•“Marigold” offers only a glimpse of life in India.
•Lillete Dubey’s role expands in sequel with love interest played by Richard Gere.
The bulk of the major players in the cast of “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is made up of Brits and Americans. But, the film does feature some of India’s best-known actors.
Lillete Dubey was born in Pune, the seventh most populous city in India. Her long acting and directing career includes appearances in “Monsoon Wedding,” “Baghban” and “Bow Barracks Forever.”
Bengaluru native Tina Desai has gone from being a model and reality show contestant to starring in films from the Hindi thriller “Yeh Faasley” to her American debut in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
Both reprise their roles for the sequel, “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” And both say the blend of cultures created some interesting moments — from the way their country is depicted to romance and even how the film was produced.
Both agree “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” show just a small part of life in India.
“This is a massive country,” Dubey, who plays Mrs. Kapoor, says. “We hardly know it ourselves. This film is just the tip of the iceberg to the country. Just like America, it’s very vast. There are a lot of similarities, but more radical differences through the country. The more I travel, the more unique I find the country.”
She plays the strong-handed mother of Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), the chief proprietor of the Marigold Hotel. Her son is on the verge of marrying Sunaina, the character played by Desai.
Desai says the film shows the “sights, sounds, smells and traffic” that are part of the country’s culture.
Both actresses play a key role in this film by offering a clear look at how love isn’t hampered by the passing of time.
Desai’s character spends most of the movie trying to convince her fiance to take their wedding plans seriously. Their love has suddenly been pushed behind Sonny’s effort to buy another hotel.
Dubey has a love interest — played by Richard Gere — in the sequel. Getting to play a woman who is being chased by a devoted suitor is a big change from the first film, where she portrayed a demanding parent.
She was able to play the controlling mother because she’s seen a lot of Indian mothers who act that way.
“It’s in their DNA to be controlling,” Dubey says. “Children are taught from an early age to respect their parents and listen to them. So when she acted that way, she didn’t mean to be harsh. She loves her son.”
With that Indian heritage in mind, Dubey still tried to find a way in the first film to make the character more appealing and vulnerable. She accomplished that by showing she has a softness underneath all of that tough exterior.
It was a lot easier for her in the second movie because of the love story. Dubey liked the change in direction, which gave her a broader character to play within the framework of being a typical Indian mother.
Even the love interest comes with a touch of India.
“There can be sexual tension, but there is no touching. It is hands off, even when we were dancing,” Dubey says with a laugh.
Desai discovered while making the movie just how different Hollywood and Bollywood can be.
The filming process for an Indian film is to do all the screaming, crying, laughing and trading of long passages of dialogues quickly and in few attempts. Before “Marigold” started, weeks were spent rehearsing, and those rehearsals never stopped throughout the filming.
“I was also amazed that even when the camera was not on one of the actors, they would still perform with the same kind of energy. I saw that even if they were way in the background,” Desai says. “The veteran actors also never talked down to anyone. It’s a brilliant attitude that I have adopted myself.”
Dubey watched the process with a different eye, having directed films and stage productions. She saw how the process isn’t that different between Indian and other movie directors. That’s why she was able to leave her directing hat at home and trust “Marigold” director John Madden would get the best performance out of her.
She describes being an actor as a little cog in a big machine. The actor sees only their part and it’s up to the director to see the whole picture.
“The actor just has to be truthful and understand their part. You bring as much honesty as you can,” Dubey says.
All of the actors had to dig deep to find honesty to the movie’s big dance number, which is part of the Indian wedding ceremony.
Large dance numbers in Bollywood films are shot one or two steps at a time and then edited together. Madden divided the “Marigold” dance into three large parts, and after two weeks of rehearsal, the entire group was able to stay in step. The entire dance was filmed in a night and a half.
The dance is Desai’s favorite part of the film.
“This is why people loved the first film. It has a lot of heart. With this one, you will go home feeling good and hopeful. It’s about being optimistic and expecting the best,” Desai says.
Dubey adds that all cultures can appreciate the movie’s key theme: Life does not end just because you get older.