The Girl from Nowhere and Everywhere

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Tillotama Shome is undoubtedly a “masala” actress. She does a little bit of everything.

Growing up all over India due to her father’s job in the Air Force, Shome describes herself as being from “nowhere and everywhere”.

Shome was cast in her first film, “Monsoon Wedding” in 2001 at the age of twenty-one. It was an international box office success and brought Shome to the attention of a wider audience.

I first saw “Monsoon” in my early teens and was intrigued by Shome’s portrayal of “Alice”, the Verma family’s maid. Coming across it again in college, I wrote an essay on her understated but complex role in the film.

Imagine my delight at getting the chance to interview one of my favorite Indian actresses.

Since her debut twelve years ago, Shome has done it all, from Bollywood drama to rom-com, futuristic TV series to trippy fantasy.

Shome’s trademark though, is a series of short films. She has played a two-timing gun dealer, a flirtatious patient, a conflicted bride and the silent wife in a political drama about India’s natural resources.

“My enjoyment of a film has nothing to do with its length. Each part has called for a different journey and each director has been a different compass,” stated Shome.

Spanning two continents, Shome’s career has taken her all over India and the United States. Her work requires her to slip between many languages. In her eighteen projects so far, she has shot in English, Hindi, Bengali and Nepali.

“At home we spoke bangla and english. I learnt Hindi from seventh grade onwards once we moved to Delhi and the rest are just limited unfortunately to the extent required for the films,” stated Shome.

Shome’s most recent project, shot in Punjabi, is “Qissa” by Anup Singh. It tells the story of a woman who is raised as a man by her father.

Qissa aired at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and won the Netpac Award for World/International Asian Cinema.

Rather than take the credit, Shome attributes her “masala” success to other sources.

“In a nutshell, to think globally and act locally is an opportunity that has been offered to me very graciously by the films that I have done and the people that I have worked with.”