Nisha Ganatra's Cosmopolitan , starring Carol Kane and Roshan Seth , airs this month on PBS.
What would you do if you were married for 20 years, lost your job, your wife leaves you to return to India, and your daughter goes off with her German boyfriend to explore Mongolia?
For Gopal (Roshan Seth), an East Indian immigrant residing in suburbia U.S.A., you pull yourself up by your bootstraps, tap into your daughter's Cosmopolitan magazines as your guide, and reinvent yourself as the all-American bachelor. Ardently pursuing his free-spirited neighbor Mrs. Shaw (Carol Kane), Gopal soon discovers there's more to love than the pages of Cosmo would suggest.
A co-presentation of NAATA and ITVS, Cosmopolitan , directed by Nisha Ganatra (CHUTNEY POPCORN) and written by Sabrina Dhawan (MONSOON WEDDING), airs on INDEPENDENT LENS on June 1st.
Cosmopolitan is based on an award-winning short story by Akhil Sharma . Freelance writer Chuleenan Svetvilas chatted with the actors in April 2004 during separate phone interviews about their roles in this touching tale of mature romance. Seth resides in Delhi, India and Kane in Los Angeles. Note: This interview contains a spoiler.
Chuleenan: What attracted you to the role?
Carol: The writing was so good. Also, it was an interesting character for me. I loved that she was totally honest and she was fun. She liked to have a good time and didnt pay much attention to convention. She was a very self-sufficient, unique person who did what she thought was right for her, not what other people thought she should do. Instead of dolling up, she wore sweats but was still sexy. I thought that was interesting. She was self-confident in her sexuality but she didnt advertise it.
Roshan: When youre offered a leading role, you jump at it. Im hardly in the position to turn it down. Also, Im trying to show the audience that Indians are just as screwed up, complicated, stupid, and nave as anyone else. But you cannot suggest it unless it is there in the writing. What was so nice about Cosmopolitan is that there is a navet about this character. He is probably like a lot of Indians--secure in his marriage, secure in his relationship or lack of it--until one morning its all shaken up.
Other roles that Ive been offered [from American productions] have been very one-dimensional characters, which I usually turn down. The husband is usually an idiot whos dominated by his wife in private but in public he is domineering. He is blind to the interests of his children. Its very sad but thats the way it is.
Chuleenan: How would you describe your experience working with Nisha Ganatra?
Carol: I had so much fun. I just cant wait to work with her again. She really knows what she wants but is confident enough to be open to collaboration. She has great creative suggestions and enjoys her work so much that its very contagious. She likes to try things different ways, which I like. Shes very prepared, which is also great for the actors. An actor really suffers when the director isnt prepared because you start running out of time for the shoot and then have to do it fast. Its hard to regulate the speed at which you can achieve something creative and emotional.
Roshan: Nisha is an absolute delight. She is so loving, so bright. There was something special about her relationship to me and mine to her. We not only related to each other professionally as actor and director but also personally as father and daughter. I felt that familial relationship with her. Im old enough to be her grandfather. Being Indian, she probably found herself in that relationship naturally. I dont have any children and Nisha is like a daughter to me.
Chuleenan: What was it like working with Roshan?
Carol: We had a lot of fun. We work differently, using different techniques. I think those differences between us as actors fed the relationship between Gopal and Mrs. Shaw. We got along great and enjoyed each other. I think we were blessed with having a pretty good chemistry so we didnt have to work too hard at that relationship.
Chuleenan: What was it like working with Carol?
Roshan: We have very different approaches to acting. But I loved working with her. Her talent really knocked me out. Shes so wonderful to work with. There not a nuance, a flicker of an eye, even a flicker of a thought that she will miss. You wouldnt think it looking at her because she seems to inhabit another world. But when shes acting, she is all there.
Chuleenan: How did you feel about having an interracial romance in this film?
Carol: I dont think I ever thought about that. In fact, this is the first time I ever even thought about it. I think the only impact was the cultural differences between the two countries rather than the racial differences. What the affair meant to him and what it meant to me were such different things. His character has been married for many years. For him to be involved with someone is to be willing to spend the rest of his life with that person. For me, it was to be willing to spend as much time with him as I liked or not. I consider that much more cultural rather than racial. I dont think Mrs. Shaw would think twice about race or color or anything like that. Its just about whether she enjoyed that man or not and she did. But she didnt want the relationship to be any kind of commitment. She really cared about him but she just didnt want him to think of her as a package that had marriage at the end of it.
Roshan: I dont think that that was developed very much [in the script]. I dont think the character was sexually very adventurous. He is so shocked that Mrs. Shaw has offered her body to him that he falls in love with her in a very comic-book kind of way. He assumes that because she has slept with him that she is prepared to marry him, which is his navet. I dont think Indians are that stupid.
Chuleenan: What recent films have you worked on?
Carol: Im working on a Disney feature film called Pacifier , which stars Vin Diesel. I play a nanny and housekeeper who quits and Vin Diesel is my replacement. I also had a role in another Disney film Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen [released earlier this year].
Roshan: In Frozen , an independent British feature film, I play the role of an Indian Anglican priest and counselor in a small parish in Lancaster, Britain. I also had a small role in the Miramax film Proof , which stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhall, and Anthony Hopkins. [Both films will be released later this year.]
Official Cosmopolitan Website: