Bollywood Dreams

What's a white girl like Samantha Riggs doing in a sari?

"Well, I'm a mass of contradictions," she says.

Riggs doesn't regret not staying with Josephine's father. After all, had they stayed together, she never would have met her "counterpart," as she calls him, an actor and performer named Cliff.

Riggs met Cliff in 1994, both of them filling roles in the Renaissance Festival as actors and dancers.

Don't tell her that love means never having to sew your sari.
Mr. G
Don't tell her that love means never having to sew your sari.
White girls with hope: Samantha Riggs, center, and her Boom Boom Bollywood troupe explore India's cinemusical culture.
Mr. G
White girls with hope: Samantha Riggs, center, and her Boom Boom Bollywood troupe explore India's cinemusical culture.

"He understands what needs to come out creatively, that to be honest and creative you have to rip your guts out for all to see," she says. "He's witty, he's intelligent, he laughs at life . . ."

And he's in Missouri.

"Yeah, that's the part that really sucks," she says.

They e-mail each other, and call as often as possible.

"If I think about him hard enough," she adds, "the phone just rings."

"We both have our own communities. We both are passionate about our work, our art. And I have my other love here, Josephine," she says.

"I pine sometimes, I do. But for the most part, it makes me feel uplifted just to know that there's someone else out there for me."


Almost every Wednesday night after her dance classes, Riggs and a few of her Boom Boom Bollywood-ers perform tribal belly dance at Mythos, a Greek restaurant and bar in south Scottsdale that caters to college students and Middle Eastern hipsters. Riggs eats fire off the tips of flaming swords, while a pair of artists do live paintings, and Riggs' friend DJ Rani "g" spins an eclectic mix of house, Mediterranean and world music.

"This isn't really my scene. It's just my work," Riggs says after her performance, as well-groomed metrosexuals in tuxedo shirts and designer jeans smoke hookahs on velvety couches.

The "scene" is counterintuitive to Riggs' Bollywood sensibilities. There's little romance at Mythos, unless you count the one-nighters borne of cocktails and hormones. This crowd's too cool to break out in song and dance.

But Riggs is a trooper, a soldier of love. She fantasizes that one day she'll star opposite Shahrukh Khan, one of Bollywood's most famous leading men and the star of her favorite film, Devdas. Maybe with Al Mangat's help -- he and Jay Soni are also working together on a film about intermixing between Indian men and American women -- it'll happen.

Riggs at least sees the possibility that she and Boom Boom could tour the real Bollywood -- from Bombay to Punjab and down to Delhi -- if not someday become part of the on-screen genre.

"Oh, to tour India," she says, "that would be the coolest."

For now, Samantha Riggs will live in her own little Bollywood, drinking her Cherry Cokes, smoking full-flavor American Spirits, and pondering her sci-fi philosophies.

A creature of habit?

"Actually, my life is more like obsession," she says. "For love."

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