The Humorous side of Zen Acting with Geetika Budhiraja


In the most intense moments of life, there is comedy. Accompanying this is the opportunity to learn about one’s self. Actress Geetika Budhiraja embraces the dual partnership of tension and levity in her choice of roles as it reflects her overall view of life, there is potential greatness in acknowledging this. There’s a common thread between Geetika’s acting career and practice as a Zen yogi; filtering the tension life offers into a positive vibration that emanates from her center is as personal as it is professional for this Indian born talent. Award-winning director and composer Cyril Morin (known for his work on the international hit TV series Borgia and the film Samsara - Winner of Best Feature Film at the Dubai International Film Festival, in addition to Ayurveda, Art of Being, and others) instantly recognized this quality and cast her in his film In the Air due to her ease with comedic tension. Ms. Budhiraja shines among the stellar cast as a wife clinging to her beliefs upon the moment of seemingly imminent demise. Her performance, like the film itself, possesses darkness overshadowed by humorous glimpses into the human condition.


In the Air is a film about the duality which inhabits many of us. Only when circumstances become dire do we truly know who we are; even more so, this is the only time when others truly know who we are. The story takes place on an airplane which has suddenly experienced complications and a crash seems likely. The cosmic comedy of this scenario is that the plane’s problems are directly related to a crash in the stock market. Geetika appears in the film as Laila, a committed wife and a yogi. Laila grew was raised in an ashram and firmly believes herself to possess Zen master super powers. As the stock market continues to plummet, the atmosphere inside the plane among its inhabitants becomes equally frantic. Laila firmly believes that her chanting and prayers will save those aboard, even as she continues to take care of her husband. Ms. Budhiraja brings a luminous element even as her character experiences moments of “losing it.” The actress communicates, “Even though it was comedy, there was a deep learning and metaphor. You can only save someone when you save yourself. The Universe/God can only help you when you help yourself. We are gifted with common sense and we should apply it and that’s only when any higher power can help us. We can channel the higher belief to our own resourcefulness.” It’s the lack of perfection that is so honest in Laila which makes Geetika’s performance such a focal point of In the Air. While the plane continues to plummet, Laila becomes aggressive and abandons the veneer of calm. Ultimately, we see that Laila is like most of us in that what she aspires to be is not her true nature. Rather than being defeatist, this facet makes her endearing; a benevolent result of the way in which Geetika has presented her. Even the simplest actions of Laila are infused with a subtle complexity, such as when she removes her own oxygen mask and places it on her husband. This act both testifies to her deep love for him as well as her need to chant more aggressively to save herself and the others. Laila masterfully presents the juxtaposition of a Zen yogi and an aggressive tigress.


More recently, Geetika was praised for her role in the Ojai Film Fest Award Winning Film Borders. While certainly a more dramatic film, Borders allowed for Ms. Budhiraja to portray a positively influencing female character; something she feels strongly about in her career. Being a part of the evolution of women in this momentous age of entertainment is a compass for Geetika who states, “Recent historic movements are evidence that the awakening of the creative divine feminine has happened. Women are so powerful and gifted to create life on earth; once they put their attention onto something which is a birthing of a bigger purpose than themselves, the change of the narrative and creation of films/stories by women and of women certainly cannot be a phase. This is transformation and ascension of female filmmakers, diverse people of color who are choosing their power and using their voice for proud rich cultural ethnic stories from behind and in front of the camera to represent this transformation on a global platform. This is our time of transformation and awakening through film by women and people of color.”


Geetika Budhiraja’s body of work indicates that it’s likely time for Hollywood to take note of another woman of color; maybe a South Asian one this time. A young girl growing into her superpowers of womanhood, breaking through the shackles of religion defined norms for her body and role in society, joy, sacred sensuality as nature’s gift; a superpower and not something to be repressed and shammed for wanting to be heard and seen. It all sounds like an exciting new film, perfectly suited to feature Ms. Budhiraja in the starring role.