The presence of Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts has turned villagers in Pataudi, Haryana into instant celebrities who are amused by the media thriving on them to get updates about the Hollywood star and her film Eat, Pray, Love.
"Since she is not interacting with the media, journalists come to us for details. Everyone here is now talking about her visit to Pataudi and reading the local newspapers. I now know that she won the Oscar Award," Manoj, a Pataudi localite told PTI.
Some of the youngsters in the village are thrilled to read their names in the newspapers and are more than willing to provide details to the media.
Pataudi villagers are not new to celebrities as the place is home to Nawab Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and his Bollywood family including wife Sharmila Tagore, son Saif Ali Khan and daughter Soha Ali Khan. The Pataudi Palace, which has been converted into a hotel, has seen lots of films being shot here in the past.
"Bandhan, Mangal Pandey and lot of other films have been shot here. Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Jackie Shroff have visited the city but never has the village got so much attention till now," a villager said.
While many are thriving on the attention they are getting in media, Roberts visit has not gone down well with some of the natives, who insist that her presence does not affect their day to day lives.
"We have never seen her before so how does it matter if she has come here for shooting. All foreigners look the same to us," said Rajesh who painted the Ashram Hari Mandir, which was given a makeover before the crew started shooting.
Some villagers said that during the shoot of her scene outside the ashram the crew handed over money to them to gather a crowd. "We were given 250 bucks each to gather outside the ashram where the scene of her getting out from a taxi to enter the ashram was being shot," a villager said.
The actress has been provided with a tough security jacket with about 100 security personnel from a security agency guarding her while 25 Haryana police persons are staying outside the Pataudi palace and the shooting area. The actress also has her own private security, which puts the total number of security people to an estimated 350.
"For the villagers, its a kind of an attraction as they are seeing so many foreigners. Local authorities too have been very supportive in providing her adequate security cover," Sachin, a security personnel from Holistic security, which is providing security to the film said.
The actress whose film deals with a woman's search for everything across three countries, Italy, India and Indonesia, comes across as a very warm person on the sets and interacts with the unit people and asks for tips on India.
"She always bids me Hi-Bye and appears as a very friendly person now that she regularly sees me around. She also discussed with the unit people on what all she should try out in Indian food," a security guard said.
The 25-acre ashram, which boasts of a Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya, hostels for boys and girls, a hospital and an old-age home, has been turned into a virtual fortress to keep away the paparazzi. The high security cover given to the actress has caused hassles among the students of Sanskrit Mahavidalaya who stay in the ashram as they cannot move freely and have to undergo constant checks.
"Every time we have to go in we are being checked. We have to constantly tell the security guards that we are students who stay in the Boys hostel," a student said.
Image: Julia Roberts in a scene from Closer.