Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Melinda Shankar Is On A Roll
Melinda Shankar only had time to phone me on Wednesday. And no wonder.
She's the star of two current Canadian TV hits --the durable Degrassi: The Next Generation which she joined in 2008 and the newer How To Be Indie which showcases her as petite and rambunctious 14-year-old Indie and which revs up for season two Thursday evening at 6:30 on YTV.
And she was also preparing for the Gemini Awards --on the first (and untelevised night) she was up for an acting award for Indie as well as rehearsing to be a presenter.
"Normally I'm not quite this busy," she exclaimed.
Did I also mention Melinda is also taking high school credits so she can go on to university?
"I want to study writing" she says. When she's acting she works for two hours a day with a tutor on set.
That's a pretty onerous schedule for any adult but the actress is only 18. On How To Be Indie she plays the title character who is only 14. She's a bit older as Ali Bhandari on Degrassi --she joined the cast in 2008 during the eighth season.
Normally the shows shoot in different times of the year.
"But there was this crazy five-day block when both were going and I had to travel between the two, it was very confusing at times because the two characters are completely different. Degrassi tackles the real issues of going to school."
On Indie she was a scream as a scheming but very well brought up eighth grader who's always getting into tight situations.
On Degrassi as Alli: "I always seem to be crying. Very deep stuff."
But in both parts she's excelling and she reports she's recognized sometimes as Indie and sometimes as Alli.
In fact when we were on the phone she had to stop for a minute to talk to fans who were walking by and recognized her.
I had heard about Indie before plopping on the preview DVD of the second season.
Was I ever surprised --it's very funny and painless for oldsters --anyone not in their teens --to watch.
The comedy style is the comedy of exaggeration. In Indie's tween world everything is a crisis that gets resolved in comical ways.
It was created by executive producer Vera Santamaria(Outsourced) and the executive producing team of John May and Suzanna Bolch (Our Hero) make it for Heroic Television and Sudden Storm Television.
Also starring as her best friend is Marline Yan as Abi. Plus there's Dylan Everett as the boy who's always around then, Marlon.
As Indie's Mom and Dad Ellora Patnaik and Vijay Mehta avoid stereotypes to become quite winning. When Dad does a victory dance to show that he's been right it's the highlight of the first new episode.
And joining the cast this season are Tim Lai as Aiden described as a sporty guy and Cassius Crieghtney as bumbling cook dre.
As the granddad with a strange taste for tofu Errol Sitahal is a scream.
Melinda reports every episode is filmed in just three days, an amazing feat. "We'll tackle 20 pages a day compared to about nine on another series. We shoot on standing sets that look completely realistic. There's no studio audience --the crew help us out as an audience."
Born in Ottawa to Guyanese Canadian parents Melinda credits her father for perseverance. "When I had to go to an audition to Toronto he'd drive me. That meant five hours and sometimes it was a five minute interview. we did it twice in one week."
So far Degrassi is the great Canadian TV success story going out to dozens of countries around the world.
How To Be Indie just might give it competition in important markets like the U.S.
HOW TO BE INDIE PREMIERES THURSDAY NOV. 4 AT 6:30 on YTV.
MY RATING: ***1/2.