.

Anushka and Shahid gave comments too, usually to the effect of “You’re so sweet!” or “Your determination really inspires me!” or better yet, “Follow your dreams.”

Meanwhile, in the audience, things were starting to got a little Second French Revolution. We had been sequestered for over 6 hours at this point and under NO circumstances were we able to leave. We needed water, kids needed to pee, parents needed food or they were going to go batshit…etc. “No.” “No.” “No.” was the constant response to all of our pleadings.

If you’ve ever watched Indian Idol and thought he audience sounded a little…well, miserable, now you know why. There are about 100 people sitting there and they’re all extremely pissed off.

8 hours into the experience and the judges were released to go “debate”. Naturally, if you had been watching all the production people closely enough you could see that the decision was already made and that there would be no debate. Only dinner.

THE JUDGES GOT DINNER.

During this 2 hour hiatus you might think that we were able to roam about, get our own dinner, streach our legs, feed some kids… NOPE.

We were stuck. Forever. Time was halted and I was going to die on the Indian Idol soundstage. Filmistan. Mumbai. India.

While there was singing and judging going on I was at least distracted enough to not care about what time it was, but for those two hours of inaction I was ready to stab. Anyone.

To add insult to injury there was a bhangra group that would occasionally start drumming and shouting. They were also seated directly behind Aiess, Mukesh and myself.

Not only were we stuck, upset, thirsty and tired, but we were deaf now too.

When the action on stage restarted the audience was pacified enough to get involved again. There was only the “you’re in”/”you’re out” part left. How long could that take? Twenty, thrity minutes tops? Let’s do this.

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It took 4 hours.

Four. Chaar. Cuatro.

Oh it was awful!

Finally it finished. We all breathed a sigh or relief! We danced, cheered, frolicked! It was time to leave! To go home! To use the bathroom! To eat!

Except it wasn’t.

First all the “high profile” guests had to leave. The singers, the hosts, the judges, Anushi and Shahid. Then they had to clean the stage. Then turn off the lights. Then pack things up. Then feed the crew. Then let the crew leave.

2 hours later, things got ugly. Mob mentallity totally took over. I started screaming at people in Hindi! I got FANTASTIC looks from people! I pulled my hair, I went absolutely insane.

I don’t loose my cool, I am patient, calm, collected.

Not then. I wanted to get home, go to bed, and eat a chapati. (Yes, in that order).

Realize that since we had ENTERED THE SOUND STAGE it had been 16 hours and counting.

Like, let us leave already?

I think, a year later and looking back, that we were all getting punked so hard. They were monitoring us for some psychological and sociological study. Right now in some freshman college lecture I’m being viewed on screen and the students are like “what is her deal?”

Sigh.

We walked home. It was glorious. I’ve never felt more happy to be standing in my entire life. I was moving, breathing the “fresh” air of Mumbai! I was free!

A week or so later our episode aired. I tried to watch it but it was too horrific. I wasn’t ready to relive it. The pain! The pain was unendurable!

I got texts and facebook messages from friends who did watch it. They all said this: “Wah! You are on Indian Idol!”

Of course I was. Like you can keep a camera of MY beautiful face! HAHA!

Did I mention the best part? It was totally Aiess’ 21st Birthday.

What a ROCKING birthday!

Today, a year later, she’s 22 and I think we’ve both healed enough to talk about our trauma… at least, I am.

*If you follow my film blog, my Twitter or have ever spoken to me in real life, you know my dysentery is the first thing I try to tell you about myself. I’m superbly proud of it and now know why the South quit the war.

**I know more lyrics to the songs on Indian Idol than on American Idol. My doctor is having me tested for something.

What’s in a Name?

Erin Brittany Evelynn Hermione Isis Vivianna Rose Tarista Beatrice Marie Catherine Yiddle Adele Wika-Wika.

This is the name I gave myself in 7th grade HomeEc class while making coffee cake to convince my friends that I had been adopted from the United Kingdom.

From a family with connections to the House of Lords, no less.

Yes, I’ve always been an inventive and spectacular liar… when the occasion calls for it or if I need to very quickly steal the attention of a room.

I can’t believe I’ve remembered the name, or that I at one time had the ability to rattle off 13 names in one breath without pause.

It all just came to me.

Profound, no?

Oddly, up until graduation from High School (the last time I communicated with anyone outside of my family from my home town. I’m an ass like that.) classmates still would come up to me randomly and inquire if I was the one who 1) had been adopted from England and 2) if I was the bastard, cast-off of the Royal Family.

Naturally, I said “yes” to both questions.

Once you imagine you’re royalty you have to stick with it. I hadn’t even said more on the topic outside of that one cooking class.

Rumors. They spread.

Quite frankly, anyone with THAT particular name sounds like a total bore. Or a bitch. A rude, obnoxious cow who probably went to law school and wore plaid and mis-matched argyle and had a blunt bobbed hair cut. Or who got married and did something impractical like “start an herb garden” or “collect fairy figurines in a curio cabinet”.

That woman, who isn’t real, totally surpassed me in life. Take THAT imagination! I didn’t rise to your expectations! HA!

Also, said cow probably looks like this:

Hipsters.

Hipsters.

(The female one, obviously)… which is to say: lame.

What can we learn from this, you ask?

1. I was insane as a youth.

2. I still am insane as a faux-adult.

3. I took one “oh look, we’re related to the royal family” announcement way too far.

4. People from my home town are gullible, simple-minded, adorable weirdos.

5. Obviously Harry Potter hadn’t really “gotten big” yet, or people could have called me out on that fourth name super quick and my lie would have been exposed.

6. I was trying to impress a boy. (you ladies knew that was coming!)

7. Coffee Cake apparently makes me competitive. If I can’t make it the best, I sure as heck can distract said boy from the girl who does with something more impressive… i.e. a laundry list of names.

8. I went to school when HomeEc still existed.

9. My parents exercised no control over my ambitious imagination. Thank God.

10. I was in the throws of my “I’m going to be an Egyptologist!” phase, hence: “Isis”.

Ya’ll can just sit there and count your stars (lucky or not) that you are not as absurd as I am. Unless you are, and you probably are, in which case we can all just bond nicely over our mutual creepiness.

Cheers.

Yellowstone National Park

I have a thing for National Parks. I can’t explain it other than by suggesting that my fondness for them comes from spending almost every other weekend hiking and camping with my father in my youth.

To be honest we probably didn’t go hiking and camping as much as I remember us doing so, but a chunk of my childhood was spent sleeping on the ground, in a tent, my body temperature hovering in that strange cold-but-sweating zone and laughing at my sister pee on herself during a hike*.

While we were usually sequestered to the handful of State Parks Indiana boasts my family would generally stop at any National Parks while we were traveling. Thanks to parents who were willing to ensure their children saw as much of the world as they could and my living in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Idaho I’ve seen a lot of National Parks, Forests and Monuments.

My mother would always make us take a picture with the National Park sign at the beginning of every park. She told us over and over again that “everyone did it and it was a tradition” and my sisters and I would just comply to stop her from going on about it. Oddly enough, when I started my own road trips with Jas we always found ourselves begging other groups to take our picture with the sign. Pictures with Park Name signs must be some sort of primal need bred into every American. If we left a park without a sign picture, we had to return and take one. Not to do so just felt so wrong**.

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While I was living in Idaho I happened to be no more than an hour away from Yellowstone National Park. I lived in Idaho for three years and almost left it without ever going to visit it. I was insane. Not to visit the first national park in the world would have been a regrettable and frivolous mistake while I was so close to it! I finally managed to go when driving out for my penultimate semester in September 2009. My mother, our German Exchange Student and I road tripped to my school so that the German could see some of the vast and inspiring geography of the Western United States… or, you know, get her out of a week of school. (Probably the latter).

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We saw just a tiny, tiny part of the park, and to have seen the entire park would have required staying at least a week. What we did see was stunningly beautiful. Since it was fall and winter was coming in just under a week (Intermountain Winter starts the third week of September, trust me) most of the foliage was scrubby and brown, but it contrasted beautifully with the color that held fast.

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I remember being so amazed by all the greens, blues, reds, golds, pinks, turquoises and copper colors that all I wanted to do was sit on the ground and stare at them for the length of a day—to se how they changed and developed from sunrise to sunset.

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Call me terribly Romantic but my views on nature are such that I cannot help but to be touched by the beauty and perfection in all that surrounds us. It is a joy more restoring and healing to be in nature than any other provided by books or TV or Twitter or music.

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Besides, I also have a terrible weakness for bison. They’re so cute!

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Though we only saw a few parts of the park: some small hot springs, Yellowstone Lake, Old Faithful, an Elk, a couple bears and The Grand Canyon (of Yellowstone) and its miraculous waterfall, it was sufficent for the one day we had set aside to explore it.

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Apparently I was so in awe of Old Faithful that I didn’t take any pictures of it… while I’m not really surprised by this behavior (I tend to be a terrible photographic recorder) I will admit that it was quite stunning and very, very fun to watch… even if it was freezing.

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Naturally I did happen to get a picture of myself, watching Old Faithful.

Yellowstone is a park I think often of returning to to explore more of its beauties and wonders… I’ll just have to think about breaking that vow I made never to cross the Mississippi River ever again***.

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*I’m a terrible sister. :)
**I know I have a sign picture of myself, my mother and our German exchange student at the time at the Yellowstone Park sign, but I can’t seem to find it. This upsets me in a weird way.
***On my last drive from Idaho to Indiana after completing my time at University I swore, as I drove over it, that i would never, ever, ever cross the Mississippi River ever again and that I was confined, forever to the Eastern half of the United States. That might have been a dumb vow to make.

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Jots about Jane Eyre

I just returned from a showing of the newest Jane Eyre movie and needless to say I’m currently bumbling about in cloud of Period Piece-Romance Emotional Excess. I’ve only ever seen one other Jane Eyre adaptation, the 2006 miniseries with a thin lipped Jane and almost excessive making out sequences.

This most recent translation of the novel is by far the more fulfilling of the two being gorgeously shot with spectacularly nuanced actors and delicious sets and costumes.

I, however, am not here to talk about movies. I am here to talk about Jane.

Jane Eyre and I have a confusing and complex relationship that dates back to when I first found out about her. I think I was eight or nine, maybe a bit older, but I was at church waiting for sunday school to start, standing in the hallway with my friend Jas. She always read through every meeting of church and I always admired her brazenness. That week she had a thick volume in her hand with an absurd cartoon cover. I can remember exactly what the book looked like, and it looked stupid.

“What are you reading?” I asked.
Jane Eyre. It’s about an orphan who gets a book thrown at her head and then locked in a tower.”
“Oh.”

It was not, so to say, my style. In my sad little child’s brain I figured anyone dull enough to warrant having a book thrown at her wasn’t worth writing a book about. Let alone a long book. (And I was no stranger to long books, having read Gone With the Wind multiple times before turning 7).

I forgot about Jane Eyre until I was a sophomore in high school. Most of my friends were juniors in Mr. L’s honors English class and it was required of them to read the book. We would sit in the choir room before school and they would read passages aloud that they found absurd (the book throwing received much repetition) and we would laugh and roll our eyes at the absurd English peoples of the past.

When the time came I found myself installed in Mr. L’s honors English class, and on the first day of school I informed him that there was, in no way, any scinerao he might present that would get me to like Jane Eyre. He smiled and made a note of my open defiance. One day everyone in our class class was presented with a fat book with an even uglier illustration on the cover than the copy Jas had had when we were kids.

Stupid Jane Eyre.

“I like Jane Eyre.” Mr. L announced, “I know no one else does, but I do. Either way we have to read it. So to make it more palatable I want you all to go home and cover the book with a picture of a book you DO like.”

The next day we had to share what book we’d rather be reading than Jane Eyre. I believe I chose “Wuthering Heights” because I am a brat. Mr. L covered his copy with a picture of another edition of Jane Eyre, one girl used “Everybody Poops” (that annoyed me). We were given our reading schedules, an introduction on the book and author and were dismissed for the day. On the way out Mr. L annouced that “By next class, our own little dissent party, Erin, will be enamoured with this book.” I scoffed, people chuckled and I left. It was a Friday and we had the weekend to read five chapters or so and my plan was to stick with the schedule.

On Monday I stormed into Mr. L’s room after lunch, slammed the book on my desk and informed him that “This isn’t fair.”
“Might I ask how far you got?”
“I finsihed it.”
“Of course you did. And?”
“I loved it.”
“Ahh. Told you you would. It is very much “your style” though you’ll deny it until your death, and I thought it might appeal to some of your more overt sensibilities.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mr. Rochester is older.”

While it would take another post just to explain this comment suffice it to say that I’ve burned a candle for older men my whole life, and have made no secret of it.

“But that isn’t the only reason… I mean Jane is kind of sad and awful but the language is just so, so beautiful and I can’t help myself when there is pretty speeches, big houses and moors. And I’m sorry, but it is rather ridiculous what with a crazy, hidden wife and the hero going all blind and deformed AND THEN magically becoming whole again. But I liked it. I did.”

And thus, a Jane Eyre fan was born. A reluctant one, but one nonetheless.

Since the first time I read the novel there have been subsequent rereadings, and they all start the same way; I see it sitting on my bookshelf and I scoff, call it rediculous and figure I’ll read a chapter or two to kill time before ultimately being sucked in and captured by the story.

It’s an endless, confusing cycle and one day I’ll figure out whether I like the book or think it is absurd but for now I’m happy to keep being surprised by it.

And just for the record, I hate Jane Eyre.

I think?

Bear Licking, Kid Discipline 101

I lived in Idaho for 3 years.

Besides being the most tragic era of my life, due to sheer Deserted Desert Syndrome, it also provided multiple chances for road trips with my best friend, Jas.

Before and after every semester Jas would join me in driving from Idaho to Indiana or from Indiana to Idaho. Each time we planned a different route, going through Arizona, South Dakota, and even detouring enough to hit Washington and Canada.

For all my grudging of its sparse population and limited entertainment and “glamour value” the West is a beautiful, wild, and special place. From the limitless horizon to the towering trees, winding rivers, red rocks, shrubby deserts and awe-inspiring, snow capped mountains it is a place that, once seen, never leaves you.

During our trip that canvassed Washington Jas and I stopped at a gas station to refuel, grab energy providing snacks (sour cream and onion chips and chocolate milk) and use the bathroom (we’re girls). We were waiting in line to pay for our provisions when we were distracted by a comotion coming from the “restaurant” side of the gas station. (It was one of those stores that had a generic Subway or whatsit attached. Basically the ONLY place in a remote town in Washington where you could get a footlong.)

There was a mother and her three children sitting around a table. Well, two of the children were at the table and the third, a baby, was strapped into its carseat on the floor.

Can we please, for a minute appreciate my horror at seeing a baby (carseat or no) on the floor?

For some reason I vividly remember the son having a lollipop in hand and a baseball hat on. The kids had that unwashed and slightly malnourished look that I learned to attribute to mountain people.**

The mother was missing a fair amount of teeth.

Frustrated with her son’s behavor in what she called a “fine dining establishment” the mother wrenched him down onto his seat, looked him straight in the eyes and said “If you don’t stop this second I’m going to tie you to a tree and let a bear lick you!”

Just like that.

Jas and I looked at each other in stunned silence for about half a second before collapsing into convulsive giggles. Hardly able to support ourselves we attempted to pay for our foodstuffs and gas before walking out into the very sunny afternoon and proceed to lose ourselves to an attack of mad giggling that caused stomach spasms and, quite possibly, drooling.

Only in the mountains of Washington would a mother threaten her child with a bear licking; I’ll never get to say anything that fabulous to any misbehaving child of mine and it is an acute regret that I’m prepared to feel.

**Yeah I know, I judge people. It’ll all come back on me. Blah blah.