Tillotama Shome: A DEATH IN THE GUNJ saved my marriage


We last saw her in Irrfan Khan starrer HINDI MEDIUM and now she is here again to enthrall the audience with her performance in close friend Koko’s (she fondly calls Konkona as Koko) directorial debut A DEATH IN THE GUNJ that released today. In an exclusive interview Tillotama opens up about how proud she is of her friend Koko’s achievements and also how this film saved her marriage.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:



How did you bag this project?
Konkana’s a dear friend so when she had this story idea she had shared it with me. When she started developing this film’s draft she asked me to read it every time she made any changes in it. As a friend I witnessed her entire journey. It was during the narration of later draft that she offered me the part of Bonnie and I was thrilled. Honestly I was not listening to her drafts hoping that I would get a part, all I was hoping that she really gets to make this film but I was really thrilled when she offered me the part of Bonnie and I jumped at the opportunity.

Is the film based on real life incidents?
Yes it is. The film is based on incidents from Konkona’s childhood which was written as a story by her father but the short story more in the genre of science fiction and it focuses more on human being’s fascination with death but Konkona’s film focus on how we can sometimes be unknowingly or knowingly be bystanders and a silent witness to one being bullied. The protagonist of this film Shutu played by Vikrant Massey, what his character goes through in the film is something we all witness to it and it shows our own culpability in his sufferings. Konkona’s sensibility as a person has really explored this aspect of culpability that when something goes wrong to someone you love you have to step back and think that what part did I play in this. It’s about taking responsibilities and Koko has brought this very beautifully in this film.

Now that the film has released today how excited or nervous are you?
I am very excited and nervous as well. See if I am nervous about something it’s a good thing because it means I care and I really do care. So it’s nervousness, excitement and great pride in Konkona to have really worked an unimaginably hard in order to make this film. To have completed the film in the time that was given to her, she was duly supported by the producers and everyone from the cast and crew has been rallying around her because of her absolute genuine passion to tell the story.


Tell us about your character in the film.
My character in the film is called Bonnie and I was very happy that my character is called Bonnie because Bonnie is also a word for someone who is happy and I was thrilled because in my career I have done so many indie films where I play such serious, dark and tragic characters. And my husband who is my huge supporter has told me that “Tillotma all your films are nice, serious and very very intense but if you want this marriage to last please do something which is little light and something funny.”(laughs) so I think I sent out a message to universe that please give me work that is light hearted also and not just intense. So when Koko told me that I have to play Bonnie I was so happy as there is so much happiness in the name itself of this character. I laughed so much on this film’s set more than on any of my previous films. And it’s a coincidence that my last film HINDI MEDIUM also comes in comedy genre so I think now my marriage is saved. (smiles)

'Konkona as a person is very straight forward but also very gentle'

In the film my character Bonnie has a child and I am married to Gulshan Devaiah and since off screen we know each other well we were able to improvise without any hesitation. Also the entire ensemble cast felt like a family while we were shooting for this film.


How did you prepare for your role?
The world of this film was very familiar to me so in order to find the hook into my character I decided to base my character’s way of talking on Konkona’s mum Aparna and Koko herself. The reason I chose to model it on them was that they have certain style of speaking, certain languidness, there’s lot of love and affection and there is not a sense of hurry so I picked that up. Any which ways my character was loosely based on Aparna Sen. Also watching Koko with her son Haroon (as I am not a mother) helped me to make that aspect of my character more genuine.

From being a co-star to being directed by Konkona, how was your experience of working with her?
It was wonderful because for me this film is too precious right from the beginning I was so excited about the fact that Koko could write the script, and then find her producers, to actually shoot the film, to finally releasing it is such a journey that I am so proud of her accomplishing this really difficult journey. It was like a dream to see my friend on set directing her film. A one month long dream! Can you imagine? (Smiles)

Is Konkona a task master or an easy going director?
Konkona as a person is very straight forward but also very gentle. She is very diplomatic and she really knows what she wants from her actors and on the set there would be lot of warmth and sometimes despite being in a stressful situation, I never saw her losing her cool and it was really wonderful to see how remarkably she handles her work. Of course sometimes she gets stressed as all of the actors are friends so we would make fun of her or joke like ‘”Look how Koko’s eyes have become big that means we should stop talking now” (laughs). She knew we were making fun of her but she would take it in her stride and yet at no point did this familiarity come in the way of getting the work the done.

Give us one reason why people should go and watch this film?
People would really relate to this story because everyone at some point or the other in their life has felt that those around them don’t understand them. I think it will resonate with everyone.

How does it feel that the film has already accomplished so much on international film circuits?
It feels wonderful and kudos to Konkona for achieving this and I really hope that the film is received well by the audience here as well and since it’s a different kind of story so I hope people give it a chance and the love that it deserves.

What are you working on next?
I have done CURRY HAWA with Ranveer and Sanjay Mishra directed by Nila Madhab Panda. I have also started shooting for this film titled SIR.

Any message for your fans?
Please go and watch this film I am sure that you will not regret it.