Tillotama Shome finds it a "poetic joke" that perhaps life has come full circle for her from playingAlice the maid in MONSOON WEDDING (2001) to essaying a domestic help once again as Ratna in SIR (2018). In hindsight, the acclaimed actress says being typecast as a "maid" has done her good.
So, life comes full circle, isn't it?
"Indeed! It's a neat frame, a poetic joke to the twenty years that have passed since I encountered acting. I can actually say 'two decades' in a sentence now without the cynicism of age. It has, in fact, been a celebration of innocence," Tillotama told IANS in an email interview.
She said while MONSOON WEDDING had the innocence of a debut, SIR had the innocence of working with a co-actor like Vivek Gomber, who was willing to work endlessly and in a "brutally honest" way.
"So, from innocence to innocence!"
SIR, helmed by Rohena Gera, was among the seven films from across the world to be a part of Cannes Critics' Week in May. It tells the love story of a servant and the son of her upper-class employer.
On the difference between this character and her role in Mira Nair's MONSOON WEDDING, she questioned: "How different are two teachers from each other, or two world leaders?"
How has the movie world changed since MONSOON WEDDING for an actor who has always chosen to go with the strength of a character rather than the glamour that many run after?
"I think the way you measure change has a lot to do with your own state of mind. I am no expert on the industry and have always been on its margins. But I do recollect my encounter with Bombay (Mumbai) after MONSOON WEDDING.
"Barring Anurag Kashyap who on a phone call, offered me a part in GULAAL (which by the time it got made I had already left for my studies in acting at New York University), I met eight other directors and they were willing to meet the 'maid' from MONSOON WEDDING but did not know what to do with her, in her jeans and t-shirt avatar.
"There was no independent cinema as we know it now. And so I decided to leave for New York and learn the craft. It was during the end of my time there, that things began to change in terms of narratives, actors and I decided to come back. It will always be tough though to tell the stories we want to, in the way we want to."
Having been a part of various short films, apart from movies like SHANGHAI, BUDHIA SINGH: BORN TO RUN, HINDI MEDIUM and "A DEATH IN THE GUNJ, it was Anup Singh's QISSA which turned out to be a game-changer for Tillotama. As Kanwar, she essayed a girl child raised as a boy and caught up in a gender crisis.
QISSA opened my mind and body in a way that I am still processing. It came at the nadir of my hopelessness and opened my life to possibilities and a renewed optimism. The role itself made me discover the pleasure of having time in preparation for a part," she said.
Any more films in the space of HINDI MEDIUM?
"Maybe, maybe not. I have been typecast as a 'maid' and it did me good in hindsight. So perhaps being the 'bossy bitch' a few times should not be so bad. I do hope to not repeat myself though, that would be a nightmare of boring proportions," quipped the actress, who will also be seen in Nandita Das' MANTO.
Both SIR and MANTO were showcased in Cannes. It was a "double whammy" that came when Tillotama least expected it.
She says she has no idea about the future and prefers to live in the present.
"I know that my journey is long, I know that there will be boulders of self doubt and rejections enroute. I hope to remind myself at those difficult times, of the massive encouragement I have received. I also need to hold on to the fact that my journey will be unique and the rewards unexpected. The only certainty is that I am an actor and am here to stay."
By Radhika Bhirani