By Robin Bansal
New Delhi, Sep 25 (IANS) Julia Roberts surprised everyone by eating rice, chapati, aloo-gobi and mattar-paneer with her bare hands while filming "Eat Pray Love" in India last year, but the Pretty Woman can't stand onions, says her lesser known Indian co-star Russhita Singh.
"She is fond of chicken and she likes eating Indian food a lot. In fact, when we were shooting, she was made to eat mattar-paneer, rice, etc," Russhita told IANS in a telephonic interview from Mumbai.
"We were eating from the same meal that was especially prepared for the crew but it had onions. And it was the most difficult part of the shoot because neither she nor I could tolerate it," added the 20-year-old, who plays Roberts' best friend Tulsi in India.
Directed by Ryan Murphy, "Eat Pray Love" is based on Pushcart prize-winning author Elizabeth Gilbert's travel memoirs by the same name, and features Roberts as the author who travels to Italy for food, India for spirituality and Indonesia for love.
Having released in the US Aug 13, the movie hits Indian screens Oct 8. The Indian part of the movie was shot last fall at the Ashram Hari Mandir in Pataudi, Haryana, about 40 km from New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport.
"They wanted to keep it very real and didn't want to build up a set, so that was a perfect location."
"Eat Pray Love" also stars Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup, James Franco, Christine Hakim and Viola Davis.
Rumours were rife that Roberts converted to Hinduism during her stay here and was rechristened along with her twins Phinnaeus and Hazel, and son Henry as Parvati, Ganesh, Lakshmi and Krishna respectively.
Asked about the same, Russhita said: "I wouldn't say that they converted. Since they were in India and shooting in the Ashram, the guruji there said 'let's act Indian and give you Indian names'. So it wasn't a real changeover. It could have been a fun activity as well."
What about the news of Roberts chanting Sanskrit shlokas in the movie with ease?
"Sanskrit shlokas were part of our script. We were supposed to chant them. What really surprised me was that she didn't have to go through a lot of practice. She just read those shlokas four to five times and learned them quickly. She really knew her job very well. She did complete justice to her character.
"In fact, she was very well acquainted with our culture. She knew everything and quite a lot of things...All her kids too knew India as they had been here earlier," said Russhita.
Not many know that the American crew paid a visit to the Taj Mahal.
"In spite of having a hectic schedule here, the American crew squeezed out time and made a trip to Agra which unfortunately I missed. Right from the day Julia ma'm had come, she had her own list. She wanted to see the Taj Mahal.
"She also threw a party for the crew members at the Leela Kempinski, Gurgaon, in the last week of the shoot before everyone was to fly to Indonesia. It was a very soft affair," she added.
Russhita also got tips from the Academy award winner.
"She taught me a lot of things and definitely how to be professional and how to give your 100 percent. She said, 'If you become a director's actor, you win the battle and if you please the audience, you win the war'."
Having worked in Bollywood movies like "Nanhe Jaisalmer: A Dream Come True", "Halla Bol" and "Vaada Raha... I Promise", Russhita started acting as a hobby after doing an ad film.
Initially, wanting to become a radio jockey, the undergraduate is currently working with Star CJ Alive channel as a host and contemplating completing her education by distance learning.
As for movies, "now that I have done an international movie, I'd keep both the doors open, whether it is here or in the West. I'd rather work like Aishwarya Rai and be a global Indian like her."
(Robin Bansal can be contacted at [email protected])