Bravo for Columbia couple ’Tarzina’

otaylor@thestate.comMay 5, 2013 

  • On the air

    “Newlyweds: The First Year,” a Bravo reality series, premieres at 10 p.m. Monday. Local couple Tina Sugandh and Tarz Ludwigsen will be featured on the show. Follow their reactions on Twitter: @tinasugandh and @theycallmetarz.

    Meet Tina and Tarz; look for the You Tube link with this story at thestate.com/living

Tina Sugandh and Tarz Ludwigsen, one of four couples appearing in “Newlyweds: The First Year,” the new reality show that premiered on Bravo at 10 p.m. Monday, have a power couple’s edge on the other stars because of their hashtag-ready portmanteau: Tarzina.

This joint nickname is now part of a grouping that includes Kimye, Bennifer and Brangelina.

But unlike Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Tarzina don’t live in a glitzy city. They call Columbia home.

Really.

Really? That was the reaction Tina, a Bollywood pop star who has toured with the rapper Ludacris and recorded with Ringo Starr, had when Pandoodle, Tarz’s tech firm, decided to relocate here in 2011.

“I wasn’t happy knowing we were moving here, but I got here and I think, probably in a month, I fell in love with it,” Tina said. “The weather can’t get better and the people here are amazing."

After settling into a lakefront Forest Acres home, the couple held a traditional Indian wedding on Dec. 3, 2011, that was catered by Bone-In Artisan BBQ on Wheels. Local companies Liquid Assets and Palmetto Party Rentals were also hired. Bravo’s cameras were there to record the ceremony – and a lot of other personal moments throughout the year.

Like the viewers who tune in, Monday night will be the first time Tarzina will see how Bravo cut and edited the show.

“We just put it all out there,” Tina said. “I heard I’m a real (b-word). I really did.”

“I would never say that,” Tarz deadpanned. “I would never express it.”

It’s been oft said that the first year of marriage is tough, and Tarzina, in an interview last month at their home, said there were rough patches.

“A lot went down. It was not all happy for sure,” Tina said, adding that her mother died before filming began. “As a result, there’s a lot of things that spawned from that. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a lot of drama, considering that it’s Bravo and all. There’s a lot of real moments.”

Tarz, a former model, who has made appearances on TV shows such as “Guiding Light,” “Law & Order” and “Oz,” is as comfortable as Tina is in front of a camera. But he prefers her to be in the spotlight.

“I like to be behind the scenes and she likes to be the center of attention,” he began, “so it’s always worked well for us except this is probably the first time...”

“It’s weird that it’s the both of us, because we’ve been together for over five years, and it’s always been my career,” said Tina, who shows her diva side in “So Good,” a song and video featuring the rapper Fat Joe. “He would carry my guitar and my drums and it worked out great.

“We had (Bravo producers) yell at me at the beginning because I wasn’t used to him talking. OK, not yelling, but they were like, ‘We need to hear from Tarz now.’ ”

Pandoodle, a media technology company, was based in Mountain View, Calif. Its offices were down the street from Google, Tarz said. Business incentives lured the company, whose flagship technology, AdHere, has changed the landscape of brand placement in film and video, to Columbia. Tarz prefers to work long hours, which can sometimes complicate things like, uh, intimacy.

“I think I threatened that I would get my sperm elsewhere if I had to,” Tina said. “That was in a commercial.”

“I’m driven by accomplishing stuff, so once I start doing it, I just won’t stop,” he said. “And I’m used to do that. And I’ve been that way ...”

“Forever,” Tina interjected.

“Since I was like 15,” Tarz said.

“He was head of barnesandnoble.com when you were, like, 20 or something,” Tina added. “But that was just one job, because God forbid he just have one job.”

They both laughed. It was another in a frequent string of moments when, in conversation, they would talk as if they were the only people in the room. Their banter isn’t rehearsed, but their timing is on the mark.

“Can I just point out that I just let you talk for so long?” Tina said.

“But if you noticed, I completely avoided eye contact with you, and I shut off the psychic mind meld,” Tarz responded.

“You really know how to deal with me. That’s good,” she said.

“Newlyweds” is a shift in the cable network’s programming. Unlike series such as the “Real Housewives” franchise, which puts handpicked casts in situations that lead to acrimony, the four couples on “Newlyweds” don’t interact.

“The Kandi Factory,” another Bravo reality show, was on the big TV screen in Tarz and Tina’s living room. The couple sat at a table with a neatly placed spread of magazines, including Bibi Magazine’s bridal edition with Tina on the cover. While she was talking, Tarz repeatedly shifted the magazines only to have Tina re-spread the pile just so.

“He just really enjoys coming up with ways to distract me,” she said.

“I’m shooting for annoying, not distracting,” he added.

Tarz is 36 and Tina is “a little younger.” Tina, who grew up in New Jersey and does a solid impression of Jill Zarin, was once considered as a cast member for the “Real Housewives of New York,” the show that once starred Zarin. Tina grew up performing with her family on weekends at Bollywood events that were hosted by her father, Kan Sugandh, a professor who moonlighted as a comic and mimic.

“Oh, that’s us,” Tina said, as a “Newlyweds” commercial came on the TV.

“If you notice, I didn’t even get to say my own name,” Tarz said.

“You don’t even speak in this commercial,” Tina said.

“I don’t. I just look sad,” he added.

In the promo, Kan, who, according to Tina, appeared on “Outsourced,” a former NBC comedy set in a call center in India, appeared to like the camera on him.

“Like is probably not strong enough,” Tarz said. “He eats it up.”

As for the name Tarzina, Kan thinks it sounds like a crappy beer.

When work requires the couple to travel to California or New York for more than a few days, they drive their dogs to Tarz’s parents’ house in Pennsylvania. They maintain a home in California. Tarz and Tina spend as much time together as possible. On their first date, she moved into his apartment. But that was weeks after they initially met.

“I always forget this story,” Tina said, when asked about their first introduction.

“She does, actually,” Tarz said.

She’ll get reminded, once again, when they share it on the show. Viewers will get an intimate portrait of their relationship.

“It’s your home and your bed,” Tarz said.

“What do we have to do here?” Tina recalled thinking the first time a camera crew filmed in their bedroom.

Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.

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