Tina Desai lives the Marigold hotel dream once more and emerges with a smile

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 25.03.15

Tina Desai with Dev Patel in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Your character Sunaina and Dev Patel’s Sonny are getting married this time around?
Yes… it’s the big fat Indian wedding. It’s all very grand and all the guests of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel join in. Someone is making the wedding speech and someone else is organising the wedding. They obviously all have things going on in their own lives, while Sonny and Sunaina are going through their own stuff. Sonny wants to expand the hotel. He is someone who has giant ambitions which might seem unreal at first glance. He stresses a lot because of these big dreams. So Sunaina is trying to do her best to keep him calm and support him. 

What was it like to reunite with the film’s dream team to shoot this new story?
Everyone came back happily. It’s not easy for a senior cast like this to shoot a film like this in India for two-three months. Almost the entire crew from the first film came back to make this one. We are talking about 300 people... so that should tell you how much people loved making the first film. At any given point, someone or the other would have their immediate family on the set.... so everyone knows everyone on this film. I know it sounds like a cliche, but we really are like a family. A lot of us have kept in touch between the films. This time when we got together for this film, we were more than just colleagues. 

 These actors could do a scene in 15 different ways if you wanted them to! It just boggles the mind. After all these years, every single one of them is still so passionate about their craft

Dev recently told t2 that he is still in awe of working with the likes of Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Judi Dench. What about you?
It’s impossible to not be in awe when you are around this cast. They are all a class apart. You can’t tire watching them. I feel lucky to have had this opportunity for a second time. Maggie’s character (Muriel) is narrating the story this time around. Her character is very salty and cynical… she has some fantastic lines in the film and she brings those lines to life. Even Bill Nighy (who plays Douglas Ainslie) is so brilliant. There are scenes where he doesn’t have dialogues, but he makes such an impact. 

Working with such thespians must have been like being in acting school every day. What did you learn from them?
They have broadened my perspective about my craft. I have learnt how to use silences and movements more effectively. How John Madden directs is that he would rehearse a scene with everyone and then step up the camera. Normally, it’s done the other way around. What happens when you don’t have to think about the technical aspects is that you are more free with your performance.
Also, every actor is constantly bettering their performance in the rehearsal, so you have no choice but to follow their lead. These actors could do a scene in 15 different ways if you wanted them to! It just boggles the mind. After all these years, every single one of them is still so passionate about their craft. 
Most of them are senior even in terms of their age and still they won’t take the easy way out. They never called a stand-in or an assistant even if they were out of focus in the scene. That level of disciple is incredible to see. 

The film had two high-profile premieres in London and New York…
Yes, and they were both so much fun. It was really, really cold at both the premieres, but that’s where the similarities end. The premiere in London was at Leicester Square that had turned into mini-India. There was marigold and super-bright colours everywhere. They had Hindi music playing and Bollywood dances. It was all very high energy. My family was there with me and I was really proud to be representing India. I wore a beautiful Manish Malhotra lehnga. In New York, we were joined by Richard Gere, Dev and Bill Nighy who couldn’t be there in London.

Now that you’ve been a part of two hit Hollywood projects and are doing Sense8, a TV show for Netflix, would you consider moving West and giving up on Bollywood?
I don’t know. (Pauses) I am really afraid to leave home. It was so tough for me to even move from Bangalore, where my family lives, to Mumbai. Thankfully they moved here with me. For now, I am comfortable travelling between Mumbai and LA, but I can’t imagine shifting base just yet. While I can’t compare myself to someone like Irrfan Khan, he managed to travel between the two industries... so why 
can’t I? 

Karishma Upadhyay