The desi soap queen Shenaz Treasurywala, aka Rama Patel on One Life to Live, discusses her transition to American television with Aseem Chhabra Shenaz Treasurywala, second from right, as Rama hugs Nick Choksi, right, who plays her screen husband Vimal Patel
Former MTV VJ Shenaz Treasurywala is having a good run this year. Not only did her film Delhi Belly do well, she has also made a mark on American tel- evision as Rama Patel on the ABC show One Life to
Live. The Indian actress spoke to India Abroad about her
transition from cinema to soap opera.
Are you having fun?
It’s the most fun job I’ve had. My role is really regular,
touch wood! People stop me on the street and ask ‘Mrs
Patel?’ Not a lot, but many middle-aged women. They don’t
always ask me for autographs. But they ask me, ‘How much
sex are you having?’
Is Rama Patel having sex?
A lot of sex! She is married, but she is having an affair
with this hot Cuban guy.
Tell us about Mr Patel.
New York actor Nick Choksi plays my husband Vimal.
He’s like this sweet innocent guy. But I am often cheating
on him. My character is so interesting to play. It’s like
Bollywood, lots of drama and hair pulling. I just got into
this cat fight and we were kicking and screaming. The other
day I pretended to be pregnant and they did this stunt
where they put a balloon inside my dress. A waiter comes
and smashes into me, the balloon bursts and the water
spurts on everyone’s face. And I went ‘Oh my water burst.’
It’s just crazy fun stuff.
It is rare to see an Indian on a soap. How did you get this
I think Kabir Bedi was the first — he was on Bold and
Beautiful, General Hospital and also One Life to Live. I
came to New York City last year and I saw Poorna
(Jaganathan her co-star from Delhi Belly). I had come for a
wedding to San Diego and then to New York. I asked
Poorna to introduce me to an agent and she did. The agent
sent me for the One Life to Live audition.
I went and I did many, many auditions and screen tests.
But then it was for Aubrey Wentworth’s role — a white girl’s
role. By the end there were just two of us — a white actress
who has been on many soap operas and me. They gave it to
her. I said ‘Oh God, I am going back to India.’
But then they called me back and said they were writing
Rama Patel for me. I auditioned in August, started shoot-
ing in November and have been on the air since January. I
am really enjoying this. I am shooting regularly. Everyone
is so nice and there’s no politics.
Do you remember the first day of the shoot?
Shenaz Treasurywala and Terri Conn, right, who plays Audrey Wentworth
I had nearly 200 pages to read. Do you know what my
scene was? I was doing three episodes in one day. I was
supposed to stop a double wedding. Two of the main girls
were getting married and I had to know each of the character’s names. It’s challenging, because it is like doing a
play. They take you, they block you and there is no cut or
anything like retakes. They shoot you like you are doing a
I guess the soap opera budgets are also low.
Yes, much less.
And all the other female characters are blond?
Most of them are.
Have they written any Indian touches for your character?
They do sometimes. I go through periods of guilt, since I
am a bad wife. So, I take off my mangalsutra and Terry, my
blond friend on the show, asks ‘What is that?’ And I say,
‘That’s my mangalsutra and I have lost the right to wear it.
My husband put it around my neck when we got married.”
I was reading my script for a recent episode and I am sup-
posed to say, ‘Oh this is a piece of Gulab Jamun.’ I was quite
impressed that they actually had researched that, because
all the writers are Americans.