A Conversation with Tina Desai for the release of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the expansionist dream of Sonny (Dev Patel), and it’s making more claims on his time than he has available, considering his imminent marriage to the love of his life, Sunaina (Tina Desai).
Sonny has his eye on a promising property now that his first venture, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful’, has only a single remaining vacancy – posing a rooming predicament for fresh arrivals Guy (Richard Gere) and Lavinia (Tamsin Greig). Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy) have now joined the Jaipur workforce, and are wondering where their regular dates for Chilla pancakes will lead, while Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) are negotiating the tricky waters of an exclusive relationship, as Madge (Celia Imrie) juggles two eligible and very wealthy suitors. Perhaps the only one who may know the answers is newly installed co-manager of the hotel, Muriel (Maggie Smith), the keeper of everyone's secrets. As the demands of a traditional Indian wedding threaten to engulf them all, an unexpected way forward presents itself.
The Fan Carpet’s Amanda Dal had the pleasure of talking to Tina Desai ahead of its release on February 26...
How did you get involved with the film?
The first one happened through auditions. The first with casting director and then two rounds with John, the final round actually had me do all the scenes in the film. The second one, thankfully, happened automatically and that is what I like. It is very nice when you don’t have to audition for it because an audition can be very very stressful. The second one happened, and it’s really funny that it happened because at the end of the first one I think Marigold Hotel is something that everybody enjoyed, it was a big personally satisfying experience for everybody because everyone got along. It is a comedy that you are shooting so it’s a very good happy atmosphere on set. . So the farewell for the first film was actually quite teary for a lot a of people because it was such an emotional thing for everyone and we were joking about it that ‘oh we should make a sequel, it is the only way we will all meet again.’ So when the sequel actually did happen it was like ‘ but we were only joking about it and it’s actually happening like how cool is that?’ And that shows because the entire team, except for some three new faces, was the same. Cast and crew came back for the second one and they came back bigger because everyone came with their husbands and mothers and fathers and children and neighbours and friends… you know the set had turned into a visiting place because everyone had guests coming to meet the rest of the unit. So it was a very personal experience for everyone, a very emotional experience for everyone so I’m very glad I got as second shot at it because personally and professionally it was very gratifying.
It is my love story you shouldn’t get me started, once I start off there will be poems and I will be singing … and … of Marigold Hotel.
Was there any particular challenge to coming back and repeating the role in the second film?
I actually credit the writer for this. I kind of take for granted that he is going to write something really amazing, and he did, I’m just really glad that I have a bigger part in this one. The whole story is centred around the wedding, there is so much dancing in it and I find it really funny that I’m dancing for the first time in an English film and not a Bollywood film. I should have been dancing there but I did it here. I was terrified initially so I went for four months of dance rehearsals on my own at a private Bollywood lesson before I started the actual rehearsals for this movie because dancing can be a very big deal and you can’t muck it up. I was personally very afraid of dancing so I kind of came out that shell and now I can’t wait to dance. It was just something I was afraid of on camera. Also, the thing is when you watch the first film it ends on a very happy note and you kind of think that everyone’s characters go on to do a certain thing, when you watch the way the first one ends, but in the second one every character’s journey is very different from what you would have predicted at the end of the first one. So, I like that there’s that surprise element. I like that there is a strong story in sequel, because I hear that it is not common to have a strong sequel, so I’m glad.
What do you want the audience to take away from this film? How do want them to react?
I think the strongest message would be never to gives up living, a somewhat deep message to give but it’s given quite lightly so it’s not in a preachy depressing way. It is actually a very positive hopeful message. You leave feeling hopeful; you leave feeling positive; you leave feeling happy. It’s a very feel good film that says: if you’ve been given the blessing of life you should not stop living no matter what your age because there is always a surprise round the corner and you can always lap up each opportunity when given it. You can choose to sit down at the age of 55 and say ‘I have arthritis and I’m going to depend on my grandchildren for the rest of my life’ or you can actively pursue a career, be independent, have a personal life, a romantic life and it can be completely satisfying. You can have the same problems a 25-year-old has; it is not like you have figured life out because it continues to be a mystery. So to enjoy that experience and enjoy that opportunity, and I think that’s an important message to give to older people who tend to lose faith or give up on life, and to younger people who fear old age. That is something that you can see with the actors in real life as well; Judy, Maggie, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere all of them have active lives even now, they’ve got their careers, they’ve got their personal lives, they’re travelling the world, they talk to you about anything books, movies, travelling experiences, religion, politics, anything. The reason I am saying that because you see a lot of older people in India who just retire from work and do nothing but just wait for death, which is just really sad, and that’s when you fear old age. But you should still live life when you can.
THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL IS OUT THURSDAY FEBRUARY 26