Mumbai, July 17 (IANS) Delhi girl Tannishtha Chatterjee‘s is going places. After a stellar performance in Sarah Gavron’s “Brick Lane”, she now teams up with Hollywood actor Martin Sheen in a film about the Bhopal gas tragedy.
“It is directed by a British-Indian director Ravi Kumar. There’re only two Indian actors in the ensemble cast played by Rajpal Yadav and me,” Tannishtha, who played an oppressed wife in “Brick Lane”, told IANS.
“Martin’s role is fabulously written. It’s neither black nor white. It’s a very relevant subject. The director is originally from Bhopal; so, that helps,” she adds. Sheen will play Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson in the film titled “Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain”.
The Bhopal gas tragedy, considered the world’s worst industrial disaster, took place on Dec 2-3, 1984. A Union Carbide pesticide plant leaked over 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, killing at least 3,800 people and affecting many more.
Tannishtha says she is happy doing cinema with a social conscience. “I learnt acting from the National School Of Drama (NSD) in Delhi. Then I went to Europe for a year to work with different theatre directors. Now I’m happy being a part of a cinema that’s more than just entertainment.
“I did a German film called ‘Shadows Of Time’ three years ago. That was a breakthrough for me,” says Tannishtha, who played a Kolkata-based courtesan in the film.
“I also did a Bengali film – Subrato Sen’s ‘Bibhor’. It was written by Bengali litterateur Samresh Basu and I played a call girl in it. The French just loved me in that. Then there was ‘Brick Lane’ which has changed the profile of my career.”
There were reports that “Brick Lane” was offered to a lot of actresses, including Sameera Reddy.
Tannishtha corrects the perception saying: “The director Sarah Gavron had seen me in ‘Shadows Of Time’ at the Toronto Film Festival. She came to India and met all kinds of actresses. I was the first person she met. But she couldn’t believe the first actress could be the best choice.
“I remember I had returned from Paris and went straight for the audition in jeans – a far cry from the Bangladeshi housewife in Britain that I had to play. Next time, however, I wore a sari and tied my hair.”
“Brick Lane” won Tannishtha a best-actress nomination at the British Independent Films Awards.
“It was an honour to be nominated alongside Judi Dench and Zohra Sehgal, who is my role model. These two actresses show such spirit at their age. My first play was with Zohra Sehgal. At 90, she remembered every line. She was better prepared than I was. It was an eye-opening experience.”
Tannishtha played Satish Kaushik‘s repressed wife in London who has an adulterous affair with a young British-Asian boy. The actress says she believes in the character she has played.
“I completely believed in the character of Nazneen. During my research, I met many such repressed wives. And they weren’t necessarily Asian. In fact, the novel by Monica Ali was very popular among British women. Such women have never experienced normal things like teenage infatuation. So for Nazneen, the boy is a window to an unexplored world. It’s very real.”
Tannishtha also worked in Sanjay Jha’s “Strings” but says the experience was not so good.
“While I was shooting for ‘Brick Lane’ in London, he got someone else to dub my voice. I had offered to do it before I left. He added all those stupid giggles to my character. I do giggle in real life. But not for that character.”
‘Tannishtha’ has just finished debutant director Rajan Menon’s “Barah Aana”.
“Again a very contemporary subject about migrants in Mumbai, about the have-not and the haves.
“I’m also doing an eco-friendly film, ‘White Elephant’, produced by the NFDC (National Film Development Corporation). It’s going to be directed by ad maker Eijaaz Khan and will be shot in Kerala. It’s based on a popular folk tale.”
So no dancing around the trees for Tannishtha? “Let me save the trees first,” she shoots back.
— By Subhash K. Jha