Friday, September 10, 2010

The Authentic Indian

After having a lovely day of yoga and shopping with Olympia (aka The Wife), I had to go to a fitting for a commercial I’m shooting on Monday. When I got the breakdown for the audition last week, I balked at the character descriptions. They asked for Indian men and woman who are AUTHENTIC (their emphasis, not mine). I wondered at this word ‘authentic’. Did they want me in a sari with a red bindi in the middle of my forehead?? Talking all chaat pahti at them? No, it seems I was to wear the standard ‘nice casual’ attire and there were no lines, therefore no use for an accent. Hmm. I decide on the half up, half down hairdo and wear a cute dress over skinny jeans with gold flats. Pseudo Indian. The Canadian-Indian look. Well, it obviously worked, ‘cuz I booked the damned thing.

Fast forward to today. The Wife drops me off and stays long enough to see that they’re dressing me in a Salwar Kameez (long ‘tunic’ shirt, with baggy pants underneath). I know she’s loving it while I, of course, am hating it. I abhor wearing traditional Indian clothing. I think I look terrible in it. And bottom line, it’s just not my steez. Besides, I’m like the least traditional Indian person you’ll ever meet. But, whatevs. I’m an actor, no biggie. I booked a gig, making my dough. All good. I’m being funny at first, making the stylists laugh with my self-effacing humor. I even teach them what each article of clothing is called, which they love. There’s another guy there, who I think must be playing my husband. I joke with him a bit as well. He’s Indian (duh!) and cute. A little on the short side for my height, but I figure we must be sitting down or something. But then I notice they’re dressing him in very trendy clothes. Ok. This is a bit of a disconnect. They switch things up and put me in a very adult, grey dress with a purple cardigan and silver heels. Fine, totally doable. I feel relieved.

Then they ask the director what he thinks- if he wants this, or more ‘sari-ish’. I say a silent prayer that he loves this outfit. Of course, he doesn’t. He looks me up and down, ending up on my eyes- un-makeup-ed and raccooned out- and says ‘Yeah, more sari.’ Ugh. Here we go. After settling on a traditional, matronly outfit for moi, this young, gorgeous Indian girl walks in. Ah.ha. She’s around 20 years old, pretty and fresh-faced. They start giving her all the cool shit. Fab jeans, beautiful tops, and fierce little shoes. I gaze at her. I’m in a sparkly mauve chiffon Salwar Kameez with bells on the edges and bright turquoise 2-inch pumps with super long pointed toes, that are definitely a throwback from1995. Oh. Gawd.

I’m starting to figure it out. My ‘husband’ walks in. He’s big, with a beard and is neither 'young', nor 'hip'. I know they will not be dressing him in the latest men’s fashions. They give him a generic suit and, get this, a fake turban! Yes folks. They wrap a piece of fabric around his head and call it a turban. I pray that no Sikhs see this commercial. We look at each other and laugh. He says, ‘I guess we’re the old folks.’ I laugh on the outside. And die on the inside. Me??? An ‘old folk’?? This can’t be happening. There must be some kind of mistake. Then the young, beautiful, fresh as a summer peach girl, comes over. She asks me if I’m playing her mother. Her mother??? People, I am 33. This girl is 22. Not more than an hour earlier, The Wife and I were being hit on by 19 year olds! 19 year olds!! Not that I would even look at a 19 year old, but still!! Ok, they were driving by and we both had massive sunglasses on…but stiiilll!!

I try to smile through the pain. I pep talk my ego. I mean really, I LIKE being my age. Truly. I like being a strong, grown woman. Fearless, secure and sexy! I would never want to go back in time. I try not to gaze at the 22 year olds’ glowing skin. It’s probably the thing I miss the most. That, and tight upper thigh skin. Sigh. I remind myself that age is inevitable. That no one’s skin glows forever. I know that one day, she will also get older. This gives me comfort. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating. She’s super cool and we’re having a great time together. I know our shoot will be a blast. I just needed to keep myself afloat, ok? Sheesh. My ‘husband’ is hilarious. Jokes all around. I feel ok now. I’ve gotten over the initial shock and am now resolved with my place in life. The outfit that production seems to favor is at least a current, stylish Salwar. It’s also really comfortable, something my mom would wear (which is a good thing).

Then they decide it’s not bright enough.

Oh, holy of holies. The wardrobe woman comes over to me with a bright-as-a-kitchen-curtain yellow, poly-cotton mix Salwar with cheap embroidery that is all puckered and uneven. It is the Indian equivalent of a sweatsuit you would wear to go grocery shopping. And not no Roots or Adidas joint. It’s straight Walmart. Ugly doesn’t even begin to describe it. It is like…my worst nightmare. It’s a total piece of crap. And, of course, production loves it!! I was experiencing reverse Cinderella syndrome.

I walk over to my ‘husband’ with a grimace on my face. It’s time to pose for the group shot. My fellow actors look at me with pity in their eyes. How did I become the pariah? I put my arm through my ‘husbands’ and lean my head on his shoulder, which is the perfect height. They snap the shot, after proclaiming ‘What a nice family!’ to which I rebut ‘Yes, me and my 22 year old daughter!’ It’s time to go.

I change back into my own clothes, and run into my ‘husband’ on the way out. He goes “Wow you look great!” with total shock in his voice and expression, followed by “That outfit they put you in really ages you.”

Um. Yeah.

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