Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s La La Land has many remarkable visuals that stay with the viewers long after they leave the theatre. The Indian viewer gets one such moment at the beginning of the film, when we see a brown girl leading its opening number, Another Day of Sun. A little research later, we found the girl in the yellow dress - Reshma Gajjar - who’s been mentioned in movie reviews everywhere (The New York Times calls her the ‘ingénue in the yellow dress). Brunch spoke to the very talented actor and dancer tracing her journey from her Indian roots to the stages of La La Land and beyond.
Growing up in the best of both of worlds
Reshma’s parents immigrated to the United States in the 70s from Ahmedabad and settled down in northern California. Like all first-generation Indian Americans, Reshma grew up balancing two very different cultures and growing up being equal parts Indian and American. She told us, “I appreciate how hard it was for my parents to hold onto and instil their values in me even though they completely clashed with the American way. I feel I really got the best of both worlds.”
Studies first, dancing later
Reshma says she started dancing when she started walking. But even then, she didn’t think of it as a career option till much later. A scholarship to The Edge Performing Arts Center brought her to Los Angeles but as per a promise to her parents, she continued her college education. “I signed with an agent after my graduation performance from The Edge and started working professionally as a dancer and actor. Eventually I got that college degree, too, in business law,” she shared.
Auditions and more auditions
According to Reshma, La La Land captured the life of a struggling artist in LA perfectly. “The audition scenes made me laugh and cry because they were so accurate. You really are on display, willingly making a fool of yourself. There is often a feeling of disconnect from everyone in the room. You put your heart and soul into an audition and then walk away knowing you have to let it go. Jobs are uncertain, relationships are sacrificed and finances are unstable. However, I’ve never been to a party where someone dove into a pool from three stories up!”
From freeways to the Golden globe red carpet, what the dancer life looks like:
Reshma was among the ‘skeleton crew’ that helped shape up the choreography for the film and was selected by the Golden Globe winning director, Damien Chazelle, to play the ‘girl in yellow’. Explaining the shooting schedule, she said, “Outside of the many hours it took to conceptualise, plan, and create the choreography, it took about a week to rehearse and two days to shoot Another Day of Sun. There was so much to coordinate, between the dancers, cars and cameras. It was 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius) on the freeway overpass, and the cars were hot to the touch. The monitors and production were hidden from view far away from me, which made the moment feel more real, like I was really alone, stuck in traffic, with my dreams.”
Once a dreamer, always a dreamer
Reshma found a spot in Jimmy Fallon’s opening act at the recently held Golden Globe awards. That and the international recognition La La Land has received makes her feel ‘awesome’. She shared, “It’s not surprising to me that La La Land has such a wide appeal. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from people, expressing how excited they were to see a brown girl open a Hollywood film such as this. I believe it makes the movie feel more inclusive. Even though the story identifies with Los Angeles and those that live here, I think on a fundamental level it is relatable to everyone, everywhere, who dreams.”
From HT Brunch, January 18
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