UnIndian addresses many cultural cliches and breaks them: Tannishtha
In our previous conversation with the talented Tannishtha Chatterjee we spoke to her about the various aspects of her choices as a performer. To shed light on the finer details of working on her upcoming film UnIndian, in which she shares screen space with the cricket legend Brett Lee, who — as it turns out — is a ‘natural actor’, we reached out to the globe-trotting actress before the release of her film. Tannishtha indulges us in a conversation about the Indian-Australian film, women-centric cinema and what has made her past few films click in the international circuits.
How did you first find out about UnIndian and what drew you to the role?
I was approached by the director Anupam Sharma, who sent me the script, which I really liked. Then, he mentioned that Brett Lee was playing the male lead. I said, “Oh… is he an Australian actor?” And Anupam said, “No… I’m talking about the Brett Lee, the fastest bowler of his time.”
Interesting. How was the experience of working with debut director Anupam Sharma like?
Wonderful. He is committed, creative, full of energy and open for collaboration. He also loves taking care of his team, which makes him a really popular person.
Tell us a little bit about the premise of UnIndian.
It is a romantic comedy between an Indian girl and an Australian guy. Brett and I play the two leads. The film addresses many cultural clichés and then breaks them, as the story grows.
You’ve been cast in some dark, intense roles before. How was the experience of playing the role of an independent, single mom like for you?
Each film is different. I have enjoyed working on UnIndian a lot, as I have in many other films.
In an interview, Brett Lee mentioned that he ‘fed off’ your acting style for his performance, this being his first film. What was sharing screen space with the cricket legend like?
Brett, apart from everything else, is a great human being. I have really cherished knowing him as a person. And he is a natural actor, so I really enjoyed working with him.
In your opinion, what gives the film a sense of universality?
It’s a love story, and has family drama. That is always universal, something that would never change.
The characters are contemporary; my character Meera is really strong, independent, has a high-flying job and is a single mom as well. A real, confident woman reflecting present times.
Your recent films like Island City / Angry Indian Goddesses / Parched have been doing the festival rounds to pretty great response. What do you think makes the films tick, and what has the whole experience been like?
It’s been pretty overwhelming. Island City won the best debut director in the oldest and most prestigious film festival in the world: Venice Film Festival. It’s an excellent film, and it will be played at MAMI, as well. Ruchika Oberoi is a bright filmmaker, a graduate of FTII. Angry Indian Goddesses won the first runner up People’s Choice Award in Toronto, and Parched got great reviews in Toronto as well.
The reviews for my performances consisted of much appreciation, and I think it’s good scripts and fearless filmmaking that makes these films tick. Today many directors from India are able to make films which are getting appreciation internationally; I am happy to have been part of many such films for a number of years now actually.
What are your thoughts on the portrayal of women in Indian cinema today (mainstream as well as alternative)?
I think it is slowly changing with some women-centric films happening, but it needs much more. More power to women directors, especially in mainstream cinema.
Describe in one line how you’d like the film to leave the viewer feeling.
“We want to see UnIndian, Part 2…”
What’s on the cards for you next?
The release of Island City.
Can you share some tips for actors who’d like to go beyond mainstream cinema and thrive in the international film industry?
There are no rules. You have to follow your instincts and just try to be a good actor. Acting is such a personal art form, that it is very difficult to give tips. Each person’s journey and experience is different from another’s. One has to create one’s own unique journey.