Shahana Goswami: Melbourne is charming – urban yet homely

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An interview with Shahana Goswami, star of the new Paul Cox film Force of Destiny

David Wenham and Shahana Goswami.
Photo: Ravinder Jabbal

The recently concluded Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) launched its 2015 program with a special screening of Australian film maker Paul Cox’s latest film Force of Destiny. Based on the personal experiences of the legendary auteur, Force of Destiny (FOD) is a poignant story about getting a second chance in life.
Starring Australian actor David Wenham and Indian actress Shahana Goswami, FOD is a romantic, visually engaging and moving account of a sculptor who is diagnosed with liver cancer and placed on a waiting list for a liver transplant. During the most turbulent phase of his life he finds love and solace in the arms of a beautiful Indian marine biologist.
Amidst contemplations of mortality and the hide and seek with love and life Force of Destiny conveys a timely message about the importance of organ donation.
Shot in India and Melbourne, the film also features veteran Indian actors Seema Biswas and Mohan Agashe along with Jacqueline McKenzie, Terry Norris and Hannah Frederickson.
Indian Link caught up with actors Shahana Goswami and David Wenham who were in Melbourne recently to promote the film and attend the red carpet opening gala at MIFF.
In person, Delhi girl Shahana Goswami is even more beautiful than the exotic, talented, Indian woman she portrays in FOD. Her film career started in 2006 with Naseerudin Shah’s debut directorial venture Yun hota to kya hota.
Best known for her award-winning role in the movie Rock On!, Goswami was the first Indian actress to receive the Filmfare Best Actress (Critics) Award for a supporting role. She has also acted in various films including Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children, Khyentse Norbu’s Vara and Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine.
In her personal life, the actress was in a relationship with actor and former model Milind Soman who is 21 years her senior. They broke up after four years in 2013.
Prior to the interview, Goswami raved about Melbourne and claimed to be enjoying every minute in the world’s most livable city despite the freezing weather. With a smile that spread sunshine in dollops, Shahana responded articulately to the questions posed.
Force of Destiny.Indian Link
Photo: Ravinder Jabbal

PJ: How did this role in FOD come about for your Shahana?
SG: There was a bit of destiny involved in this as colleagues and people that Paul was consulting suggested my name to him from time to time. During the Kerala Film Festival, he watched me in another film, Midnight’s Children, and Deepa Mehta also gave me a fair recommendation. Finally, when we got to interact with each other through a number of emails and eventually through Paul’s first Skype session we connected and he decided I was right for the role.
PJ: How was it working with Paul Cox for FOD?
SG: Working with Paul was wonderful, particularly as this film was so close to his heart, in being almost autobiographical. It was a very rewarding experience for me to work on this film and we worked together like a family unit.
PJ: You are generally known to be attracted to older men, why do you find them better than your peers and did that help you in portraying the chemistry between Robert and Maya in FOD?
SG: (Laughing) You’re right; since I was a child I always found myself more attracted to older men. It could be because I was a precocious child and possibly a little bit ahead of my years. I felt that boys of my own age were never mature enough, or open enough, to understand the way I perceived relationships.
Yes, this did help to create that chemistry with Robert’s character in FOD – though I have to say that I find David Wenham to be very childlike. He has considerable experience, but I did not think any of my ‘feeling attracted to older men’ played any role in this, as it was more like dealing with a child, someone really adorable nonetheless.
Force of Destiny.Indian Link
PJ: How about working with David? What was your connection?
SG: Paul and David have a great mischievous chemistry between them and I slipped into that fit seamlessly through a shared sense of humour. In fact, the camaraderie extended to all the others involved in this film and it was like working with a real jovial lot when we got together.
It was really refreshing to work with David; I possibly developed some strong abs working with him as he made us laugh so much all the time.
PJ: Was this your first trip to Australia? What did you like about it?
SG: I have only been around Melbourne and I found it to be very charming; it is an urban city and yet has a homely feel to it. I have not seen other parts of Australia so I cannot compare, however I found Melbourne to be truly cosmopolitan due to the visible integration of different cultures that have coexisted over such a long time.
I was also really taken in by the amazing choice of food in Melbourne. I have taken innumerable photos of the food that I ate in a variety of wonderful locations in Melbourne.
Force of Destiny.Indian Link
PJ: You have now worked in both the Indian and International film industry. Which one do you prefer?
SG: My preference does not lie in choosing between an Indian or international set up, but more towards working in an independent set up. I like the feeling of teamwork, no fixed hierarchies and I prefer the feel and ethos of working in an independent setup.
PJ: What similarities and differences did you find between how movies are made in India and Australia?
SG: Paul Cox films have a very unique way of functioning, they operate on a very intimate level and in that sense it is hard for me to compare a Paul Cox film to any other Australian film that I may have worked on. In general, it is the teamwork that appeals to me. Everyone plays individual roles but works towards a common goal. I enjoy the process of Film making immensely and working with Paul was a very rewarding experience.

PJ: Where do you fit in the present commercial set-up?
SG: I have mainly done offbeat films and that has been my trajectory, however I have also worked with big names and big films and that’s been an experience in itself.
I feel that things are changing in India and the boundaries between art-house and commercial cinema are blurring to some extent. It’s now about making things more realistic with newer topics in terms of content and that is a wonderful phase.
I feel that my trajectory has been more in the international space and I enjoy that. I wish to explore that while still keeping my base in Indian cinema. I will always be accessible to them, however I am consciously looking at expanding in the global field of cinema.
PJ: Are you conscious about the image of women you portray on screen?
SG: Acting gives you an opportunity to feel and play someone else, which includes a chance to play someone who we admire. I do not aspire to work in a role of someone who is righteous or virtuous, instead it’s about playing someone whose emotional journey I can understand and therefore I can sympathetically portray that character.
PJ: What are you future projects?
SG: I have done another Bangladeshi film called Under Construction that is currently doing the rounds in festivals and will soon be released in Bangladesh and other countries. The same goes for Vara.
I am also waiting for my next Indian film called Tu hai mera Sunday. It’s an ensemble film with a simple, honest and fun script that I enjoyed working with.
I have shifted base to Paris and my agents are working for me in London and the goal is to see where that goes. I am hoping that it will take me somewhere unexpected but beautiful.

Preeti Jabbal
Preeti Jabbal
Preeti is the Melbourne Coordinator of Indian Link.

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