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!


(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!


“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!


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.


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.


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.


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?”


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.

I Must Love You

Oh Blog Child of mine, look how I am giving you gossip TWO days in a row! I must be addled!

I am starving. Unfortunately we had a film crew in the house all day, so the left overs we usually have from lunch were gobbled up and we are left without in my house and the cook made her exit five hours ago. I have a real hankering for eggs on toast, and we have both eggs and bread but I’m somewhat daunted by having to make eggs on a plate over an open-flame stove top.

I’m such a spoiled little gori cook.

Today we shot for my coworker’s film, an expose on Rickshaw-wallah’s daily lives. It was fun, and a day full of firsts, of which I shall list out and explain in full Erin style!

1. First Sunburn: I don’t burn. Ever. I’ve never turned pink, but I’m looking at my face and my chest right now, and it’s red. Lobster red. I blame my coworker for forcing us to film her film from the hours of noon to three. Outside. In the middle of the street. I’m actually not that upset, but as I’m allergic to sunscreen (all types) I knew I was at least going to come home a little toasty. I was basically on-hand as “recorder” and I just took pictures of her recording video… ok, and I was flirting with all the people who came by to watch… and I’m talking, there were crowds. All they saw was camera equipment and a white girl and WAKAOW! we were swarmed. I rather enjoyed it, since I wasn’t doing any actual work and I was quite a hit with all the little children, since I accidentally let all the Mango Bites spill out of my purse at convenient times.

2. My first ride on a motorcycle: I have a scooter, a dilapidated Vespa that can’t top more than 10 M.P.H. and I basically use to just putter around my housing edition. Today I was seated on the backseat of  a legit Hero Honda (pardon me while I giggle a tad) behind SANDEEEEEP (whom I love) as we drove from shooting location to shooting location. Why have I never traveled in this manner before? It’s so free, and it’s a hell of a lot faster than an Autorickshaw… or car. Plus, there are those moments where the driver takes a sharp turn and you have to timidly grab hold of his shoulder…

No, I don’t take myself seriously.

3. My first hit-and-run. Times two!: The first time I was not paying attention to where I was standing (in the middle of a busy road) while I was taking pictures. A BMW came up, slowly, and nicely informed me of its presence by bumping into me. I blew a kiss at the driver (I’m truly insane) and got out of the way. The second time I was literally rammed down by an Autorickshaw. I didn’t fall, since that would have just been unpardonably embarrassing, but I do have a nice single-tire bruise on my ankle. Ha! I hope it scars!*

4. I saw a naked uncle: Uhhh. I don’t really know if I want to talk about the Rickshaw driver actor who was forced to take a bath by my coworker in the vein of “artistic integrity”.  Call me a prude, but there was a score of intense blushing and eye-covering throughout the entire process. Oh dear, I’m so going to be having nightmares about that.

5. My first milk candy: I don’t know what milk candy is, but Oy Hoy if it isn’t delicious! The end.

Oh, I shoot my movie on Thursday, and then Saturday I go home. Can there be a collective sigh and tear shed for me please?

And no, we’re not going to talk about my film, because I think it’s pretty awful. Confined to 5 minutes, I couldn’t quite put on the Filmi Epic complete with scars, lost twins, Shashi and sword fighting item numbers that I so desired.


*Yes, I just hoped that a bruise would scar. I bet it would happen in some Masala.

Mumbai Monday: This Didn’t Go the Way it Was Supposed To…

Occasionally I get it into my head that I need to update this poor, dilapidated blog child of mine, but then I get distracted by something remarkable; Shashi on the television or the most disturbing cookie advertisement of all time:

And I must say this before my brain melts, I am absolutely tired of seeing Hrithik Roshan’s face everywhere I turn. Every other commercial, billboard, light post, rickshaw, trashcan, store front and food is emblazoned with his face. It was enough for me to NOT go see Kites, as I thought that I had seen enough of Mr. Roshan’s face, thank-you-very-much.

Digression aside, I am in full form to inform (ha) you of my various travels and trials whilst living in the Indian Subcontinent. Today, for example, we have been waiting for 5 hours to meet a man about an autorickshaw. My fellow intern is doing her short film on an auto-wallah and we must rent the vehicle for her. Currently she lies asleep in the bed beside me while I steal a few minutes on her laptop. I was supposed to cast my actress for my film (of rather dismal plot), and the both of us were to nail down locations. As we have been waiting for the auto, nothing has happened. Well, I did watch about 3 hours of Monk re-runs, but only because I couldn’t force feed myself  Dance India Dance for one more moment.

Also, I did get along with the cook today who has a habit of wanting to over-feed me all the while commenting on various methods I might use to drop weight. The most obvious to the American mind, anorexia, is unpardonable around here and I must be stuffed full with daal (which I abhor) because she feels I lost far to much weight in the two and a half weeks I was suffering from dysentery (of which I was quite proud of). I cannot please her!

Granted, I suppose she’s just happy that I can stomach Indian food again, and I just generalize and tell her (though she speaks no English and looks at me in a bewildered way) that all Americans are fat and I’m just tall and I quite like myself, as my body is characteristic of my vocal fach, even though only Opera singers really understand and see those biological traits.

I think if I had grown up in an age where I had to deal with servants I would have been quite a terror to them. Mostly I just itch for the chance to cook for myself again, and I dream about broccoli and Sexy Rexy Chicken and salads and apples and peaches and carrots and beef until I cry.

This is getting absurdly sentimental.

So many things I cannot talk about though, for neither Vivek Oberoi’s new film, or Ra.One have come out and I have a gag order around my throat for all the little details that I saw. Though I will say, the rubber suit is absurd…

ZIP! My lips are locked.

Also, someone (perhaps a smart auntie) needs to slap me senseless, for I imagine myself in love with every man I’m introduced to, despite their small little height. DAMN the growth hormones in food! I’ve turned into an abominable flirt, (though I always was one according to L), but here it is remarkably fun. After studying Indian women interacting with males I noticed they just giggled and looked bashful. OH HO! Their (the men’s) inability to come back after a saucy little return on their jokes is hysterically funny and they often fuddle up as if they’ve never had a ladki talk back to them in a fun way. It provides hours of entertainment and creates such sad little illusions in my head.

That, and it’s wedding season.

I’ve decided it is high time I got myself hitched, so I might as well do it here; though with only a week left to complete this daunting task I rather feel that I shall return to the states a disappointed woo’er.

One week! O goodness, sometimes I feel like I haven’t seen or done anything in the 6 weeks that I’ve been here, but I have and I feel right and ripe for coming home… though I’m already planning my return.

For fun, here is a picture of me at a shaadi in one of the slums.

The cook scolded and scolded me to wear my hair “open” 
and I refused, since I was afflicted by the heat.
The cook was right. 

Also, and this may be out of taste, but it rather looks like my boobs 
are going to attack that poor short girl’s (my coworker) head. Fantastic.