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Interview Hindi

LIFFT India: Couldn’t understand why they wanted to typecast me, says Taranjit Kaur

In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, the actress talks about the problem of being typecast as an actor and her journey so far.

Taranjit Kaur. Photo: LIFFT India

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Actress Taranjit Kaur's short film Mouth of Hell (2014) was screened at the ongoing LIFFT India 2017 Awards and Filmotsav and received an incredible response form the audience.

Set in Jharia in India, one of the largest coal mines in India, which is described as a humanitarian and ecological disaster by the director of the film, Samir Mehanovic, Mouth of Hell tells the story of young boy Anant, who provides for his mother (Kaur) by picking coal and selling it at the local market. A chance encounter changes his life and that of his mother. The film looks at the abject poverty of people in Jharia and the prejudices that they are subjected to. It won several accolades and was nominated for a BAFTA for the Best Short Film.

Talking about her journey as an actor and the unconventional roles that she has played, Kaur also spoke about the difficulties of being a young actor and the mindset of the film industry in an exclusive chat with Cinestaan.com.

Tell us about Mouth of Hell (2014). How did you get the role of the poor woman in the film, a role you played so convincingly?

Someone had recommended my name to the director, Samir Mehanovic. I was doing theatre and had done my first international film, Raju, which won the student Oscar award. So he had read about me and came to meet me. He called me for an audition and I had come in a kurta with a ponytail and I had a good audition but afterwards he told me that I was looking too pretty to play a coal miner. I was fine with that and I got a good vibe from him. But we met again and he said that something makes me feel that I should work with you. So we went to a theatre studio space and he asked me to do some improvisation. He had already made award winning films and I readily agreed.

In that one hour, I picked up an old saree and wrapped it around. He kept giving me directions and I kept improvising and that was such an emotionally intense one hour for me that I was exhausted after such a creative moment. After that, I didn’t even care if I got the role or not. He then decided to offer me the role.

You’ve worked in Ankhon Dekhi (2014) and short films with diverse topics. Do you see yourself creating an identity in independent cinema or would you like to be a part of the mainstream films?

For me, cinema is cinema. It should be a meaningful story and as long as I get meaningful and challenging roles, it’s fine. I started acting because I felt that I wanted to contribute something meaningful to society. And the world at large. So it can be a fresh director or a seasoned one, an independent or mainstream film, all that doesn’t matter as long as I am excited by the role.

It’s important for mainstream films to have interesting stories so actors don’t have to divide themselves between doing serious films and mainstream ones. I’m happy to see that change is happening. I met Rakesh Malhotra from Nadiadwala Films who complimented me on my performance and said that I reminded him of Smita Patil and I should be doing those kind of films to which I said that why aren’t we making those kind of films like Mirch Masala, Arth etc.

In his masterclass Vipin Sharma talked about being boxed in and labelled as actors, which is very difficult to break out of. So if you play a certain role you are stuck with it. Have you experienced that as well?

I completely agree. After Ankhon Dekhi, I was fighting that as I was bombarded with offers to play a bahu or a mother from UP. I couldn’t understand why they wanted to typecast me. I don’t mind playing a mother as long as the mother has an interesting story.

I met Rupali Verma, a Professor from Delhi University who is making her first film. It’s a thriller, about a murder on the road to Kathmandu, it’s a very interesting script. She called me and asked if I wanted to play the role of an inspector. I told her that I am doing the role and I don’t even want to know your story or read your script! I told her that I was bored with the same kind of offers and wanted to break the monotony.

As a young actor do you feel the pressure to fit into a certain mould, especially in terms of being glamourous or fitting in to a certain image?

Luckily for me, when Ankhon Dekhi happened, the concerned people already knew me and my background in theatre. I don’t go for too many auditions, though. Of course there are meetings and auditions and I have had meetings where I have had three months of narrations, meetings, look tests etc and in the end the role went to a big star one week before the film. So that is emotionally taxing, but I don’t take these things very seriously. I also firmly believe that one needs to believe in one’s talent and believe that you will make it. If one is looking at a longer journey, I don’t think you get bogged down.

Since you have been a theatre actor, are you continuing with your performances in theatre and tell us about your upcoming film projects?

I keep myself creatively engaged. I assisted Sunil Shanbag recently on a play, Words Have Been Uttered. I have also written a play so we will be producing it and putting that up in a few months. There’s also a documentary film that I have been working on. I also assisted an Italian filmmaker on his film. There are a couple of film projects as well, the one by Rupali Verma that I mentioned and another film that will go on the floors in November probably. There’s a Canadian production starring Indian actors, a thriller, which is also in the pipeline.

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