Fourteen years ago, in 2000, when Irish actress Janet Moran was in the Midlands for work, little did she know that she was about to cross paths with one member of the Khan triumvirate.
After a recent New York performance of Swing, the play that the Dublin native she co-wrote with fellow actor Steve Blount and director Peter Daly, Janet described her maiden filmi encounter.
“I was doing a play in Portlaoise and we had a night off. They were showing Lagaan in their film club. It was the first time I’d seen a Bollywood movie, and I absolutely lost my reason, I thought it was the best thing I’d ever seen! I love that with Indian films you could have four different films in one and you’re just taken on such a journey!”
Back in Dublin, Janet sought out more films, but they were hard to come by. “You could only get these bootleg copies with French subtitles and my French was really bad.” Eventually, she started buying films on Amazon.com.
“My favorite actor is Aamir Khan. I seek out whatever he’s in. He’s so amazing in that film Rang De Basanti. There’s a scene that I show people sometimes saying ‘Look at that acting.’ It’s after they’ve all been beaten at the protest after his friend’s death, and he sits with his English girlfriend. They’re trying to eat, but he can’t even chew, he’s just so sick and what’s so brilliant about it is he’s trying not to cry and it just pours out of him. He’s magnificent.”
In the past five to ten years, things have changed a lot in Dublin. Now there is a large enough South Asian community to warrant one of the city’s largest multiplexes to also carry Hindi blockbusters, and Indian restaurants can be found all over the center of the city and the suburbs. Dublin even hosts an annual Indian Film Festival, which Janet attends regularly.
“I love the films with all the music and dance, but I also love the ones that don’t have any of that. There’s was one film on at the festival that I really liked, about the Mumbai bombings in ’93.”
When Kabir Khan’s Salman Khan starrer Ek Tha Tiger was shooting in Dublin, Janet was keen to audition and asked her agent to pursue that for her, but as it turned out, she already had a theatrical commitment on the dates of the shoot.
As happens with so many foreign Hindi film fans, the interest then led to visits to India. Janet, together with her brother and a friend, visited twice for six weeks at a stretch each time. They went as far north as Rajasthan and as far south as Kerala. God’s Own Country left a lasting impression.
“We were up in the hills, by the plantations, in a tiny village. I remember a church next to a Hindu temple, and there was a festival on at the temple. They allowed us to be part of it, and we were drumming and singing and all the women were talking to us, we had the most amazing time!”
While her play continues at the Irish Arts Center through to May 18th, Janet is taking advantage of whatever free time to explore the city. Today, once again her filmi interests overlap with a day off, as Janet plans to attend the opening night of the New York Indian Film Festival. Who knows? Maybe we’ll yet see another Indo-Irish collaboration on screen?
Meanwhile, be sure to catch Swing as part of the Dublin Fringe double bill (together with the mesmerizing Beowulf: The Blockbuster) at the Irish Arts Center before May 18th. Starring only the two actors – Janet Moran and Steve Blount – they manage to seamlessly and masterfully populate the stage at the IAC with a dozen characters and their stories (all in the setting of an evening swing dancing class) which are at times funny, and touching, and hopeful.
And for the latest and most diverse offering of Indian film, as well as wall-to-wall Indian film luminaries, don’t miss the Indo-American Arts Council’s 2014 New York Indian Film Festival, which begins tonight and closes on Saturday, May 10th.