Entry 07: Documentation Nation

Location: Whistling Woods International Time: 6:21pm

Since working on our documentary, we have been documented by other students and we have even documented ourselves answering questions for another documentary. There’s some docu-ception going on in here.

On our car ride to Colaba last Sunday to see the South Gate of India, Mark asked us: what do you miss about America? Like the profound philosopher that I am I contemplated what I really miss about being at home.
While the food here is spicy and strange, I grew up in a very multi-cultural environment. Honestly, I’m used to eating all kinds of things and trying foods I couldn’t tell you the names and textures of (but I had to try anyway so as not to upset a relative who made it). Also, I love rice. So any rice-eating country I’m in, I am fine.
My answer to Mark’s question was that I miss knowing things. I miss knowing where I am, the best places to go, how to navigate…I grew up in a state that boasts of it’s car culture, and boy do we love our cars and traveling wherever we want to go. So it feels restrictive since we don’t know too much about the area and how to get around. However, 2 and 1/2 weeks in in Mumbai, and I feel more confident here. Many people have told us that Mumbai is similar to New York City, and I’m starting to understand the comparison–people are always on the move, always working, it’s hustle and bustle and not much quiet scenery.

What I know I’ll miss when I return home is the extreme generosity and the amount of smiling done here. Everyone is so generous and kind and full of beauty it’s insane. Even the most under-privileged families who are affected by poverty the most–I find that their smiles are the brightest, their generosity the largest, and their hearts the warmest. I couldn’t tell you the amount of things I’ve learned and seen and observed these past few days, or even past few weeks…I’ve met a range of people from TV Show actors and film industry giants to humble families living in poor conditions to insightful Master’s students. I’ll never forget this tiny moment that summed up the Indian people…our documentary group was walking together to our student subject’s home in the slums. A man on the side smiles and says, “Welcome to our city!” So many little moments just warm my heart.
Even just today on our way to Whistling Woods, our rickshaw driver hit a bump on the highway–and I could tell he felt really bad about it. He turned around and tried to ask if we hit our heads or if we were okay in Hindi, and I wish we could have responded but we just smiled and gave a thumbs up.
It’s all these little moments that catch me, and the ones I will most take back home with me from this trip.

So–what it’s like to be different here? I don’t really know. To be honest, I kind of like it. America is my home, but I’m still regarded as different there, too. I’ll go through my entire life getting asked “where I’m really from” or “where my parents were born” because I look mostly ethnically ambiguous. It’s just a fact of my life and something I’ve developed an automatic response to. What’s different about “being different” here, is, like I’ve mentioned before, the open curiosity. Yeah, I get stares and second looks. But that’s all. In America, I’ll get people trying to hide their curiosity like they’re not curious about my ethnicity, and maybe if I’m talking to them, I already know that the question is in the back of their mind. And that’s fine, I’m always curious about other people and where they came from too. However, in America, when stating your ethnicity or where your from–there are so many unnecessary and unneeded stigmas attached to race and color. Once I tell people where I’m from, there’s a high chance that they’ve categorized me in their head both politically and socially just because of my background. Here in India, I can tell that it’s just curiosity and nothing more.

Which is why I’m not as phased so much as the amount of attention our group gets as a whole whenever we go somewhere. When we visited the touristy Gate of India, people swarmed around us to take pictures of us and with us, and they especially loved my blonde-haired friends. I’m not really shocked or stunned about it, though. We don’t realize how fortunate we are in the United States despite all our internal USA problems. I’m actually more fascinated at how this is the product of our global impact of entertainment. Really, American entertainment has seeped into cultures all around the world–such as India–and this is the lens in which they view us.

On a different note, interacting with our students and their mentors for our documentary project has been extremely touching and rewarding…Whitney, Iara and I can’t stop squealing and giggling at our footage over every kid’s little smile and to see how much their families love and support them. Visiting their homes was incredibly humbling and insightful.

Entry 06: India Keeps Teaching Me Things

Tuesday May 27th, 10:57pm

I like to know things. I like to know what I’m doing, what’s going to happen, and how those things are going to happen.

But India keeps turning things over on its head for me.

This week marks the beginning of the second part of our Bollywood Practicum: filming a mini-documentary on a Non-Government Organization (NGO). This project will take over the rest of our time here. While I’m excited to help out the organization (my group chose Abhyudaya, which matches MBA candidates to mentor gifted underprivileged children for a 1 year period), to be honest, my interest lies more with feature films. So a project like this requires me to muster up more concentration to feel passionate and give it 100%.
Running on 5 hours of sleep, I was kind of out of it and cranky today. That is, until we arrived at the school we’d be working at and saw the smiling faces of all the kids.

My straight face and silent demeanor couldn’t last for long–we met a teacher named Manavji Sahaj (who is totally Google-searchable, by the way) who basically walks throughout India. Yes, he walks. With his bare feet and sometimes sandals. But basically, he’s staying for a month or so to play with the children every morning and help them realize their own leadership potential. He was a pretty inspiring dude. Major props to anyone who is able to bring out talent in children. Manavji wanders throughout India, loves life, and loves people.

The next smile-inducing moment was when we visited a couple of the classes the kids were having. Iara and I stopped in on the Origami class (they do Origami for 2 HOURS!) and all the kids rushed up to us, smiled, giggled, and showed us their pieces. They asked us our names, too. After we left the classroom, two little boys came running up to me and said “Losa!” and gave me a little pink paper Origami heart. It was the cutest moment ever. My westernized mind is going crazy trying to remember everyone’s name so I made sure to ask him to spell it out: the boy who handed me the heart was Abihshek.

Then, we met a group of older students and sat down and spoke to them one on one. Iara and I stuck together and met 3 girls (whose names are written down on a piece of paper that Iara took a picture of). We conversed with them for awhile…and jeez, all of them love biology, chemistry, and physics. Iara and I just looked at each other and were like “…wow! Cool!” being the Newhouse kids that we are. We drew some pictures together, talked about favorite things…2 of them were shy but one of them was pretty bold.
“What do you like about India?” she asked.
“Oh! The food, the clothes!”
“Do you like the people?”
I said of course, I love the people! But I was personally taken aback; I wasn’t expecting such a “deep” question. Which I should have expected, because honestly, kids are deep.
At the end of our little session we found out that the 3 girls were all 15 years old–then I felt like crap, because we were asking them sort of super generalized easy questions when they’re actually pretty freaking mature for their age. Especially because of all the life hardships they’ve had to go through. I’m also trying to channel my 15 year old self, which is scary because that was 4 years ago and I hardly remember what that was like. I was a sophomore in high school…what did I worry about back then?

We head to the college next to the school and meet some mentors and a couple of mentees.
A mentor MBA candidate named Rohit really caught my attention with his story about his time with his mentee, also known as a Sitara (star). He spoke about the humility it gave him and how he was able to build a strong bond with sitara. I was impressed with his incredible maturity and vision and am glad that he was able to help his sitara and also learn for himself, too. The Abhyudaya program is actually quite fascinating.

Our group then headed to lunch. The food was absolutely delicious. More reasons to smile: Whitney said a couple of words in Hindi and the server got really impressed. However, he quickly learned that she (and most of us) actually don’t know much and it was all smiles from there. I love it when the locals find us amusing and fascinating. The feelings of them smiling and laughing at us warms my heart. All the staring used to be kind of uncomfortable at first, but like I’ve mentioned before, it’s really just honest curiosity. During our meal, the servers were watching us intently–which was slightly awkward, but I’m starting to get used to it. I hope they’re amused by our foolish American antics and little phrases in Hindi. Iara and I have learned the phrase “ap ka den, acha ho,” which means “Have a good day” in Hindi. Every time we use it, people smile and laugh at us. I plan on using it throughout the rest of the trip.

We stopped at the market to get some mangos and lychee (yummmmmmm) and then Wayne, Iara and I took a rickshaw back. We got worried because we were going through some backstreets but our driver got us to our hotel safe and sound. “You don’t trust a brotha?” Wayne asked Iara jokingly. Haha.

Finally arrived at the hotel and got to take my much-needed nap. I survived.

 

Again, India continues to break through all my expectations and literally turned my frown upside down.

Entry 05: The Magic School Bus Takes Us Places

Location: Sai Palace Hotel Room
25 May 2014 10:31pm

Yo. The word “day off” means absolutely nothing here. And that’s not a bad thing.
12 people are blogging at the same time about things we do, so hopefully if I skip over anything you can just read someone else’s take on it.
AUGH. Again, SO much is continually just HAPPENING. I wish I could write a higher quality blog post right now but time is fleeting so I’ll just fill you in on some details.

-We finished our beautiful Lungi Dance Bollywood shoot at Whistling Woods at 2ish 3ish am. It was a magical experience. Honestly. There are really no words to describe it. The energy in the air was full of determination, passion, smiles, laughter, but we were also on task, focused, and ready to go. It was everything a set should be and could be, and I look forward to experiencing and creating that magic once again someday.

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Sanjeev is an amazing director and choreographer; Som (Somnath Sen) was an awesome producer/director also; and our DP (who unfortunately, did not catch his name but hopefully can edit this and insert it here) was totally rad. Sanjeev is in the blue shirt (those Western boots doe), Som is on the far right, and the DP is in motion behind Som. Yo, all of us agree the the DP was incredibly cool. He had this sort of hippie-chic vibe and was very chill and his outfit was fantastic. Wayne aspires to be like him someday. I believe in him.

Couple more photos for context:

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Yeah. That happened last night, from 6pm to 3am.

-Then we rested up all day, and went to Blue Frog the next evening to watch some world-class Hindi comedy stand up artists. Gotta give props to Mark E Mark, it was a very cool experience. Blue Frog is a world class classy-hip-modern-chic club. The comedians spoke in English but would occasionally switch over to Hindi. Despite the fact that we didn’t always understand the jokes, just hearing everyone else laugh made me laugh. It was fascinating also that some jokes would start in English and the punchline would be in Hindi, but we’d still be able to laugh along because of the context. We especially understood the jokes about rickshaws and “white people who come to India to find themselves.” The comedians were on point and funny, and (of course) the final comedian is Mark’s friend (ok we all accept the fact that Mark is a lowkey celebrity in Mumbai).

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And all that was yesterday…today was magical. Every day is magical. We went to Juhu beach and I got a Mango Kulfi Rabdi Falooda from my buddy Adi.

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Talking to him was one of the highlights of my day: he’s a 12th year student studying commerce. I was eavesdropping on his conversation with Mark (I was wearing sunglasses so I was being sneaky) and Mark said something like “us Americans, huh?” because we were being typical Americans and taking pictures and standing in the way of traffic. But he was like “Naw, you are guests in our country.” And I was like woah.
While we got a ton of curious stares and crowds following us at the beach, and some people even asked to take pictures with us, that statement made me realize just how accepting they are. Here you can just accept and be let in. In America, in so many different contexts we have to fight for our identities and fight to be recognized. From what India has shown me, just being who you are is enough.

Food for thought: Adi seemed sort of annoyed at his own people (as behind us, other Indians were taking photos of and with Wayne and Erika behind me and totally fangirling over them) and said he wanted to go to the US. We were like, “Why?” and he said something along the lines of here, people don’t think very high of themselves. I don’t want to take what he said out of context, but whatever he said it was something like they don’t aspire to be more than they are.

I asked him where in the US he wanted to visit and he said New York, and that he has a friend living there.

More interesting analyzation: he was a little confused when I asked him where in the United States he wanted to visit, and he also didn’t know where/what the Philippines was. Adi also told me that “Asia” to most Indians is just China or Japan (which explains why he didn’t know what the Philippines was). Veronica also asked some people at the Bollywood shoot if they knew where Puerto Rico was, and they were utterly confused.

I am reminded that India is a country of 1.2 billion people and the USA is only 300 million people, but we have so much influence that people who don’t know much about the US still want to move there. The view of the US from India is probably just NYC and all our Top 40 music (Kanye, Beyonce, Katy Perry, etc. etc.) because somehow at Blue Frog the night before, they knew more lyrics to Kanye West songs than I did. Though I only know the lyrics to like 2-3 Kanye songs anyways.

We’re so cynical and think we have so many internal issues but in a global sense, we’re still seen as the country of freedom and that everyone lives the high life in America. Hmm.

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I touched the Arabian Sea. Woot.

-Then, we went to FabIndia to get us some quality Indian garb. I ended up purchasing souvenirs for people instead of buying clothes for myself…hopefully I’ll find stuff that catches my eye. I want to purchase at least 1 full outfit of traditional Indian garb before I leave.

We take our magic yellow schoolbus to Candies, this incredibly posh place in Bhandra that Mark knows. It was the bomb dot com and had so many levels (we ate on the top floor!)

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-We drive around Bhandra for a bit (our driver got lost) and then also drive past famous actor’s houses, including Shahrukh Khan’s house. People stand outside these houses day and night, hoping to get a glimpse of these glamorous stars…

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Not to mention that James Franco made an appearance but didn’t want any autographs. Luckily I got a good paparazzi photo of him!

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Moving along, we walk through beautiful Bhandra…see the place where Mark and his wife Taapsi used to live (didn’t photograph it though)…jump into the celebration of an Indian wedding (the story: music and dance on the street. Fascination, we go to watch. Like tourists, we take out our cameras. Mark goes to dance with them. One of the celebrators comes up to me, says “come dance!” takes my hand, and I follow. It was a joyous 15 minutes or so of all us dancing among these smiling, laughing, and gleeful Indian people celebrating a wedding. Just one of those total Kodak moments.)

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-random note: the graffiti art is astounding.

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-Like the democratic people we are we vote to go back home because we’re dead tired…until we see a bunch of night shops—Clothes! Brand names! Shiny things! Our inner consumerist awakens and Mark stops the bus, tells us, “30 minutes! GO!” and we scatter forth like ants into the great unknown of colorful fancies. Aaron and I haggled on the street for some rad bags, I got me some shoes, bangles, anklets. When we hopped back on the bus, we let Mark know: WE HAVE TO COME BACK HERE. “It will be done,” said Mark. (note: he didn’t actually say that, it was something like that).

-Now we’re here chillin’ in our air-conditioned hotel.

Woooooooh. For the record, I know my grammar and syntax are terrible (Professor Deppa might have a stroke if she read this blog post) but yo dawg it’s a blog so just accept it. I passed COM 101 last year so that’s all that matters.

 

‘Til Next Time,

Losa

Entry 04: Before The Chaos

9:15pm May 22nd Thursday
Location: Sai Palace Hotel Room

It’s getting tougher and tougher to blog and record videos of what we’re doing because WE’RE ALWAYS DOING THINGS. For the past two days we’ve been learning and practicing a choreographed Bollywood style dance by the extremely talented Sanjeev. His smile is worth a million dollars and he’s always wearing these stylish western cowboy boots. I feel like our American-ness amuses him to no end.
Did I even mention that today, we went to school on our own? We traveled in groups of 3 to fit in rickshaws and had to arrive at Whistling Woods by 9am for our morning yoga session.

(continued)

7:16am May 23rd Friday
Location: Sai Palace Hotel Room

I should be sleeping and resting for today’s 12-hour video shoot, but I woke up, I can’t go back to sleep, and I dropped my paper WiFi password somewhere on the floor and I don’t know where it is. Anyway, continuing on what I was talking about yesterday—we are learning a choreographed dance to a song called the Lungi Dance. Whistling Woods is going all out and preparing us with tailored costumes and props. We did a location survey and they’re providing us with extra dancers. The lengths that they’re going to help us put this together is astonishing, and I’m deeply touched by their amount of enthusiasm to help us enjoy our time here. I’m trying to think of a time where this experience would be possible in the US, but the only example I can think of is some sort of dinky music video production company making a music video on request for a random person—like Rebecca Black. And that would cost thousands and thousands of dollars.
But no—we’re film students, and while I can safely say that most of us are more comfortable off-camera than on-camera, and that none of us are expert dancers, they’re giving us the full treatment as if we were Bollywood stars shooting just another music video.

If there’s anything I’ve learned so far about Hindi cinema, it’s that songs are extremely, extremely important to just about everything. Sanjeev explained that every piece of choreography, every careful movement has a meaning in relation to the music. Films here are made for the music. In the US, filmmakers hire music scorers to create music for the film. It’s a completely different approach.

The more we learn in class (and yesterday we learned from production designer Sabyashachi Bose) about Hindi cinema in general, the more I get a sense of the Indian culture and mindset. The lyrics to the Hindi songs are breathtakingly beautiful…every time we watch a clip in class, I can feel the emotions being poured out of the screen. And I don’t even understand Hindi, that’s just me reading the English subtitles. I’m sure it’s even more beautiful in Hindi.

I love staring out windows. Every time we travel somewhere, I stare out the window and just observe the buildings, the people, the other autos passing by. As blatant Americans who stick out like sore thumbs, people stare at us 24/7. And as I gaze out the window, I find it hard to look people in the eye—here we are, privileged American tourists, gallivanting around taking photos and writing blog posts about our opinions on their lifestyles and their world. Every time I do look someone in the eye, I am met with an intense gaze which is either curious or fascinated. This little difference of looking someone in the eyes is one of the things I feel most differs from here and America. Here, they are honest about their curiosity—what do they have to hide? In America we go through great lengths to avoid looking at each other. “Don’t stare at people; it’s rude,” we’re taught when we’re young. But why is that? As kids, staring is okay because “we’re kids” and we don’t know any better, but as we grow older, we learn to censor ourselves and keep a low profile. In America we have our technology and we complain about our lack of “real connections” to other people. I mean, we can make movies about people feeling so alone that they fall in love with their computers over falling in love with people and agree that it is partly true about our society.
The movie Her wouldn’t do well in India at all. For one thing, there’s no spontaneous breakout of song and dance and declaration of love and happiness. Yes, we do have our beloved Arcade Fire and Ezra Koenig and Karen O crooning on the soundtrack—but it’s nothing compared to the emotions in “Waqt ne Kiya Kya Haseen(lyrics translation) from the movie Kaagaz Ke Phool. Second, from what India has shown me so far, the idea of disconnectedness here is foreign—everyone sort of helps each other out to the extent that they can.

As an American born and raised in the United States, it’s tough losing the mentality that the world revolves around us and that the world cares about everything we’re doing. In class, we asked if Bollywood actors would ever want to go to Hollywood—and our instructor told us, no. Why be a big star in the US when you can be a big star in India?

We ended yesterday by going to the modern Oberoi mall, eating Taco Bell and McDonalds, and purchasing items needed for our big shoot at Forever 21. I feel almost sheepish saying this but I felt a sort of glee purchasing items from Forever 21 and a slight feeling of familiarity as I crunched on my glorious French fries (#consumerism #fastfood #AMURRICA). I don’t think the American-ness can be taken out of us just yet, but I’m looking forward to more of what India has to teach us, and I hope our presence here brings them enjoyment as well.

Entry 03: Reflections on Moments Here

 

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Picture from yesterday, in Aram Nagar, Versova. Where we met director ANURAG KASHYAP and line producer HARISH AMINAll of Mark’s BFFs, no big deal…we were tired and loopy when we met them, I feel sheepish that we didn’t know how crazily important they were…

Location: Whistling Woods International Film School, “Cyber Cafe”

Tuesday, 6:40pm

All of us are currently sitting in the Cyber Cafe (such a rad name) typing up our blog posts. I figured that most of us will cover what we’ve done yesterday and today, so I’ll just type up a sort of stream of consciousness type post if that’s alright.

Today was our “first day of school.” We took a bus here, but Reni, one of the people helping facilitate us at Whistling Woods, gave us directions and instructions on how to get there on our own…because after tomorrow, we’re going to have to get to school on our own. Doesn’t sound like a big deal if you’re thinking of the context in America–I mean, I lived less than a mile away from my highschool and walked or biked nearly every day; in college, I live on campus and walk 10 minutes to get to classes (in the frigid snow, though). We’re going to have to flag down rickshaws on our own and tell the driver to take us to Film City. Stand on the left side of the road, make a left, make a right, make another right and enter the highway, pass 3 landmarks: exhibition center, the Hub mall, and some other big building–then get off the highway, make an immediate right, then make another right at the “airtel 3G” billboard and head down the road towards the entrance to Film City. Show your ID to the security at the gate, and then tell the driver to go in, make a right, and drop you off at the gates of Whistling Woods.

Insanity. I’ve repeated this word multiple times in my previous blog posts, but it’s really the only way I can describe it. But it’s insanity in a good way, because I’m excited for everything. There are smells, there is poverty, there is dirt, there is rubble. There is staring, there is limited Wi-Fi (WE’RE SURVIVING!!), there is only drinking bottled water, there is eating foods with insane spice. It’s a lot to take in (also, it’s only been 2 days), but it’s a lot of good things, too.

Update: 10:07pm, Sai Palace Hotel

Welp, we had to leave Whistling Woods to go get dinner together so I wasn’t able to finish the blog post, but like TG says, “simply adjust.” We went to the Oberai Mall and ate at a fancy Indian restaurant called Maharaja Bhog. It’s so fancy there’s a location in Houston, Texas, Bangalore, Dubai, etc. We ate a style of food called thali, where everything is on a big golden fancy plate and you eat bits of pieces of different flavors. The concept reminded me of Chinese Dim Sum. Which I wouldn’t mind having right now…

Anyway. I’ve been very gung ho and excited about everything that’s happened so far, but I’m starting to lose a little bit of steam—I think the adrenaline is dying down a bit. It might be paired with the fact that I haven’t been home since January, and this is by far the longest I’ve ever been away from California (oh no, how will I survive?)

We learned a ton today about Indian narratology style (I think that’s a word but I’m getting squiggly red lines) and the rough, brief history of Indian cinema. We went over the basic strategy of storytelling, basically all the stuff we’ve learned at school—but it’s so interesting to learn about it from a perspective that’s not Western. We Americans are so internally focused 24/7 that we don’t notice the beauty, art, and culture all around us. I find the differences between Hollywood and “Bollywood” (or to be more correct, the Hindi film industry) incredibly fascinating. Once we got a hold of the Lumiere brother’s technology, we learned how to work with cinema to make it everything it is today. Through trial and error, we created structures and guidelines by which to crank out an industry standard film—3 act structure, tragedy and comedy, beginning middle end, conflict and resolution. The great thing about India is that they already had 5000 years of storytelling behind them—so naturally, what they did when they got a hold of cinema was recreate and retell those stories. Cinema helped preserve and even shape the culture of India. We talked a lot about the differences between Hollywood and “Bollywood,” and thinking about Hollywood got me thinking about home and the fact that I’m interning at home the very next day I get back. It’s a non-stop adventure in the “woods…” Hollywood, Bollywood, Whistling Woods. #punsonpunsonpuns.

The three lectures were given by Som, Anjum Rajabali, and another WW faculty member who’s name I didn’t quite catch (I will edit this post and paste it here when I find out)! Anjum is a faculty member and prominent screenwriter, and everything he said resonated with how I feel about cinema and story. His words captured my full attention and inspired me to really push myself as a storyteller. Still undecided about what I want to do because I love everything, but here’s a quote that he dropped that he quoted from someone else:

“You can make a bad film out of a good script, but you can’t make a good film from a bad script.”

I repeat, this is day 3. Insanity. But in a good way. I’ve been taking TONS AND TONS of video footage—I should probably upload and already start cutting this ish before I lose steam.

‘Til next post,

-Losa

Entry 02: My First 24 Hours In India

Location: Sai Palace Hotel Room

Time: Monday, 19 May 2014, 12:05am

Mark asked someone to make a post like this, so I figured I’d start! Just a precursor, I hope no one minds that my posts might tend to be long. Blogging/journaling is quite fun; I thought I might only do the minimum requirements of 2 blog posts a week but I may just post more often than that…

Anyway. Everything has been insane. As we were hanging out at a fancy eatery earlier this evening, we realized in shock: WE’VE ONLY BEEN IN INDIA FOR 24 HOURS. In-freaking-sane. We’re going to be here for 3 & ½ weeks?! Whaat. I’ll write out the stuffs in bullets because that’s how I roll.

 

May 16, Friday

-7~8ish hours via buses and shuttles from Syracuse to Newark Airport with fellow traveller Aaron. Was quite the journey.

– Newark Airport – miraculously, we all managed to make it on the plane. Several people had issues getting there on time because the weather was terrible and security was grumpy. Regardless, we all made it and had a relaxing time on our 15-hour flight.

-I watched 3 movies: That Awkward Moment, Goodfellas, and Chennai Express. Veronica and I watched Chennai Express together—she has seen more Bollywood films than I have, and apparently it wasn’t that great of a movie. However, I really enjoyed it (despite how commercial it was) and thought it was really entertaining and cheesy, in a good way. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe I just need to see more films.

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May 18, Sunday

-We arrive at MUMBAI!!! We arrived at like 10pm on India time, and basically we lost an entire day on the plane.

-TG (aka Professor Goenka) led the way to the cars that drove us to our hotel, Sai Palace. The humidity hit us like a wave the second we stepped out into the Indian air. We’re not too far from the airport, so it’s pretty great.

-SAI PALACE IS FREAKING AMAZING. Mark said himself, this is the best hotel he’s ever stayed at in Mumbai. I almost feel a little over-pampered and spoiled being here, but I have no complaints at all. It’s beautiful and pretty luxurious. I still can’t get over the fact that we’ll be staying here for 3 & ½ weeks – rooms cleaned everyday, laundry, complimentary breakfast…the works. Thanks, SU Abroad. You really came through. 😉

-We got our things together and went down to the bar before it closed to eat some foods. Kept it simple and safe and ordered chicken masala and other things of which I forgot the names to…

-We finally go to sleep at like 2-3am ish.

-Breakfast is from 7am – 10am, so my roomie Whitney & I got food at around 9am and met up with our fellow travellers. Buffet style Indian food every morning…this is definitely better than any dining hall could ever be. I barely know the names of most of the foods, but I’m pretty adventurous and open with food so I just get a little bit of everything. I trust my stomach—if I can handle Filipino food, I can handle Indian food. 😉 (Hopefully!) Everything is delicious or very unique and interesting at best. Food adventures are real.

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-We head to Whistling Woods International Film School by car. This is the first time we finally get to see what Mumbai really looks like. The humid is real, the smells are real, the culture is real…I don’t know. Personally, I feel a sort of…sense of peace here in India. For some reason, India really reminds me of the Philippines. Traffic congested streets, honking, an ebb and flow, people selling things on the corners, everything. I love it. Things just fall into place. Now I just need to learn some Hindi.

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-Whistling Woods in Film City – my peers and I observed that it’s basically an Indian Newhouse. That’s how it felt, at least. We got to meet Som, who will be our instructor and guide to our itinerary during our stay here. He’s a really cool guy who has been to Syracuse and LA and all over, basically. He’s very accommodating and I look forward to getting to know him!

-We watched a documentary entitled “100 Years of Indian Cinema.” Though it was less informative and more visually pleasing than anything, I was awe-struck at the amount of incredible history and how important film is to Indian culture.

-Short Visual Picturisation workshop on how a Bollywood film is filmed and gets edited via multi-cam, live-editing software. Freaking awesome.

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-We at a delicious lunch (I had Chicken Kheem Pav, a sort of minced meat/sloppy joe looking type of food).

-Bollywood dance tutorial! We learned like 1 minute of dance in 1 hour. ‘Twas quite the workout but tons of fun.

-Go back to our hotel for a nap…

-8 of the 12 of us decide to go out to this fancy eatery/dance place that Mark knows!

-We withdrew Indian rupees from an ATM (conversion is like 60 rupees = $1 US dollar). We then ride rickshaws to the place.

-the rickshaw ride itself was a beautiful adventure. They remind me of tricycles in the Philippines!

-We eat, drink, and dance for the next few hours. Absolute fun ensues.

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-We meet Shanoo, a very important Casting Director in the Bollywood industry. Mark knows basically everyone at this place!

Shanoo Sharma is incredibly outgoing, strong-willed, and inspiring. She got where she is today because she goes after what she wants and works hard. Work hard play hard, is what I would say to describe her. Random people kept stopping to say hi to her. I hope we get to meet her again.

-Also, she called out to a friend who also happened to be from Pasadena, CA—what an amazing coincidence. She started naming places in Pasadena – Intelligensia, Huntington Gardens, Rose Bowl, etc. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

-Before we go home, we stop at a small side shop to get these little dessert snack things (gah, I forgot what they were called.) They were wrapped in a leaf, and had this very interesting…sweet taste. It was a bit of a challenge to finish, but the aftertaste is minty, clean, and refreshing. EDIT: It is called paan.

-We take rickshaws back to the hotel and miraculously make it back by saying what Mark told us to say. “Chakala, Anderi East” But hey, we made it.

-And that was just DAY 1 of India. Like how. All this time I am taking tons and tons of video footage of our daily travels and a few pictures. I plan on editing and cutting video of our experience. It’s going to be wonderful.

 

Here’s to the next 3 weeks!!!

Entry 01: Tomorrow’s The Day!

Location: food.com.

Wow! This is it. This is actually it. Warning: long post!

About Me:
-Losa Meru
-TV-Radio-Film Major, Sociology Minor at Syracuse University ’16
-From Pasadena, CA

I have been contemplating what to actually type here for the last 15 minutes because I’m too excited to function correctly right now. Since school ended officially on May 8th, my friend graciously allowed me to sleep on her couch until tomorrow, when I would be leaving for India. She recently finished the master’s program at Newhouse for TRF and she’s going to go far in life, I can just tell. 🙂 We’ve watched a bunch of TV shows and movies throughout the week.

I have also been able to meet up with some friends who are still in Syracuse as well. We’ve been exploring Syracuse and hanging out–and wow, is Syracuse beautiful during the summer! Last year, I left Syracuse as early as possible, only to realize that there wasn’t much to do at home. Being in college is such a transitional and reflective moment in life. It’s crazy to think that the place we once called home is now super small and more limited than we thought…I’m going off on a tangent, but basically, the world is a MUCH bigger place now.

For example, this abroad trip to Mumbai, India. It’s been quite the struggle trying to get everything together in preparation for this trip, but it’s all finally come together and reality is hitting me. I’m leaving the country…

Why I am going on this trip:

I’ve wanted to go on this trip since last summer, when I used my professional Google skills to find it. A director that I admire, James Ponsoldt, said in an interview that he got inspired from Bollywood film. After reading that, I thought to myself: yo, you need to get on this. So I did. I got put into Professor Goenka’s TRF 205 production class, and on the very first day, I went up to her and said “I’m really interested in going on the Bollywood trip.” And that was that.

Another personal reason I want to go is because my heritage. I am half Filipino and half Indian, but I am also most definitely 100% born and raised in California. I’m happy and proud to be who I am today, but I didn’t get here without a lot of self-questioning about identity and background. I visited the Philippines in the 8th grade and got to meet a lot of my relatives and experience part of my culture. However, I have never been to India.

What’s different than the usual, though, is that my dad is from northeast India–specifically, a state called Nagaland. From the fragmented pieces of history that I know and understand, Nagaland is very different from the rest of India. Mumbai, where we are going, is also on the opposite side of the Indian nation. However…if anything, it’s one step closer to learning more about my heritage and culture regardless. I definitely hope to one day visit Nagaland and most definitely re-visit the Philippines as well.

One last reason is that I am fascinated by cinematic history. This past spring semester I took a class called “History of American Entertainment, 1830s – 1940s.” It was eye-opening and incredibly interesting the way entertainment evolved and the way cinema was born in the US. It made me wonder, though–how did other countries experiment with cinema? If I’m not mistaken, India contains the largest film industry in the world–yet I know next to nothing about it. India took cinema and made it its own. And I cannot wait to experience and learn about it.

Early tomorrow morning I will embark on the Greyhound bus to Newark, NJ, where our group flight takes place. I know a majority of the friends going on this trip but I am sooo looking forward to getting to know everyone better and having AMAZING adventures. This is the experience of a lifetime, and I cannot wait to begin! WOOOOH.