We first chatted with the fabulous Lauren Gottlieb right before her first Bollywood film ABCD (Any Body Can Dance) hit theaters. We had an amazing conversation on all things dance and Bollywood, which you can read here. The film released on February 8th to great reviews, lots of clapping and whistling from the audience and great box office numbers. In fact, it even broke the record for the biggest opener for a film with newcomers. Audiences completely fell in love with the 3D dance film directed by Remo D’Souza, that also starred the great Prabhu Deva, along with Salman Yusuff Khan, Prince Gupta, Dharmesh Yelande and Ganesh Acharya. And they most certainly fell in love with the American dancer who now is a star in India. I was able to catch up with Lauren once she returned from her ABCD India trip and once again we had a fun, fabulous chat. See what she had to say about the reaction to the film, what she thought about ABCD, and how the Bollywood bug has well and truly bitten in this exclusive interview!
The response to the film was amazing, how does that feel?
When I got the offer for it I knew right away that it was going to be something in history – I mean India’s first 3D dance film. I knew what I was a part of was going to be epic. The fact that what we made and what we produced that people loved it so much is amazing. I mean you never know until it comes out how people are going to take it. I heard through social media and through other outlets people were going like two-three-four times. It just blew my mind.
Not only that it did tremendously well at the box office…
You know, a lot of people close to Remo sir thought it would not do so well and that gave us a huge opportunity to prove ourselves. Yes, we are newcomers to film but we have all been on dance shows and we have been known. We all have a great fan base. I think the week before the film came out, collectively, all of us, through social media really pushed it. Between each of us blasting out the word I just think it worked. We just kicked it like crazy. Plus being in India, we had billboards on every single street corner.
So speaking of that, you are in India and you see that first HUGE billboard of yourself. What is your first thought?
Honestly, it was my dream come true. I have done a lot of great things in my career so far. You know I only started about six years ago. I went on So You Think You Can Dance and that just spun into a million different things, but this is something that I have looked forward too forever.
So how was it to see your film on screen?
It was actually the day I flew into India. I saw the film for the first time at the cast and crew screening and I was so glad. I was very thankful to sit with everyone who poured their hard work into it and watch it. I was so emotional about it afterwards (Laughs). Everyone was so upset with me for getting emotional, but it was just such a proud, proud moment.
How did you think you did in the film?
I am my worst critic always… always, always. I actually constantly ask my Mom to watch my stuff first to see how it is before I watch it. I love to produce it, I love to put it out there, but then I want the world to see it. I was actually talking to KK Menon about it; he says he barely ever sees his films. But I did see it and I just completely enjoyed it. I saw it a couple more times and once with the public and to see their reaction it was crazy! Just a dream come true.
That must have been so cool because I hear seeing a film in India is just an amazing experience.
It was and also something funny happened. I was with a friend of mine who is an actor and who is also known. We got there late and we ran up to the top and we were in the way back. Everyone was cheering, laughing, screaming, and applauding at different times during the whole first half. Then, as you know, in India you have this interval, this little intermission and we went to get some food. It was just unreal. People didn’t know how to take it. It wasn’t like they flocked to us; it was more like they were shocked… Are we really seeing you right now??? (Laughs) So we just stood back a little bit and some people came up and took our pictures. We went back to our seats before the movie started back, which maybe was a little bit of a mistake because the lights were still up (laughs) and we had to walk all the way to the back. Once I sat down in my seat I looked down and the entire theater was turned around looking up at us and just staring, completely silent. (Laughs) Oh God… and then after that no one cheered or clapped or anything for the rest of the film. I think it made them so self-conscious.(Laughs) It was so funny.
Is the film everything you hoped it would be?
You know this being my first lead role and having it be a dance film is just one of those things that was so meant to be in my life. I always wanted it. I saw it in my future. It was everything I wanted. I had no idea it was going to happen in India and that that was going to be my first start. And to see my face plastered on every street corner in a foreign country this is something you can’t imagine growing up. Not at all.
Your favorite scene in the film?
One of my favorite things to film was our ending Ganpati dance. I had been waiting my entire time in India for this moment. Most of the movie was either hip-hop or contemporary, we had a few different styles, but at the ending of the film we turn it back around and we represent India. We do a full Bollywood number – it was just amazing. I was on such a high that day when we were filming. The energy is unreal. The spirit that you feel while you are dancing to the music and the way you are dancing – it is for a higher meaning and I finally got to feel that. I watch it and I just get these flashes of memories in my mind. I think that is my favorite.
So you went a whirlwind promotional tour for the film. Tell us about that experience.
I went to India and jumped right into what they were doing because they had been promoting long before I got there. Part of my character is that I feel like I could just jump into anything so I did. I just jumped in. A lot of the time it was just me, Remo Sir, Prabhu Deva and the producers from UTV. Just big people I look up to. It was us traveling around Delhi a couple days and I was like… What am I doing??? How did I land on this side of the world doing this with true amazing talent? It was unreal to talk to the newspapers where everyone was learning my name for the first time. You know, I felt like they saw me on paper. They saw what I have done and they were like okay she has done movies, done TV shows, professional dance coach to celebrities… so they had seen me on paper but not in person so the first two weeks was me introducing myself. And then the week after the film released and it became a hit, they were all calling us back and they were running up to us and getting pictures. They were like you guys are the new stars – this is a BIG moment. They had seen it and they understood. The change was just dramatic.
I saw you went to the Kai Po Che premiere, what was that experience like?
Yeah I did. I saw that at a time where with Hindi I am starting to learn it more and more and at least I could sit in there and understand what was happening. There are some words here and there that I don’t understand and I have to piece it together. But, for the most part though I came out and I was like I actually understood that film, so that was an exciting moment. It was a great film. I think it was a different film for Bollywood. I am close with one of the cast members, one of the boys, so it was really exciting to see that. He has worked his butt off for the last five or so years trying to make that happen. So, again, it was just a proud moment.
Do you think this whole experience has changed you?
Oh man. The type of person I am, if you see my tweets, I am always pulling for inspiration. I am very conscious about things in my life. I am always trying to grow and trying to grow up and understand what I want and how I want to be as a person. Bollywood and India really helped me tap into a certain part of my soul, a certain part of myself that I hadn’t been able too from the normal routine I am used to. So that has changed me. India has definitely brought this special light into my heart.
I look back when I first started my career and when I first went on So You Think You Can Dance – I was so young and I didn’t know anything and I thought I knew everything at the same time. You know this experience changed me. It proved to myself that if you stretch out of your comfort zone, If you do something scary and risky. You will see it turn out to be amazing for you; if you put hard work into it. There are times when you get nervous to do that – to take that leap. I think this really proved to me that I can always take that leap. I may have a few tears along the way, but the outcome, when you push through, it is really great. So I don’t know, I think I will be stretching myself into different roles.
It is like a transition not only in my career at the moment, but also in my life. You know I have done everything I wanted to as a dancer. I never saw myself as a back up dancer and there are dreams and goals and things that I wanted to do in my life that I feel like I have done. I have performed on big stages and with big artists. I have had great experiences as a dancer, but I have done everything I wanted to in the dance department. I am excited to transition into acting. It is something that I have been working towards for the last couple of years now and starring in this feature film I am like okay, I am good. Dance is always going to be in my life. I will never stop dancing. That is not even a question, but to be able to switch gears and move forward as an actress …that has always been something that I wanted the door to open to and now I feel like I have that. This is a transition I had always hoped for and I think I am ready to let go of all my dreams as a dancer and move forward in the acting department. I think this film really helped me do that. I just think it was fate.
And you did it in Hindi…
(Laughs) It wasn’t even my language. It was crazy.
Props to you because you got such good compliments on your Hindi…
That is so great. I was so worried; I almost didn’t want to look up the reviews. I am like, “Nooo… what is it going to be??” But it turned out well. When I first got there, like I told you, I did not think it was possible. I am not even going sugar coat it. I was upset the first two weeks I was there – trying to break down how I could not only learn my lines, but to be able to say it, be able to act it, to be able to react, to be able to stand my ground in a country where I didn’t know the language and shoot this film. I didn’t know if it was possible or not. I broke down many times. I just knew I was supposed to do it. It is those challenging things in life that you have to overcome and you have to push through in order for something to change and something to open up. I pushed really hard and I am very happy that it was successful.
So I am guessing the Bollywood bug has well and truly bitten?
God, I am obsessed. I would be such a liar if I didn’t say I was totally obsessed. (Laughs) It is a love for life. It is just so exciting. I love it.
What’s next for you?
There are a couple of offers that are coming in, so I am reading scripts and seeing what my next move is. There are a couple things on the table, but I am actually not allowed to speak about it. These couple projects that are coming up around the corner are going to be a stretch for me so it’s going to be fun!
So will we see you on So You Think You Can Dance this season?
We will see about that… (Laughs) I really can’t say…
Do you have a message to all your fans that loved the movie so much?
First of all I would say to everybody that is a fan of the film, thanks for loving the film. Thanks for loving what we produced and following the journey with us. I also have some great supporters out there. I am very, very thankful for them and I tell them daily on Twitter and Facebook that they really mean a lot to me. That is what is fun about Social media– we get to be connected with the fans. Thanks so much for the support to all of you! It really means a lot.
I would like to thank Lauren once again for another great talk on two of my favorite things: Bollwood and dance. I look forward to more in the future! We will all be waiting and watching to see what you do next!