The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel(2015)
- RatedPG /GenreComedy, Drama
Tina Desai beguiled audiences as Sunaina, the beautiful girlfriend of Sonny (Dev Patel) in the 2012 movie, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’.
It was her first international work, but Desai is well-known in her native India, where she had been establishing herself as one of Bollywood’s most exciting new talents.
Born in Bangalore, Desai achieved early success on the talent-search show for models, ‘Get Gorgeous’, on India’s Channel V. She was offered a modelling contract even before the eventual winner of the show, and has since appeared in more than 100 commercials.
Among the highlights of her commercial work was the chance to co-star with her hero, Shahrukh Khan.
“I became an actress because of him,” she revealed. “I had my star moment where I teared up and almost fainted because I was hyperventilating.”
Desai made her Bollywood debut in 2011 as the lead in ‘Yeh Faasley’, alongside Anupam Kher and Pawan Malhotra. She also starred in ‘Sahi Dhandhe Galad Bande’, a Hindi action comedy from director Parvin Dabas. In 2013, she worked with Neil Nitin Mukesh in ‘Dussehra’.
Reuniting with the cast for ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ was a dream come true for Desai, who says shooting the first movie was her favourite filming experience to date.
MORE: 'The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' review
From the film’s set, she tells us what to expect of her character Sunaina’s continuing journey.
Sonny and Sunaina’s wedding forms the backbone of the second movie. What can you tell us about that?
The first film is all about India and the sights and sounds and smells. And so the different thing in this one would be the Indian wedding, which can be quite a large affair. That’s what this is about and they capture it really well. You think that Sonny and Sunaina’s relationship has matured because they’re ready for marriage, but I think Sonny just attracts trouble... And personally, I think Dev and I have known each other for a while now, so that also helps (with filming).
Are you very similar to Sunaina?
Oh no. I think Sunaina’s quite mature and understanding, and reasonable and sensible and all those things. And while I think I am those things too, I don’t like to show it. I like to show my irresponsible and immature self, so that everyone comes and fusses over me and I get attention.
Tina Desai at the movie's premiere in New York City | Photo: AFP
Did the first film change things for you?
Yes, it opened up a whole lot of opportunities for me. I did get myself a US manager and I’ve been testing for stuff on and off. That’s very satisfying for me because the sort of scripts written abroad and the sort written in India are very different. For me, to just have the opportunity to test for a lot of the stuff is exciting, because English films are fine with (portraying) flawed characters. They don’t have to be the hero or the heroine of the film, where everything’s perfect. They have those multi-layered characters, and they have things that aren’t really about romantic stories and there are very subtle themes. Just to have the opportunity to read, and therefore have the understanding of what can be done, helps me with my work in India.
You went to Hollywood and did the meet-and-greet. Was that fun?
It was really funny, because initially, when I was told about this, I was very excited. They said, “You’d be going here and there”, and it was my first time in the States. I was really thrilled, and then later I found out that it was only going to be (director) John (Madden) and me. I thought maybe I shouldn’t go, but I had already said yes.
But it turned out to be really great because I became the Indian representative. Anyone who wanted to know anything about the country or the shooting experience, or anything related to the culture, I was the official spokesperson for the country. I felt like I was on Miss World. “My country is like this…”
It worked out great – John could talk about the filming, and I could talk about anything India-related. It turned out to be a good team.
How has it been to reunite this cast? I guess no one expected there would be a sequel.
It was something I was praying for. It was something that I think we had possibly joked about once or twice, nothing more than that. I had such a good time on the first film. Everyone gets along really well and there are no egos. Everyone is extremely professional and passionate about their jobs. So I jumped at the chance the first time I heard about this sequel.
Also, this time, they know everything about India. They know where to go shopping and they know what kind of food to eat. I’m not the boss anymore. They used to be like, “How do we bargain? Where do we shop? What should we buy?” Now they say, “Oh, whatever, we know our thing.” Or, “You know, you should go to this shop, it’s got really nice things.” They’ve taken over now.
I’m trying to take them to Hindi movies and be the subtitles for them. It hasn’t happened yet, but it’ll happen.
Is it a great learning experience to be around actors of this calibre?
When they wrap my shoot for the day, I don’t go back home. I stick around and watch everyone do their thing, trying not to get in anyone’s way. Bill (Nighy) is wonderful to watch. There was a speech he was supposed to give at our wedding night and he did such a brilliant job. There was this joke he cracked that we were not supposed to laugh at, but he did it so well that every time I laughed, John came to me and said, “Please, we’re doing a retake. It says in the script it’s a bad joke. Don’t laugh.”
Tina Desai (left) and Dev Patel get to play bride and groom | Photo: Fox Searchlight
How was it shooting the wedding?
I’m terrified of weddings because I’m very commitment-phobic. But this one was so beautifully decorated. It was like fairyland at night – the lights, the drapes, the flowers and the setting. It was so gorgeously done and so lavishly done that I’m like, “Okay, now I’m ready to get married.” It’s my first onscreen wedding, so I was really excited about it. And I quite enjoyed the attention (laughs).
We see more of India in this film. Which parts of it?
We’re going to Mumbai! The big city, which I feel, is the true representation of India. It’s a truly overwhelming city. When I moved to Mumbai myself for my career, I was struck by the place, because it’s extremely mad. There’s no place to relax there. We also see Jaipur and Udaipur, but they’re tame when compared to Mumbai.
‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ opens 19 March 2015