I was honored to be a part of the cast for Washington-based director Manan Katohora's newest film, "Public Relations," which was shot all night, on location from January 5th to 6th at the "American Bistro" restaurant in Owings Mills, MD, about 59 miles north of Arlington, VA.
Though "Public Relations" is not a typical Bollywood film in Hindi with native Indian songs and dances, it is the closest I've ever been to a film of that genre and its marvelous actors. It was an interesting and a fulfilling first experience for me. I was struck by everyone's discipline, attention-to-detail, and get-the-job done-without-wasting-a-lot-of-time attitude. There was absolutely no complaining. Only focused work, running lines, and group effort to make this a quality production. As the hours grew long, so did the laughter. No one took themselves too seriously. I was especially struck that even the star, Omi Vaidya was down-to-earth, authentic, and really seemed like a regular guy. Vaidya, by the way, is a bonafide Bollywood star who makes his home in Los Angeles, California, and he travels several times a year to India where he as hailed as a very popular film star. He became famous because of his highly acclaimed role as Chatur Ramalingam in the 2009 Bollywood film, "3 Idiots." He also had the role of Sadiq in the American television series, "The Office."
In "Public Relations," Carl Hampton (played by actor Tom Tomlinson), a homophobic CEO of Hampton Foods, is wounded during a random shooting outside a restaurant in Washington. The gunman kills several people, including his own boss. Vaidya plays the part of A.J., a nurse, who responds to the scene and works to save the life of Hampton. A.J. recognizes Hampton because of the press he's received as a result of his stance of being insensitive to gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, and transgenders (GLBT). Following the shooting, Hampton Foods issues a public apology on behalf of their CEO with respect to Hampton's anti-LGBT comments.
After the shooting, Hampton is transported to the inside of the restaurant where his wounds are tended to in the kitchen. That's where I appear as the waitress. I'm emotionally upset and talking excitedly to my husband on my cell phone to update him about what has happened in the aftermath of the shooting rampage.
Before we shot the scene, Vaidya asked me, "Do you speak Spanish?"
"Nope," I said. (Yes, I know many Spanish words, but I speak the language haltingly and with a few English words thrown into the mix.)
"This could be a comedy," he said with a laugh.
Thankfully, when I started in with my lines, my slow and more measured delivery did not meet the pace Katohara required for the scene, so he decided to have me speak all my lines in English (sigh of relief) so my role was fun and fast, and without comedic overtones.
Other actors cast in "Public Relations" were Matthew Pauli as Charlie, Tejash Natali as the Chef, Jonathan Kim as EMT1 and Joe Feldman as EMT2. Manan Singh Katohora was the executive producer, director and writer; Vicki Yung was the producer; K. Quin Paek, director of photography;Vick Krishna, AD/Still photographer; Joel McMullen, production sound; John Pratt, production designer; Utuoma Otu, production assistant; Jonathan Kim, PA/lighting and Aftab Asghar, editor.
Producer Vicki Yung was pleased with the production even though there were a few delays at the outset.
"The production team was amazing," she said. "I learned so much working with them and Omi was really fun and easy to work with on the set; his suggestions were very helpful, too."
Shooting will conclude sometime this month or next.
No word yet on the release date, but I suspect that the film will be presented at various festivals around the country. I'll keep you posted on all those details as they are presented to me.