As Gurinder Chadha is ready to hit the Indian audience with another of her British Punjabi film It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, the leading lady of the film, Goldy Notay can’t be happier as working with the charismatic Shabana Azmi was like a dream come true for her. Gurinder’s last leading lady Parminder Nagra did famously after Bend It Like Beckham, what is in store of Goldy Notay then? In conversation with Chandni Dev at Bollywood Hungama, Goldy revealed who she really is, the life changing experience of working with Gurinder and Shabana Azmi and what lies beyond.
So first big film? How does it feel Goldy?
I did other films before. This would be my first in terms of a big role. Last year I did a film called London Dreams, which was a Hollywood film, and a few others. This is my largest part and it feels incredible. Gurinder has just given me an amazing gift. I love playing Roopi and to work opposite Shabana Azmi who I’ve been a fan off for so many years. It’s such an honour to work with both of them really.
This would be my first in terms of a big role
How was it working with Gurinder Chadha?
It was wonderful working with Gurinder, a real dream come true for me. I asked Gurinder to come and see a play that I was doing and she came and she told me that she had an idea growing to a script. She came to see the play and contacted me. So for me the way I would see that one call, was momentous and life changing for me. She has been absolutely wonderful to me by taking me under her wing and such a learning curve for me being part of that experience.
Tell us something about Roopi how do you see that character?
I loved playing her. She is a lovely girl. Unfortunately she hasn’t been lucky in love and she has a recent relationship that has been sabotaged. She has been very self deprecating. She doesn’t know what she deserves, all the good things in life that we all think we should be entitled too. She is a feminist and she is very loyal. She is good to everybody else in her life but she is just not good to herself. So it was quite a journey for me to play her and for her to eventually find her own confidence.
In an interview you said that Roopi is like the Asian Ugly Betty, what’s that story?
I just think that a lot of it was a bit Ugly Bettyish in terms of it being quite surreal. I just think that she was quite similar to the character that was there in Ugly Betty. She really is the heart of the peep and yet everybody else is making very unfavourable comments about her. but she still is nonchalant and she still doesn’t try to change herself to be somebody else to please other people. So I really try to take that in consideration when working on Roopi. But her heart has to be very strong so it did remind me of an Asian Ugly Betty.
It did remind me of an Asian Ugly Betty.
Being Pushy with a feminist daughter, that is close to impossible. How is the relationship between Roppi and her mum?
It was a lovely relationship. It was quite similar to the relationship I had with my mum except that my Mom never murdered anybody. But I think Roopi’s mom wants her to be secure and to find love and you’ll find out why, when you see the film. Why she wants that to happen is because of a distinct reason. So Shabana’s character, like any mother, really just wants her daughter to go through all the right phases and to be secured and to be fulfilled and have the good mix of all that life has to offer. That’s what she wants for her daughter. And even though Roopi is a feminist and even though she has a very bad relationship in the past, I’m sure, in her heart she would like to meet somebody. It may not necessarily be the way her mom imagines her to do it but I think she goes along with all of that because she is very loyal to her mum. She is a feminist but she is also very loyal so in terms of those nuances Shabana and I needed to work and spend a lot of time talking about feminism and spent a lot of time talking about having proper relationships and added all of that in our mother daughter relationship.
But I think Roopi’s mom wants her to be secure and to find love
Was Shabana like a mother on the sets? Your first film with her and her first film in British film, what kind of chemistry did you guys develop?
I’ve always been a big fan of Shabana. I have seen every film that she has done, not necessarily the Bollywood films but the other Art House films. Working with her was an honour. I was a little bit nervous in the beginning because she is such a super star but she was wonderful to me. She put all of my fears to rest by giving me a big hug and right from the beginning we started talking about all the things we liked and she asked me about my relationship with my mother. Going through the conversation, any of the nerves that I had initially, just disappeared. I really appreciated that she did that for me. We became very close as the film progressed as well. She is still looking after me. At the day of the premiere here in London she called me from India to wish me well and to apologise for not being able to come. And ever so often she calls to check how I am. She is very much a surrogate mother I would say.
You must have to gain quite a bit of weight to play Roopi, were you a bit apprehensive about that?
I was a little bit nervous about what people might think, but I had to remind myself that I had to find Roopi. That was my main consideration and not what people might think. It was about finding the true essence of Roopi and whatever I needed to do to get there I was prepared to do that. And half of that was to gain weight because a lot of people make some very unfavourable comments about the way that she looks and her weight. So it was very crucial; to find Roopi physically. So I gained about two stones by the end of it, which was very important. And in terms of looking unglamorous that was another thing that I had to do because it was important for Roopi. So I had to stop thinking about me as an actress and me as Goldy and what was best for me. I had to start thinking about what was best for Roopi.
People in India don’t know much about Goldy; tell us what your life has been till now.
Well I grew up in India actually, I was born in India-In Punjab spent a bit of my childhood there and then we moved to Canada and then to India and then back to Canada and then I moved to England. I wanted to be an actress but I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I remember once my mom was watching this film called Laila Majnu, which is quite an old film, and I remember telling her that I want to do something like that and my Mom said ‘No!’ (Chuckles) when I got older I got involved in theatre at school and then I went to Drama school for three years and I studied acting. Then when I finished I was in my first film which was a Mira Nair film and I had a very small part in it. that was at that time that I saw Bhajii On The Beach and decided that maybe I should shift to England because it seems there were more opportunities there than in Canada especially for Asians. So that’s how it all happened.
I saw Bhajii On The Beach and decided that maybe I should shift to England
Weren’t your parents against your decision to act?
I think after working with Gurinder and working with Shabana I am a bona fide actress. Of course my parents wanted something that is more secure, something that is more stable but they are very proud of me now. And they are very happy that I worked with Shabana as she is someone they regard with great esteem. So I thank Shabana and Gurinder for changing my Charisma
Of course my parents wanted something that is more secure
Gurinder wrote a recommendation for you when you decided to be a part of Sex And The City 2. What did the letter say?
I had an audition for Sex And The City 2 after doing It’s A Wonderful Afterlife. When I was given the part they had asked Gurinder to write something and as far as I know, because I haven’t actually read it, it was quite a beautiful letter where she just expressed her joy in working with me and her decision to cast me as Roopi. I put that letter with a pile of things that I had to send to America and to procure a visa. I really appreciated Gurinder for doing that.
Having done It’s a Wonderful Afterlife and then Sex And The City 2, where would you rather go? Would you like to do a Bollywood film or is it always going to be an English language film?
I would do everything and anything that interests me as an actress. I have no boundaries in terms of countries. In terms of languages, I can speak fluent Punjabi if given some time I can speak Hindi as well. I just want to work; I want to play different characters. I love Underdog kind of characters and I also love playing glamorous roles so I have no boundaries.
In terms of languages, I can speak fluent Punjabi if given some time I can speak Hindi as well
How familiar are you with the Bollywood terrain?
I don’t watch Bollywood films all that often. Ever so often I do. But I watch more British Asian more western films more than I do Bollywood. Ever so often a gem comes my way. I still love the old Bollywood classic actually, I love Mughal E Azam, I love Sholay, I love to watch those like on a Sunday afternoon.
I still love the old Bollywood classic actually, I love Mughal E Azam, I love Sholay
Do you have a favourite in Bollywood, any actor that you really like?
I recently watched this film called My Name is Khan starring Shah Rukh Khan and I’ve forgotten the name of the actress. It was fabulous, I went in not knowing anything about the film, I knew about Shahrukh Khan but I wasn’t a great fan because I haven’t seen a lot of his work except for Devdas. So I really didn’t know what to expect. Gosh! It hit me in my guts that film, and his performance is just fabulous and Kajol was just jaw droppingly beautiful in that film. So yeah I am new fan of both of them.