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Tillotama Shome: I feel a thrill and intimacy in front of camera

May 31st, 2017 | by Manisha Surange
Tillotama Shome: I feel a thrill and intimacy in front of camera

She made her debut with Monsoon Wedding way back in 2001, Tillotama Shome is exploring the “deep end” with films like Hindi Medium and A Death In The Gunj, and by attempting in various platforms. The actor says she is happy to explore.

“It has been an exciting phase for me as, in the last 15 months, I have played a ‘yes’ game and done seven films, hosted a TV show (‘Dristhi – Documentaries’) and travelled with Rajat Kapoor’s play ‘What is Done, Is Done’ in the US and India. I just wanted to jump into the deep end and figure out the strokes,” Tillotama told reporters in an email interview.

To share an example, she took on the role of an education consultant in Hindi Medium — a character that the film’s casting director felt could change the stereotype around Tillotama’s “intense, serious, poor, rural, activist and maid” portrayals. She is also going to be seen as a mother in Konkona Sen Sharma’s soon-to-release directorial debut A Death In The Gunj.

Tillotama was seen as Alice — the maid in Monsoon Wedding. She did a few English, Bengali and Hindi projects thereafter, but the game-changer was Anup Singh’s Punjabi film Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost. She created an impression with her performance as Kanwar, a girl child raised as a boy and caught up in a gender crisis.

After years, what came along was the play What’s Done, Is Done on Rajat’s persuasion. “I feel inadequate as an actor on stage. I don’t feel the sense of thrill and intimacy that I feel as an actor in front of the camera. But I trust Rajat immensely. I knew he and my co-actors would handle my fears with sensitivity.

“And hence, I was willing to jump in despite the crippling fear of being on stage and being found out to be an impostor. However, the failing, the fears, the disappointments on stage had a magical effect on my film work. I guess challenging a fear opens you up in ways unexpected,” she said. This experience let her then say “yes” to new projects.
A still from A Death In the Gunj.

In A Death In The Gunj, a family’s story set in 1970s McCluskieganj in Jharkhand, she will be seen as Bonnie, a mother who is not fussing about her kid and definitely does not want to miss out on the fun with her friends.
The movie’s world was familiar to her as she grew up in a “pretty liberal, unconventional home that travelled gypsy-like every four years and wherever we went we made new friends and the caravan of life was full of dancing, drinking, singing till late in the night and holidays to quaint little places”.

Along with an ensemble cast including actors like Tanuja, Vikrant Massey, Ranvir Shorey, Kalki Koechlin, Gulshan Devaiah, Jim Sarbh and the late Om Puri, and under Konkona’s direction, was akin to “living a dream” for her.

“There was no question of being overshadowed or wanting to overshadow,” the actor said when asked about any insecurity of being in a movie with a large cast.

“I know I harbour a million insecurities, but in this set I was utterly free of them because the film was bigger than everything else for me. I have played so many cameos and smaller parts and my focus has always been to explore and explode to the best that I can in the space given to me.

“Jane Austen, when critiqued about the narrow drawing room world of her novels, once said that this was the two inches of ivory that she was familiar with and her attempt was to carve as finely within those two inches.”

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