Ruchika Oberoi’s debut feature film, Island City won the FEDORA Prize for the Best Young Director at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. Stringing together three different stories connected through the common theme of Mumbai, the film has received rave reviews across festivals and is being appreciated for its dark humor and disturbing yet existential insights into city life.

The impressive cast of the film consists of brilliant actors like Vinay Pathak, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Amruta Subhash where each of them represent a different tale that dwells into the isolation that they experience in their life. In a candid chat with Pandolin, the actors Vinay, Tannishtha and Amruta share more insights on the film, their source of inspiration for their roles and how they related to the characters they play.

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(L-R) Amruta Subhash, Vinay Pathak and Tannishtha Chatterjee

Give us an insight into how you got associated with the movie.

Vinay: I stole the script from Ruchika Oberoi (Director) and read it. (Laughs) Once I read it, I pestered her to make the film; I told her that films like these don’t get made today. I also shared the script with Tannishtha (Chatterjee) and we would discuss the story very animatedly. We had the same thought, that a film like this has to be made, because movies like these are not written anymore and even if they are written, no one makes them. Ruchika too agreed to make the movie and finally NFDC came on board and then the rest is history.

Amruta: I auditioned for the film with Mansi Multani who is the casting director of the film. And that is how I got the movie. I had read the script and was extremely curious about the story and character. Once you read the script you realize that this is a fantastic story which needs to be made.


Can you throw some light on your characters and where did you draw inspiration to play such intense characters?

Vinay: There are three different stories; I represent the corporate world, one represents a household scenario while the other story is about a working woman. The script itself served as inspiration for these stories and the characters. If you read the story, the script tells you everything that you need to know about the character. There was no need to look outside the script, it was extremely well-written and thus, inspiring.

There was no need to look outside the script, it was extremely well-written and thus, inspiring

The movie traveled to the Venice International Film Festival, what was the response that you received?

Amruta: We had a great time. The people in Venice really appreciated the movie. Italians loved the film and it was a full house.

Tannishtha: Italians are of similar temperament as Indians, so they enjoyed the humor in the movie. They were laughing and seemed to understand the humorous elements in the film, which were not only limited to verbal humor, but had visual humor as well.

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Tannishtha Chatterjee in a still from Island City

Tannishtha, we have seen you in very diverse roles; how do you cope with the challenge that comes with each such role?

I think that when you have a good script, then it is not challenging. If I have a good script, I don’t try and improvise it much and try to stick to whatever the script tells me. This is more relevant in films because in theater, an actor can improvise during rehearsals, they can explore and do a lot of things. In films, an actor does bring these elements, but if it’s not written well you can’t do anything with it. Therefore, films are a very director-driven medium and I’ve been lucky because I have worked with very good directors, who’ve helped me bring out various kinds of characters. Moreover, the way they write is the main thing; the way they sketch out the journey of the character and its complexity determine how well you can portray it on screen.


Amruta, you have worked in Marathi cinema and television, and your character in this film is obsessed with a TV soap actress. Was it easy to connect with such a character?

Definitely, I connected a lot (with the character) because even while I was working in a daily soap, the way the audience would react, would really surprise me. They would not realize that this is TV and not reality. In this movie, I got a chance to play that audience and this role reversal was quite exciting. Also, there is a love story in the film where I have never met the actor, but I love him. And I have experienced this, because since childhood, I have been in love with Amir Khan, but he has no idea. (laughs) So this was something that I could easily relate to.

Amruta Subhash in a still from Island City

Amruta Subhash in a still from Island City

Vinay what about you, were you able to connect with your character, Suyash Chaturvedi?

Yes, I do understand where the character is coming from. In fact, I know a couple of people who have been through a similar situation. They are so immersed and engrossed in their job and daily life that they can’t see beyond it, can’t think beyond it, forget about living beyond it. People tend to get lost in the hectic lifestyle of the city and then start thinking that this is your life because that is what a city does to you. It is so large that you feel dwarfed when you are stuck in the daily humdrum of life.

In the current time, there are so many other things in the city that encage you within yourself, within the boundary of your work and house in a way that you think that this is the world and that there is nothing beyond. This movie is a micro vision of the world so that we can look at it and see that the people in it don’t know the world beyond. I also think that it is a very exciting script to come out in today’s time because it is breaking norms and stereotype; it doesn’t follow any Bollywood trend, it simply tells the story. Moreover, by the end of the film, you realize how intricately the stories are connected to each other.

I also think that it is a very exciting script to come out in today’s time because it is breaking norms and stereotype

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Vinay Pathak in a still from Island City

What is it that you’ve taken back from this movie?

Vinay: The first thing that I would say is that I got to work with an exciting filmmaker who I had sensed earlier. The way that she had written the script is just brilliant. I also got to work with some of the most amazing actors from the industry. Everything about the movie has been on a high and positive note for me.

Amruta:  It was a similar experience for  me too. I got to work with some brilliant people. Moreover, Ruchika is brilliant, there are some movies that you do mechanically, but I have been fortunate as this film made me feel alive and it is only because of Ruchika that I got those moments.


Is there something in the pipeline that we can look forward to?

Vinay: Amruta and I have a film called Chidiya that will be coming up in the near future.

Tannishtha: There are a few more releases coming up. There is Parched. Also, there is a movie that I am shooting right now which is about the first female practicing doctor of India. There is another Hollywood movie called Lion that is going to release this year.

Transcribed by Aarti Sukhija