Julia Roberts' visit to the north Indian town of Pataudi, where the Hollywood star is shooting the film version of the bestseller "Eat, Pray, Love," has created a storm of rumors in this small, dusty town near New Delhi.
The A-list star's presence has angered and frustrated worshippers who cannot pray at the local temple because of the filming schedule, according to local reports. Furthermore, some observers say, more than 300 security guards protect the celebrity and her family, including the use of a helicopter that has disrupted this quiet town where cows sit peacefully alongside the winding roads.
But at the Hari Mandir Ashram, where much of the film is being shot, temple goers had a different tale to tell this week. "I'm very excited that people are coming to know about my village," said Kavita Badega, 34.
Wearing a blue and pink sari, Badega said that her only displeasure about the filming was not being able to watch the closed-set shooting. She was thrilled that she saw Roberts one evening last week walking near the temple.
Security is tight but not nearly akin to the circus-like atmosphere described in local news reports. One security guard said there is a large presence of police, but closer to 50 guards than the 300-plus described in local media.
Kaushalya Devi, who has lived at the ashram for 28 years, said she is happy the movie is being filmed here. Her daughter provided Roberts a tour of the temple, she said, explaining the statues of the Hindu gods and goddesses.
"She's very good-looking and wears no make-up unless she is filming," said the 75-year-old Devi.
During a shoot, she noted, Roberts had to clean the floors of the temple. The star, like all worshippers, walks barefoot in the Hindu temple that is filled with candles, brightly colored statues and simple cotton rugs.
The temple was closed for two days last week for filming, but it has been open for morning worship every day since.
"The spiritual guide here has a lot of influence," said Sushma Batra, 52. "What he says is what people do."
As a result, Batra said, no one has been upset about the disruption to the worship schedule.
Roberts, Hollywood Crew Staying in Converted Palace
The ashram and temple sit on a campus that includes hostel-type housing for students, as well as a school known for offering classes in the ancient language of Sanskrit. Some members of the crew were expected to stay in the simple dorms, but all are staying at the Pataudi Palace, including Roberts.
The palace, converted into a hotel, is owned by Nawab Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, a former Indian royal and one-time captain of the Indian cricket team, and his wife, Sharmila Tagore, an acclaimed Indian actress.
Roberts is expected to continue filming in town until Oct. 9.