Tillotama Shome’s recent release, Qissa, won critical acclaim at all the festivals it went to.
The Punjabi film garnered appreciation, but the actor wishes for a wider release. When asked why she sticks to parallel cinema, she says she doesn’t understand the definition of commercial films.
Tell us about working on Qissa.
I’m still processing the experience. It’s a privilege to work with a director like Anup Singh and actors like Irrfan Khan, Rasika Duggal and Tisca Chopra, who give so much of themselves to their roles so willingly. For my part of a girl raised as a man’s son, I trained for seven months in swimming, driving and Punjabi. Anup warned me against trying hard to be ‘manly’ and instead encouraged me to just be the best son I could be to my father.
Did the role leave affect you?
I thought that after all the festivals, I’d be able to walk away from the role, but it’s been hard. The preparation was like an obstacle course with so much learning and passion — I went through it like a woman in love. The film has left me with two dominant feelings — one that gender is a slippery slope and you can’t be sure of everything about yourself, and the other that transgressions are important in order to create change, but not with cruelty and violence.
Do you wish the film had a wider release?
Of course. It has universal resonance, but it is deeply rooted in India and I hope it gets a good release here. Everyone at NFDC (National Film Development Corporation) is working hard to see how they can make it happen. I can’t wait for people here to watch the film because everyone carries pieces of the Partition within them.
Why don’t we see you in commercial cinema?
I’m not sure what commercial cinema is any more. I do films that I love and fall in love with. If they become commercially successful, I would be delighted.
Do you feel that the movies of our time are still catering to an old-school audience?
The times will feel exciting if you are excited and innovating. They will seem regressive if you are stagnating. It’s utterly delusional to blame the audience. The recent success of films like Ship Of Theseus, The Lunchbox and Shahid is a manifestation of the new world of heroes, the sceptic’s scalpel, the provocateur’s new voice, the thinker’s brave new world at work, and the audience loved it. But yes, it’s easier to not innovate and not change.
Qissa actress Tillotama Shome