I took a leap of faith and came to Bollywood – Lauren Gottlieb
A good dance is ‘poetry in motion’ and a ‘good dancer can make any piece of choreography look like a million bucks’, these thoughts of the beautiful Lauren Gottlieb resonate with all her performances. She started her career with the international dance reality show So You Think You Can Dance and was then invited to Bollywood to be part of India’s first 3D dance film, ABCD – Any Body Can Dance. From there on, there has been no looking back for the talented dancer cum actor who went on to do three seasons of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and Hindi films like ABCD 2 and Welcome To Karachi. She recently also made her Punjabi film debut with Ambarsariya.
In an exclusive interaction, Pandolin got an opportunity to interact with her and trace her journey from Hollywood to Bollywood.
Let’s begin with your background in dance. Did you train in dancing?
I grew up dancing jazz, pop, ballet, hip hop, lyrical, modern, musical theatre and pointe. During So You Think You Can Dance, I studied the ballroom forms like salsa, tango, waltz, the Viennese waltz and also studied the different forms of hip hop like locking, popping, breaking, crumping.
I came to India thinking that I knew everything about dance and then I came across all these other dance styles. I am currently trying to learn the Indian classical dance forms.
Which Indian dance styles do you particularly like and are working on learning currently?
I like Kathak for its fast footwork; it reminds me of tap dancing. If you were to see a tap dancer and a Kathak dancer, they would look very cool together. I really like Bharatanatyam because of how close you are to the ground. And until you have done it, you don’t really realize how hard it is on your muscles. I really admire the postures because it is very different from the dance that I grew up doing.
When I first started learning these dance forms, it felt very foreign. I had to concentrate a lot to get them right, but now, these different poses and postures are coming a lot more naturally to me. I feel Lavani is super fun too as it has a little bit of sass to it, and of course I really enjoy Bollywood dancing.
So how did Bollywood happen?
Bollywood wasn’t something that I grew up dreaming about or knew much about. I was busy with my life and my career in Hollywood. One night I got an email from UTV Motion Pictures. I didn’t know what UTV was but the email mentioned names like Remo D’Souza (Director and Choreographer), Prabhudeva (Director and Choreographer) and they were offering me a role in their Bollywood film called ABCD: Any Body Can Dance.
I did some research and it appeared to be a real offer. I took a leap of faith and came here. And I enjoyed my experience a lot, so much so that I went back home after filming and quickly decided to pack up and move here.
What is it that you really like about industry?
I like it entirely. The term masala film is not something that I grew up hearing. I think in general a lot of the Hollywood films are a bit serious-minded, while everyone out here (in Bollywood) goes for a film to sit back and enjoy. So I think it is really fun.
For me every day is a new experience, I am learning something new, I am discovering another side of me and I really like the challenge of it. I have done three films in Bollywood now and I play totally different characters with a wide difference in language that is so different from my mother tongue.
I just starred in my very first Punjabi film, which was a brand new language. But if you see my entire track record, it’s all about trying new things.
Did you always want to act?
No, I didn’t always want to act. When I first started dancing I hated it, it was my mother who pushed me to dance. But after my first recital I started loving it and I danced for many years and that was my sole focus. I didn’t think about anything else. And then I was on So You Think You Can Dance. That was my introduction to the TV and entertainment industry. I started studying direction, camera angles, hosting and that’s how I made my way into acting. I took a couple of acting classes, and just then I got my first acting offer with Jennifer Love Hewitt for the TV show Ghost Whisperer. I loved it and it was another avenue with so much to explore.
You have done television as well as films. How different are the two mediums?
I have done a lot of different work. I did So You Think You Can Dance, which was a dance reality show. I have also done TV shows like Glee. I did a couple of movies there and I can’t tell you the difference as such except that is was a lot of fun and it was all good work.
You were also part of the Indian dance reality show, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. From a participant, to a mentor to a judge, how was the experience?
It has been pretty incredible. I don’t think too many people start out as a contestant, and then get called back as a mentor and a challenger and then a judge. But when I look at my life I see that I did about seven seasons of So You Think You Can Dance. I did ABCD and got called back for ABCD 2. That shows how people end up calling me back after they work with me. And I feel really blessed for that.
How did the opportunity to work on the Punjabi film Ambarsariya come about?
Mandeep Kumar and Tips called me for the film. I got the narration and I loved it. I was told that the star of the film was Diljit Dosanjh. I was really embarrassed as I didn’t know who he was and I was told that he was, the ‘Superstar of Punjab’. I then saw his videos and was really impressed and decided to take up the opportunity.
Did you have to learn the language? What was your role like?
I wouldn’t say that I have mastered the language, but I did dub for my own role, and that speaks for how much I have learned and how hard I worked on my diction.
I play a Canadian Punjabi who has come from Canada to Amritsar to make a documentary on Punjab and its culture and food. So my role required a little accent. When I went in to dub, they were sure that it was perfect and didn’t need anyone else to dub for me.
Overall, how have you molded yourself to India?
Each of us tends to mould ourselves depending on our environment. When I go to the US, I definitely feel like myself as I grew up there and have spent most of my life there. I end up dressing differently, talking differently, and acting differently.
When I came here at first it was strange, but now, I have been here for three years and I call it home, but I am a different person here. There are things that I would wear here, that I would never wear back in the US and vice versa. My accent changes, I start getting a little bit of an Indian accent in my English, which my friends find difficult to understand.
As a dancer and a choreographer, what are some of the key things that one needs to keep in mind?
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a choreographer. I know that I have it in me and I would do it if the opportunity comes to me with the right song and situation. But I find choreography a scary art form as you have to start from scratch. When you look at good choreography, it is poetry in motion. It is something that can make you forget about everything else and suck you into that piece. There is a lot of responsibility in that role. When you are choreographing you have to keep everything in mind, your surroundings and what type of dancers you have, to make your style work on them. It is about seeing the way they naturally move and enhance that and choreograph according to that.
As a dancer you should keep in mind that there is no bad choreography. When someone criticizes the steps, I as a dancer feel that it is completely wrong. There is no bad choreography, there is only a bad dancer, because a dancer should be able to make any choreography look like a million bucks.