Talented actress Tina Desai says she and the cast of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel knew there was something special happening on set during the shoot of the film, and everyone was confident it would do well.
That is why she wasn’t surprised that it was a huge hit and she, along with the big-name actors, were delighted to return for the soon-to-be-released sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The story picks up where the first one left off, and sees the elderly residents of the hotel making a life for themselves in India. Meanwhile, Sonny (Dev Patel) is planning to buy a second hotel and getting ready to marry his fiancé Sunaina (Tina).
Eastern Eye caught up with Tina to talk about the comedy sequel, acting alongside legends, co-star Dev Patel, future plans and more.
You are a talented actress, but did you feel nervous acting alongside stars like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and it’s sequel?
(Smiles) Yes. I came to the set with all my preparations done because I was working with all these senior actors. But once you see how mature their performances are, you kind of feel foolish for thinking ‘you have prepared enough’ because you can never match them. They all have years of experience and an extra level. So I told my writer that I felt so stupid, because even with the preparation, I was never going to be able to match them. He was like, ‘no, you should not look at it that way because you are doing your bit and they are doing theirs. You should never compare and should just enjoy your journey and your character.’ That was very wise, but yes, I loved having the opportunity working with them and seeing how they interpret the writing.
Which of the actors did you learn from most?
All of them. You can’t compare them because it’s not like they are doing the same thing. Each one has a distinct cha-racter interpreted so differently. Their body language, dialogue delivery and humour is also different to one another. You learn from them all. You do it [scene] a certain way and then look at them and think, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ They encourage you to think out of the box. That is why this experience has been invaluable.
How did you feel when they approached you for the sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel?
I was ecstatic because for me Marigold Hotel has been the best experience of my life personally and professionally. The people are very warm and friendly and everyone got along brilliantly, plus it was a very good film. So to have that happen all over again in terms of the shoot, the same cast and crew, in terms of promoting it again the same way, it is literally a sequel in every way.
The added bonus for you is that the plot revolves around the wedding of your character?
(Laughs) Yes, that was like the cherry on the cake. I love it. There was also dancing, which I’ve never done in Bollywood before. It has Richard Gere also, ‘oh my God’. So it is just got bigger and better. I feel very confident about it.
You want the sequel to be better than the first and this one definitely is. I have a lot more to do in it and I really hope now that there is three, four, five, six and seven.
Which is your favourite moment in the movie?
The dancing when everyone comes onto the stage. First we do the dance, Dev and I, which is beautifully choreographed, and then at the end of it, all the other senior actors – Judi, Bill, Richard and all of them – join in. It was genuinely a magical moment.
You must have loved the dynamic between your character and Dev’s in the film?
I think Dev is just brilliant to work with because he adds so much to the film. He has the best lines in the whole script and is my favourite character out of all of them. In addition to that, he brings his own madness to it because in real life, he is quite a psycho (laughs). Then he has been given a character like Sonny who has the potential to be even more psychotic and he does it so well. To try and balance that out with Sunaina’s calm and rational nature is hilarious. So yes, I like working with Dev on and off set because of his energy, humour and how casual he is about it.
Are there any behind-the-scenes moments from the film that will stay with you?
I think my favourite would be on our day off, when we all went for a boat ride in Udaipur because it has seven lakes. We watched the sunset, had glasses of champagne, got back onto the boat and then we went for a candlelight dinner at this restaurant, which has the best Rajasthani food. That was a very relaxing, beautiful, scenic day with nature. Everyone bonded, so that was my favourite.
You must have liked that they put Bollywood songs into this film. Does any one stand out?
Jhoom, absolutely. It is so high energy and it’s really funny because I still do that dance when I’m walking down the street. Everyone thinks I’m crazy or drunk or whatever, but I’m like, ‘no, I just like the dance enough and like to do it whenever I want.’ It’s my favourite song also because of the number of times I rehearsed for it, how high energy it is and how the resort was decorated for that number with lights and flowers.
Were all the women swooning over Richard Gere?
Yes, we were all fighting over who could have extra time and who could have dinner with him. Very sweetly he would sit with all of us in the catering tent, where everyone eats together. Only seven or eight people can sit at the round table, so we kept fighting over who sat next to him, but he gelled with everybody and we all have our stories to tell of Richard, my favourite being the boat ride. (Laughs) But yes, he’s just a hottie and extremely charming. My dad also met him and has a photograph with him and I don’t. So I will take a photograph when I meet him again.
You are balancing projects in India with ones in the west. What does the future hold for you?
I hope I can continue to do both because India is my land – I understand the stories, scripts and characters, and it’s my culture. But I like working in the west because everything is so different in terms of the writing, characters, story and the interpretation. It keeps me fresh and keeps me learning. I hope that continues.
As an actor, which genre do you prefer?
I am at the stage right now where I still want to do horror, I want to do action, and I haven’t done a full-on romance yet. I do like drama as well because I like playing those deep intense characters. (Laughs) But I also like comedy because you don’t go home with a headache every day. I still have to try a lot more before I know what my favourite is.
Dev has told me he’s not going to do Bollywood films. Have you tried to persuade him otherwise?
Dev has a mind of his own. To be able to persuade him, you have to have a conversation with him and for that, you need at least five minutes. You can’t talk to him for more than 30 seconds because he gets so distracted. So it is impossible to convince him to do anything.
Finally, why should we watch The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel?
It is a bigger celebration because of the big fat Indian wedding. It’s got a lot of dance, a lot of madness in the form of Sonny and you go home with hope and happy endings, which is how all special movie experiences should be.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in cinemas nationwide on February 27.