Inam prepared me for Coffee Bloom – Sugandha Garg
Actress Sugandha Garg was first seen as a funkily-dressed teenager in Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Naa. A few films and six years later she re-emerges as a complicated woman caught between her husband and ex-lover in Manu Warrier’s Coffee Bloom. In an exclusive chat the actress cum television host talks about her upcoming projects and what kept her away from the big screen.
Can you tell us a little about your role in Manu Warrier’s Coffee Bloom and what made you say ‘yes’ to it?
It’s really great that even though two men (Manu and Sharath Parvathavani) wrote the film, they have managed to write a well-etched complex female protagonist. My character, Anika, isn’t simple; she is not put on a pedestal or revered for being perfect. She is a woman of her own and goes through grey spaces in the film. She is very real in that regard. It’s great to have women roles which are not represented in a stereotypical way and put into brackets. I think it’s a role that one has to play very subtly. It was the strong female characterisation that made me say ‘yes’ to Coffee Bloom.
Arjun Mathur, who plays your ex-lover in the film worked with you in My Name Is Khan. He recommended you to Manu Warrier for the role. Can you throw light on your association with him?
Arjun and I are not 3 A.M. friends. There is a camaraderie though. During My Name is Khan we were much younger and didn’t know anyone. We were surrounded by these great artists like Kajol and Shah Rukh (Khan), who have been in the industry for a while. So Arjun and I would hang out together. We don’t see each other all the time, but I am extremely fond of him. Arjun is such a champion at shooting indie films. He is committed, punctual and there is no ego in play. He has a great work ethic which I relate to as well. Apart from the fact that he suggested my name and we have worked together, I really enjoy his work ethic which is very pro-filmmaking.
Did you undergo any psychological preparations for Anika’s role?
I had just come back from a mountaineering course and a month later I got busy with Santosh Sivan’s film Inam, which is a very intense film about a Sri Lankan refugee girl. The film made me very confident and I got to do things, as an actor, which I had never tried before. Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Naa, Tere Bin Laden and My Name Is Khan were lighter parts. I came out of Inam and went straight into Coffee Bloom, so there was a part of me that prepared to deal with conflicts and relationship drama that Anika’s character goes through. It came very naturally to me. I think my previous film prepared me for it. I am very thankful that Arjun thought of me at that point. One day the director called me, I read the script and immediately agreed to do it.
Arjun is a friend so did the personal rapport make it awkward or comfortable to do intimate scenes?
It’s weird you know, as actors one moment you say hi and in the next moment you are kissing them. The distance between the handshake and kiss is quick. But when you are sitting on the set where people have put in money and are waiting for you to get on with your role, then like lighting a set, kissing your co-actor is just a job. I am not taking away from the intensity such moments have. I remember my heart was going crazy when we had to shoot an intimate scene. I remember the sound guy actually asking if I was ok. As a human reaction you feel something but when the lights come on, then suddenly the (actor) switch goes on.
Your last mainstream release was in 2010, Tere Bin Laden, followed by the internationally-acclaimed Patang. What kept you busy till Coffee Bloom happened?
Post Tere Bin Laden I did take a little time off because when you start out with a smaller part then one tends to get only that kind of work. It’s very once in a while that a film like Jaane Tu… comes your way where even the secondary cast are strong characters. Ninety nine per cent of films don’t have strong secondary roles. The reason I didn’t do films is because I like the idea of making something where I am an integral part of it, where it’s a creative collaboration and not just a job.
So I took a couple of years off acting; I hosted a travel show (It happens only in India), TV show What’s with Indian Men? and then I did a course in mountaineering. I came back and decided that if I am going to act then I will do parts where there’s something to do. I kind of decided that for myself and I got four films with strong female parts. Isn’t it insane? I can see that I have grown up as an actor and am ready to handle slightly more complex parts.
Inam, Coffee Bloom don’t seem like the mainstream fare of films. Are you consciously staying away from typical commercial Hindi cinema?
I did the Tere Bin Laden sequel which is fully commercial. Then there’s Shefali Bhushan’s Jugni, again a full-on commercial film filled with music. So it’s not that I am not interested in commercial films…I feel that any film that makes money is commercial. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a song and dance film. And the best way to make money of a film is a good script. All these four films (Inam, Coffee Bloom, Jugni and Tere Bin Laden sequel) that I have done and will release this year have absolutely tremendous scripts and that’s why I did them.
Are you happy with the way your career is progressing?
I am very happy with the way I am approaching my career. I am not approaching with any agendas of getting famous or making potlucks of money. I am just approaching it with the intent that I want to do projects that give me satisfaction as a creative artist. I am very happy about that and not letting anything else get to me.