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EXCLUSIVE | Lillete Dubey: Unfazed and Outspoken

19 Mar, 2015

    This Bollywood actress returns for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sequel, this time with a plotline of her own

    Even though theatre is her passion, veteran actress Lillete Dubey has a knack of picking roles in significant films. She was the matriarch and voice of reason in Monsoon Wedding, the mother of the neglected Ila in the The Lunchbox and Dev Patel’s difficult mom in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Notice a pattern here?)

    The unexpected worldwide success of the dramedy has led to a sequel, cleverly titled The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which will be in Canadian theatres on March 6th. This time around, the British retirees have settled in Jaipur and become part in the community. The success of the establishment has led unlikely partners Sonny (Dev Patel) and Muriel (Maggie Smith) to look into an affiliate, a process that becomes the catalyst of many conflicts brewing under the surface.

    The list of people involved with The Second Best Marigold Hotel is a veritable who’s who of the UK film industry: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love). That said, the Indian half of the cast drives most of the action.

    Lillete Dubey, whose Mrs. Kapoor had a limited presence in the first movie, becomes a multidimensional, fully fleshed character in the sequel, with a love interest of her own (Richard Gere, of all people.)

    We reached Lillete Dubey, by phone in London, where the world premiere of the film was taking place. Her low-pitch timbre is unmistakable.

    Did you consider the possibility of a sequel when you were shooting the first movie?

    We were very sad when we finished filming the first Marigold Hotel movie. Fox Searchlight normally doesn’t do sequels and we weren’t expecting one. It was a bit of a surprise.

    Was it hard to fit it in your schedule?

    I do a lot of theatre. Marigold is a film I really like and I enjoyed making it, so of course I made time. My story also becomes very interesting in the second one.

    When did you find out you would be paired with Richard Gere? What was your reaction?

    Everybody keeps asking me that! I found out a month and a half before start shooting. I’ve directed over thirty plays and I do a lot of the casting. When I read the script, one of the people I thought for the role was him. Then John Madden called me and said “I’ve your guy. It’s Richard Gere. Lot’s of women of certain age think he is very attractive.” I was happy because he was correctly cast.

    Later I discovered he was a great guy to work with, very warm and generous as an actor.

    When you were constructing the character of Mrs. Kapoor, did you have enough information to build it, or did you have to create a backstory for her?

    You always have to create a backstory in film. This is something you have to do on your own, because when you are shooting, there is no time to ask questions. Plus, I don’t have that many scenes; it’s a full-on ensemble piece. Thankfully, there are a lot of clues in the movie itself to get a feel what sort of life this lady has lived. It’s also a very subtle film: I don’t have that many lines. There are a lot of unspoken things, which makes the story more interesting.

    How was working with John Madden different than working with other directors?

    I’ve been a big fan of John since Shakespeare in Love. There is a lovely energy in his work. He really enjoys the process of making a movie, always smiling, always laughing. Madden is also very appreciative towards actors, which helps when he asks you to do the same take again and again. He is so encouraging; you want to do your best for him.

    How do you feel India is portrayed in the Marigold Hotel movies?

    Realistically, but you have to remember this is from a foreigner point of view. If they find their surroundings crazy and chaotic, it’s justified because  it is their reaction, there is nothing wrong with that. Indians can get very touchy, but I believe the film is fair, nothing is misrepresented. It’s even more balanced in the second movie.

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