When we boarded the flight from Minnesota to Los Angeles, I was as excited as my four year old. I smiled ear to ear whenever I looked at my husband, who was taking us on this dream holiday trip. I am a huge film buff but my romance with movies started very late in life. It was when I started working as an online journalist, my beat being entertainment and books, that I started studying films. The colourful silver screen captivated me. I met and interviewed various personalities from the Indian film industry including Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah as well as prominent writers like the late Khushwant Singh, Amitav Ghosh, Chetan Bhagat to name just a few. It was an amazing and fulfilling job but I quit to take up a blessed and greater responsibility – motherhood.
When we moved to the US, Hollywood films on Netflix bowled me over. I had access to one of the best English films ever made. I noticed that these films were very real, well-made and technically sound.
Almost every evening, I watched great stories unfold in front of me – The Sixth Sense, Forrest Gump, Silence of the Lambs, Hachiko, Mission Impossible, Top Gun, Ghost, Hercules, Elizabeth and a thousand more…
And then this amazing trip to Hollywood was planned! How could I not be on the top of the world! This was my chance to dive right into the world of films.
It was a warm mid summer night when we reached LA. My dream of visiting Hollywood land was going to be fulfilled. I have noticed that every state in the US has a unique, dominant personality. LA seemed aggressive as compared to the laid back Minnesota. We stayed at the welcoming house of our family friends – a great couple with two very sweet kids. They had planned our schedule to perfection. We were to go to one of the Pacific beaches on the first day, the enchanting Disneyland on the second day, and Universal Studios on the third day. The fourth day was dedicated to the Walk of Fame.
On the first day, I sighted the Pacific while our car meandered through the hills. The mighty ocean appeared out of nowhere between the hills like a brimming sea of mercury. It was vast, intimidating, dazzling, bewitching and oh so beautiful! Blue oceans and mountains always remind me of Krishna. I looked up and could not help whispering – “How great thou art?”.
On the second day, we visited the fascinating Disneyland. We took the little train to Mickey’s House and my older one met one of his favourite characters- the ever smiling beloved mouse. I hugged Mr Mickey too, he was my childhood sweetheart. He had a fine little house. We met several other characters, took roller coaster rides, boarded the Mark Twain, watched the grand parade and came back with cute memories.
I was waiting for the third and fourth day. But my baby woke up tired and cranky due to exertion, and I kept my fingers crossed. LA was quite warm and reminded me of the Delhi heat. Fortunately, after his morning feed, my baby behaved alright and we went ahead as planned. The Universal Studios was a fun place to be. We boarded the train that took on a short tour of the studios, where some of the greatest films of all times have been shot (Psycho, A Beautiful Mind, Bruce Almighty, Home Alone etc). We were informed about all the techniques of filmmaking. We watched as the sweaty summer day turned into a monsoon delight – lightning struck, it rained and floods came. Anything was possible there!
The 4-D show of dinosaur and King Kong was incredible. It made me jump from my seat several times. We watched another live show that talked about the special effects involved in filmmaking. My son was scared to see the hand of a lady being chopped off and then sewn back. I told him this was the magic of films, the unreal is made so very real!
The Minions, Shrek, Scooby Doo, Donkey and Spongebob attracted my four year old. He was all wide eyed and excited when he posed for pictures with the talking Mr Donkey and Spongebob.
On the fourth day, my heart sang as we prepared to visit the coveted Hollywood sign nestled on the Mt Lee. Our friends managed to take us quite near to the sign for a well angled shot. It was illegal to go any closer to the restricted area. What a wonderful sight it was. The letters ‘Hollywood’ glowed with the spirit of the film industry. We posed for photos and I remembered those days when cropped pictures of the Hollywood sign to use in the stories from Hollywood on our news website. I joined my hands and whispered ‘Namaste Hollywood’! This was the storyland of our world.
Later in the evening, it was time to visit the famed Kodak (Dolby) Studio, the star studded Hollywood Walk of Fame and the mesmerising Madame Tussaud’s. The Dolby studio is famous for grandest red carpet events including the Oscars. I couldn’t help envisioning myself walking the red carpet and receiving an Oscar. Haha…perhaps, someday! What was wrong in dreaming even if it was too far fetched.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame comprises of more than 2500 brass stars (bearing names of famous Hollywood personalities) embedded in the side walks of the most happening street in the world. It looked similar to the streets of Las Vegas at night. There was music, street dancing, street performers, characters as well as grand shopping and dining facilities. My son was confused to see two Spidermen, he thought only one existed in the world! The street throbbed with life. It was fun!
The kids were getting uncomfortable and tired. So, we planned a ladies only visit to the wax museum – Madame Tussaud’s. Our husbands stayed outside with the kids. We entered the dimly lighted building where life size statues of great Hollywood stars awaited us. I was enthralled to look at them up and close.
Rihanna, Beyonce and Robert Pattinson welcomed us. We tried to steal a chocolate from Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) and studied the briefcase of Pierce Brosnan. Brangelina stood grinning at us and we grinned back. Clark Gable took my heart away with his piercing gaze and then there was Tom Cruise and his boyish smile. The stunning Julia Roberts pulled a chair for us and we posed with Salma Hayek. Uma Thurman was not very friendly and threatened us with a sword. We fled to make a phone call, and fortunately, we found President Obama at his desk and used his phone. It seemed as if our college days were back again. I laughed heartily and had the time of my life!
The dream trip came to an end. We took leave from our gracious friends. The following morning, we boarded a flight to Dallas to celebrate our son’s birthday at his aunt and uncle’s place, where his cousins were planning a big surprise.
As we flew, my purse seemed heavier than usual. I understood. It was overloaded with some of the most unforgettable and beautiful memories of my life – straight from Hollywood. I looked down to watch the breathtaking Pacific in all it’s glory until it disappeared from sight.