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'I didn't expect to be tagged the next best thing'

Last updated on: January 24, 2012 12:30 IST

'I didn't expect to be tagged the next best thing'

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Sonil Dedhia in Mumbai

She may be a bikini model in the latest Kingfisher calendar but Tena Desae is still apprehensive about doing intimate scenes in films.

After starring in flops like Yeh Faasley and Sahi Dhande Galat Bande, Tena landed a Hollywood movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring such legends like Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, as well as Bill Nighy and Dev Patel.

Tena shares her experiences with Sonil Dedhia.

Did you expect to act in a Hollywood film so early in your career?

No, I don't think anyone expects to get a Hollywood film, and in my case, I had just started my Bollywood career.

I feel lucky and blessed that I have been able to work with such big names right at the start of my career. It was an experience of a lifetime to work in a Hollywood film.


Image: Tena Desae
Photographs: The Kingfisher calendar

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'Hollywood actors don't think of themselves as celebrities or stars'

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How did The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel happen?

It was a long process. The casting director knew me from some television commercials. She called me for the first round. I did a couple of scenes and was shortlisted and had to meet the director John Madden.

He made me do three or four scenes. After some days I was called again for an audition and after that there was another long wait.

Eventually, hard work paid off and I was cast as one of the principal characters.

Were you nervous at sharing screen space with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith?

Initially, I was very nervous. I was thinking, how would I perform in front of them?

But people in Hollywood are real and don't think of themselves as celebrities or stars. Their behaviour is not intimidating, so once I was with them during rehearsals, I was very comfortable.

There was a scene with Judi Dench where she was performing her role so brilliantly that I just got carried away and lost focus and didn't know that I was a part of the scene!


Image: Tena Desae
Photographs: The Kingfisher calendar

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'Dev Patel is like Jim Carrey, always making funny faces and joking around'

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Do you recollect the first scene that you shot for the movie?

My first scene was the biggest scene in the movie. It was also one of my most important scenes in the film.

Dev Patel, Lilette Dubey and Celia Imrie were also part of the scene.

It was very grand and I was preparing very hard for it. When I did the shot, I didn't have too much time to think and I realised it was not very difficult. I just went with the flow and I think the scene has come out really well.

How was the experience of working with Dev Patel?

Dev is a very high energy and funny person. When he was on the sets, everyone knew it because they could sense his energy and his excitement. He is like Jim Carrey, always making funny faces and joking around.

He is a very endearing and down to earth person. It was great fun to work with him.


Image: Tena Desae


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'I am still apprehensive about intimate scenes'

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Did you have any apprehensions about kissing on screen?

I was really nervous; I was a bag of nerves. There was a huge crowd as the kissing scene was being shot on the road. I had never done it before. I had no clue if I would be able to do it.

The writer of the film, Ol Parker, sensed my nervousness and he came up to me and told me jokes to distract me before I took the shot. That relaxed me and when I finally did the scene I found it really easy. I thought I was giving undue attention to it. Once I did it, I didn't find it a big deal.

Were you able to get it right in the first take?

It's not like that. For technical reasons and to get various angles, you don't do any of the scenes in one take. I don't think any part of the film was shot in one take. 

Would you be open to intimate scenes in the future?

I am still apprehensive about intimate scenes. The set-up in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was such that it made me very comfortable. When I did the kissing scene in the film, I took into consideration a lot of aspects.

If I had to do it for another film I would still take into consideration a lot of things and decide whether I would go ahead with it.  I am not opposed to it as I was earlier, but it will still take time for me to settle down.


Image: Tena Desae


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'Shooting the Kingfisher calender was like a holiday'

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You hold a Bachelor's degree in Business Management...

I wanted to make sure that my education was in place. I wanted to enter the industry more secure. I have enjoyed studying and if anything goes wrong one day, I have an alternative career to fall back on.

You participated in a reality show. Do you think it is an easy way to get into the industry?

I decided to enroll for Get Gorgeous because I think it was a great platform to get exposure to the industry and meet like-minded people.

It was a stepping stone for my career as I met photographer Colston Julian who still guides me with my career and who I go to for advice about my work.

I also got a chance to prepare myself for my acting career. Right from make-up to walking the ramp, Get Gorgeous groomed me in the best possible manner.

You recently shot for the Kingfisher calendar. How was that experience?

I don't know why (photographer) Atul Kasbekar wanted me. I don't look at myself as someone who is hot. My body frame is very thin and when Atul asked me, I wanted to reconfirm whether he was sure about featuring me in the calendar!

It is the first time I am shooting a calendar like this but it was a great experience. We went to some exotic location, got to wear the best swimsuits, had the best stylist and the best photographer...

I didn't know what to expect in terms of the atmosphere but I got along brilliantly with the other models. It was like a holiday where we would go shoot photographs, come back and holiday for the rest of the day.

I am really glad that I did it.


Image: Tena Desae


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'I think I got my Hollywood film because of Yeh Faasley'

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From modelling, to advertisements, to an actress, was the career shift required?

(Thinks) I am a little over-ambitious. I got my first film two years after I started my career. I have had a great stint in the advertisement industry. I have done over 100 commercials and when I look around, I feel blessed as there are people who haven't broken the barrier of TV commercials and got into films. I cannot complain about my career.

I am grateful that I have done two films (Yeh Faasley and Sahi Dhande Galat Bande). Although they might not have been commercially successful, I am very proud of them.

I have learnt a lot of things from my first film Yeh Faasley and I think I got my Hollywood film because of it.

Will modelling and commercials be on hold for the time being?

No, I don't think so. I have a soft corner for modelling and advertisements as that's where I started my career. There are lots of actors who do commercials and also films so I hope to continue with it.

As a model, what is your take on the size zero controversy?

I don't know anyone who is size zero. I am UK size six and I am considered very petite and thin. I think everyone just talks about it, but no one actually can be a size zero. Indians are not really that size.

I think the general trend is to be health conscious and to have a good figure. It's great that we have become conscious about our health as it is more appealing if you have a good figure.


Image: A scene from Yeh Faasley


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'I am not disappointed that critics trashed my performance'

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What kind of reactions have you been getting from your family and friends?

My family and friends are always going to be sweet to me even if I do a trashy film. I am really grateful that I have such a support system. 

I have got mixed opinions from the industry but I didn't expect anyone to tag me as the next best thing with my first film.

I am happy with my work. I am yet to experience success but I am hopeful that it will happen soon with Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Smiles).

You haven't got the start in Bollywood you'd expected. Disappointed?

I am not disappointed that critics trashed my performance. In fact, it helped me look deeper and made me understand where I was going wrong.

I am a stoic person and I don't tend to take things too seriously.


Image: Tena Desae


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'I don't think of myself as hot'

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Are you going to be more cautious in selecting your next film?

Yes, I will be, but I don't think anyone can gauge the verdict on a film. We have examples of the biggest banner films failing and the small banner films becoming huge hits.

I look at the script and look at my character and if I find I can contribute to the film with my character, then I go ahead with the film.

The last time I interviewed you, you had said Madhuri Dixit was your inspiration. If you had to work in any one remake of a Madhuri film, which one would it be?

(Laughs) That's a difficult question. I think it would be stupid on my part to do what Madhuri does. I think the only way I can justify it is by completely changing the take of the character and would not replicate her.

I loved her in Anjaam. I love her intensity in it and couldn't believe how strong a character she could be as portrayed in the film. She did it with so much conviction.

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Image: Tena Desae


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