Desi-Box caught up with upcoming Bollywood star and Kingfisher model Tena Desae, who is one the stars of the forthcoming film ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. The film stars Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel as well as British Hollywood legends Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson. The 20th Century Fox production tells the story of British retirees who travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Despite being not as advertised, the Marigold Hotel slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.
Tena gave Desi-Box an insight into her new film, including how it was like working with an acclaimed cast, how she got into the film industry and working with Anupam Kher.
DB: Welcome to London Tena how are you finding the snow?
Tena Desae: I am loving the fact that there is snow here. It hasn’t affected me, I know it has caused problems for everyone else but I’m excited to see the snow here!
In this film you play an independent and modern Indian girl, how does it compare to your previous roles?
In my first film Yeh Faasley I also played a strong independent woman as well. But in that film I was playing a girl on a mission who was seeking justice for her murdered mother. It was a very dark and intense film. This on the other hand is a comic drama which is a lot more light hearted and the role was more fun to play. It was a different type of strong independent character. She is ambitious but also rooted in her culture. She respect’s people who are orthodox and old fashioned, but she still does her own thing and has a mind of her won. It’s very much how Indians are today in terms of the younger generations
DB: What was it like working with British Hollywood heavyweights such as Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggi Smith?
Tena Desae: It was so exciting. When I find out they were part of the film I was super thrilled. I’m a big James Bond and huge Harry Potter film fan so when I found out professor McGonagall and M was part of the film I was thrilled to pieces. Not forgetting Bill Nighy from Pirates of the Caribbean and of course Dev Patel. I went into my first audition not knowing who the cast of the film were. But the senior actors were really great as they understood what a new comer was going through, they were so easy to talk to and not intimidating. I was able to have conversations with them which I value and treasure because I could actually talk to them on a level. It was like watching acting school infront of you. You are watching these actors who have done the most amazing films. It was a brilliant experience
DB: The promos show that you and Dev Patel have great chemistry, what was it like working with him and what was he like on set?
Tena Desae: Dev is Jim Carrey on 500 red bulls. He is very funny. He was always making faces and making me laugh. He is so energetic and entertaining. As soon as he landed on set everybody knew. I was very stunned by the variety he brings in his acting. When he does a scene he does it differently every time. Every take is different from the last. I would watch him and see his body language change, then listening to his lines I would notice it was funny this time and in the next line he said it in a heart-warming way. About the chemistry; he was very chilled and we kept the communication going. We did a lot of rehearsals together so that we could keep trying various things which we thought would be great before going to John who would give us his expertise. He was really chilled out and relaxed about the kissing scenes in the film too.
DB: We’ve seen many doors open for Frieda Pinto after her successful debut in Slumdog Millionaire, do you think that might be the same for you?
Tena Desae: I hope! I hope and wish it will. I loved the experience alongside the cast and the team. I do hope I will do more work in the west.
DB: From your experience do you think modelling is the only real gateway to acting in Indian cinema?
Tena Desae: I chose to do enter they industry through modelling. If you can get in through Miss India, that is also a really great platform too. I chose modelling because wanted to gain experience and you also get an ad reel to show directors. I also got to learn about camera angles and lighting and did tiny bits of acting. From the time I knew I wanted to act and was planning a route in I chose it via modelling. There is no pattern of course but I chose this route.
DB: You’ve worked with Bollywood legend Anupam Kher in your last 2 film, what was it like working alongside him?
Tena Desae: He is a brilliant actor. With my first film he was such a darling. He sat me down and talked to me for an hour. About my background, acting, family and what I have been doing. He made me feel so calm. He has such a warm presence and it has been such an honour to work with such an amazing actor. I hope to work with him again.
DB: Have you seen any of the Oscar contending films this year and which have you enjoyed?
Tena Desae: I have. I recently saw Moneyball and Tinker Tailor which were great. I’ve yet to see The Descendents which just came out as I had just left to come here. I will definitely catch it when i go back.
DB: Have you got any other projects that you have been working on?
Tena Desae: I have had a few meetings in December and I am in talks with a few people at the moment. So hopefully there will be a few projects in the pipeline
DB: Why should we watch ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ ?
Tena Desae: It’s a great comedy drama with lots of beautiful India and yummy characters! I hope everyone check out the film on the 24th February.