Bollywood Hungama’s two-day OTT India Fest saw various reputed celebs making their presence felt and raising important points. One such actor who rocked the show was Tillotama Shome. Before she went on stage, she spoke exclusively to Bollywood Hungama about her latest projects and a lot more.EXCLUSIVE: Tillotama Shome opens up on the BLOCKBUSTER box office performance of Is Love Enough? – SIR: “It is one of the HIGHEST running Indian films in France”; also says “I am too middle class to understand that I’ll have to pay money to promote myself”
We saw you in The Night Manager Season 2 and Lust Stories 2 in June. Both ventures got a lot of acclaim, especially your performances. The month of June, thus, must be special for you…
(Smiles) It was wonderful. I turned 44 this year. Hence, it was a happy time! It’s nice to grow up. I feel very lucky to come out of the harrowing time of Covid-19 pandemic. When you go through a hard time, you come out richer. When I got the work I did and the chance to play such roles that too from diverse storytellers, I realized that something has shifted. After Covid, I could appreciate complexities more. So, all the work that happened for me post Covid which includes Lust Stories 2 and The Night Manager etc. had different parts for me.
Many actors would not take up the characters that you played in Delhi Crime 2 and Lust Stories 2. Weren’t you apprehensive about how people would react to it on social media?
Since I have bifocal spectacles, I can’t spend too much time on social media as my eyes get strained. There are certain advantages thanks to your disadvantages! But I guess those days are gone when women would not play negative roles kyunki log kya sochenge…
No, I mean the characters you played were twisted to another level…
I never saw it that way. I saw Karishma in Delhi Crime 2 as a criminal as she had obviously committed a crime. But many crimes were committed to her as well. She was forced to be a mother. Nobody asks women most of the time. It is assumed that all women want to be mothers. These kinds of obligations that society compels on those who have less of a support structure, can create a tremendous sense of psychosis, claustrophobia and an attack on one’s identity. Society has to take responsibility for what it would lead them to do. Also, my intention was not to show Karishma as a badass, cool person. There was nothing cool about killing a person. It will look cool only if it is treated like that. Also, after my mother got diagnosed with cancer, I ensure that I play my characters without judgment. Let the audience judge. When I don’t judge, I think the audience also accepts all her complexities. They didn’t judge my character in Lust Stories 2. We were afraid since she is not sanskaari enough. She is a voyeur. But the way Konkona Sen Sharma and Pooja Tolani wrote the character, you feel her sadness and loneliness.
Also, the right kind of people handled both the series…
That makes all the difference. To come back to your original question, I have a limit of 30 minutes to 60 minutes of spending time on social media. Shayad, criticism miss ho gaya. Ya shayad acchi cheezein hi likhi thi logon ne. Moreover, people who I interacted with after the show was out never made me feel that they judged me. In short, if you don’t judge your character, the audience won’t judge her either.
Your film Is Love Enough? – SIR (2020) was one of the first ones to be released on the big screen after the pandemic. It was brave of the makers to do so when no one was ready to step out of their homes, forget going to the cinemas…
Absolutely. That time was such that we were wondering whether or not we should release it and whether people would come to cinemas. But I think it was important for the director Rohana Gera that she didn’t make it a festival film. I admire her guts and also that of producer Shildaditya Bora. Many in the industry would appreciate your work and say ‘Batao aapke saath kya kar sakte hai’. Lekin kaam karta koi nahin hai. But he was an exception as he kept his word.
Is Love Enough? – SIR got widespread acclaim after it dropped on Netflix…
Oh my God! That was actually the time I spent on social media because I realized that people are not saying ‘Aapki acting bahut acchi hai’. Instead, the tone of the messages was very confessional that even they felt attracted to somebody who didn’t belong to their class. They felt guilty that they couldn’t express it or that they never gave it the respect and honour. This is when I felt that I must respond back as much as I can.
Is Love Enough? – SIR is a huge hit in France and other European territories. It is like another The Lunchbox (2013). Sadly, not much is spoken about it (Is Love Enough? – SIR's opening week gross of 58,860 euros in France, for example, is more than that of Sanju, RRR, Good Newwz, Thugs Of Hindostan, Zero, Vikram Vedha, Gangubai Kathiawadi etc)
Yes. It is one of the highest running Indian films in France. It got a wide theatrical release in many countries. At Cannes, it won the distributor’s award which is given to films they feel will do well theatrically. They were right as it played for a long time in many territories. The number of territories we locked just after the few screenings at Cannes was way beyond we ever imagined. It's huge for an indie film produced in India. But with the theatrical release in India, we had given up. However, once it was released on Netflix, we couldn’t believe it. We felt kuch toh ghapla hua hai (laughs). After all, aise kaise ho sakta hai ki koi advertising nahin and yet, people are watching it in hordes. Hence, it was surprising.
I saw your another indie film, Raahgir – The Wayfarers, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Goutam Ghose, at the Jio MAMI Film Festival 2019. Why hasn’t it released yet on digital, if not theatrically?
I really don’t know. This is a part of the process where I detach myself. You have to wait so many years waiting for your work to come out and for people to see it. After some time, you learn to let go.
But it must be disheartening. Also, you shot the film in challenging situations…
It was very hard to shoot the film. I was happy that I got the opportunity to learn kyunki pehle toh woh nahin milti thi. Har film ki kismat alag hoti hai. For me, they are all equal in the richness they give me. Earlier, I used to be heavily depressed thinking (why is my work not coming out).
You had a lovely part in your debut film, Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001). The recent Disney+ Hotstar release, Gulmohar, reminded many of that film. It also had a similar track of the love story of the maid. Did Gulmohar remind you of Monsoon Wedding as well?
I did. The director Rahul V Chittella is Mira’s associate. So, that must have been an unconscious homage.
Thanks to your successful web ventures, are you now offered better scripts?
Absolutely. Work begets work especially when the work does well and has huge viewership This is especially in the case of Delhi Crime 2, Lust Stories 2 and The Night Manager Season 2.
You recently made an interesting comment that “The audience fought for me to be on the poster of The Night Manager 2.” It must have been heartening to see yourself on the poster and hoardings…
It was, especially since I don’t have a paid PR. I am too middle class to understand that I’ll have to pay money to promote myself. I used to feel that since I don’t pay for PR, I won’t get too much work. All these doubts were put to rest. I realize that I can be myself. Work will come when it has to come. The work I did got me more work.
Now, I don’t want to exhaust myself. There were times when I would feel lucky if I got one film in 2-3 years. At present, I am doing 4-5 of them in a year. It’s already a lot. I don’t want more. Then I’ll get exhausted and bored. It’ll reflect in my performance. Then you guys will be bored watching me!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like visiting my parents in Kolkata. I love gardening a lot. In Mumbai, there’s not much space and yet, I have 25 plants. I get plants wherever I go. I had recently gone to Kota from where I got a sapling. I talk to plants and take care of them. I love gardening because it is important for me to see things grow and then die. In plants, you think it’s all finished but suddenly, a seed will sprout. That feeling is indescribable. It gives me a lot of hope. It also makes me understand that you won’t be riding the wave all the time. I will have a good time. I might then have a not-so-good time after that. But then times will change. I get this understanding not from statistics but from the plants (smiles).
I also love doing embroidery. It’s so detail-oriented that while you are doing it, you can’t think of anything else. It gives you a complete state of thoughtlessness. Embroidery can strain my eyes and still, I do it. Also, I love spending time with my family. I feel that it’s my parents’ blessings during Covid time that got me through. The work came at a time when I needed it and my family needed it the most. I make sure I never take my time with them for granted.
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