Buzz in the circuit: Tanu Kurien speaks about Shomshuklla Das’ White Bee
Originally from Thiruvananthapuram, and having worked in Bengaluru for 10 years before moving to London, Tanu Kurien Vaswani, will be seen playing the female lead in Shomshuklla Das’ White Bee along with Sumanto Chattopadhyay. Excerpts from an interview —
How much of your background from Bengaluru and Trivandrum did you bring into White Bee?
I’d say all of it. I’ve always been taught to give everything my best shot. I also valued advice and guidance from people who are more experienced than me. The director Shomshuklla is passionate and creative, which also helped me concentrate and develop my role.
What exactly does the name, White Bee, refer to? What does it mean?
White Bee is a reference to my character in the film. It’s a pet name my on-screen husband uses. It emotes his romantic feelings and uses it to remind me that he loves me with all his failings. It also shows the vulnerability of the husband.
How would you describe the success of White Bee among Western audiences?
The film is about the relationship between a man and woman. The psychology of two people who love each other, but whose ideas of what love is, differs. It’s a universal situation that people from all regions can identify. Independent films across the globe are finding their niche and making their mark. And India is no different.
What aspects about marriage does the film speak of?
It talks about misunderstanding leading to a separation. It emphasises how a healthy conversation can help the relationship iron out issues. The movie starts with the couple meeting up to understand if they can reconcile their differences. It’s about openness and expressing your feelings and not leaving until it’s too late to rectify. In the process, it delves deeper into the personalities of the characters.
How long, in your view, will it take for Indian audiences to become more receptive and appreciative of contemporary storytelling?
While traditional song and dance blockbusters are entertaining, the Indian audience is embracing contemporary storytelling through movies like Masaan, Neel Bhatte Sannata and Lipstick Under My Burkha.Once platforms like Youtube, Netflix, Amazon Prime become more popular it will increase access to alternative films.
Did you know Lily Cole and Fiona Shaw before? How does it feel to be rubbing shoulders with international stars at the film festivals and award shows?
I was in China on work during the award ceremony so the director of the film who attended the festival accepted the award. I have known off Lily Cole and Fiona Shaw though their work but haven’t had the opportunity to meet them yet.
How do you balance acting with your work with the British Media Group? Could you give us your view about the changing perceptions of the working Indian women, especially among the non-resident and expat population?
I did this film while I was on a sabbatical from work. It was an opportunity to gain a new experience. After I came back into full-time work I didn’t pursue a career in acting till the award. After the award, there have been some feelers but I’m yet to decide.
From the time I came to this country, I have been working in British companies. The work culture is such that you have the opportunity to grow with the right skills. When I informed my colleagues about the award they were very pleased for me and sent out a company wide announcement. It was very encouraging. The work ethics is such that it leaves you with ample time to manage your personal life and as long as it doesn’t hinder your work on a case-to-case basis organisations let you pursue your hobby.
With the right skillset and education, Indian women can achieve new heights everywhere because of their work ethics. In the UK there are an incredible number of successful expat and NRI women working in medicine, law, IT, politics, fashion and entrepreneurship. It’s one work force which is in demand and highly respected.
We know Shomshuklla Das to be a remarkable storyteller. Tell us a little about working with her.
Shomshuklla Das is someone who has a clear idea of what she wants. Her thought process is on multi-levels. She comes to a situation from a different angle giving you a new look. Shoma is very encouraging and she has every confidence in her team's skills. Once the theme of the film was explained to us, she let us the actors develop and discuss our characters.
Shoma is a multi-talented artist from music to poetry to drama to movies. This influences her execution of the films and makes her an award-wining director.
How do you see contemporary independent cinema evolving in India - if you like, in the South and in the North?
There are a lot of talented artist coming of age in India. Parents no longer insist on children becoming doctors and engineers. I know of young talents who are making in-roads into the music and graphic fields. Independent cinemas are a way of expressing reality and new thought processes. It’s fast becoming a part of the future; big studios will continue to make bigger films.Independent films will make intelligent films not art but commercial.
How are the younger filmmakers changing things? Is contemporary independent cinema finally bridging Indian cinema with international festival standards?
Yes, they’re bridging the gap. While Indian films are entertaining in the foreign film category, independent cinema shows that we can address social or simple relationship issues. The story line, new artist, styles of direction etc. are experimental and path breaking. In this age of instant news and social media, people are embracing new ideas and consuming it in non-traditional ways.