Nita Sathyendran says Bollywood actress Shahana Goswami is a histrionic force to be reckoned with. She plays the heroine in Paul Cox’s Indo-Australian film Force Of Destiny

Shahana Goswami is very much like what we expected her to be – very down to earth. Dressed in minimalistic black and grey chic with just a dash of orange lipstick to highlight her beautiful complexion, there are no frills on the actor or about her when MetroPlus catches up with her at the wrap up party of her latest film Force Of Destiny. The film, an Australian-Indian production, directed by veteran Australian filmmaker Paul Cox, was partly shot in Kerala.

“It has been such a wonderful experience shooting for the film, both here and in Australia,” she says, one of her easy smiles lighting up her expressive face.

In Force Of Destiny, Shahana plays the role of Maya, an art lover and a marine biologist, who is on an internship at an aquarium in Melbourne. Whilst there, she meets Robert, a well-known artist, essayed by Australian theatre and film actor David Wenham of Lord Of The Rings-fame. The film is essentially the journey of a man who discovers that he has cancer of the liver and of his struggles to live. It is based on what Cox himself went through when he was suffering from the disease.

“But it’s actually about the larger concept of love and appreciation of love. Maya draws Robert out of his deep-rooted cynicism toward love, brought on by a broken marriage and fractured relationships. She gives him hope, from which he finds the desire to live and ultimately, a rather, miraculous salvation,” says Shahana.

Intense role

It looks like Maya is another intense role for the actor who is well known for choosing characters and films off the beaten track in Bollywood, ones that play to her histrionic skills. Debbie in Rock On!!, Mumtaz in Firaaq, and Amina in Midnight’s Children, being shining examples from Shahana’s filmography. “Choosing such roles is just an instinctive choice, really. It’s an instinct that gets activated by the script or the person that I am going to work with – what I feel I can do with it or what excites me and challenges me about it,” she explains.

It’s that same gut feeling that she says led her Force Of Destiny.

“I never actually met Paul until I actually went to shoot the film in Australia. For the longest time, we didn’t even talk on the phone. We used to communicate via email. We’re both old-fashioned in that way. But from that first email itself, we connected instantly. I knew that Force Of Destiny was a journey that I wanted to be a part of. It’s an emotional film, a personal one that Paul is making, after seven years. It means a lot in so many ways. It has reached a point where I have become his friend. I hope that I can work with him again, in any capacity,” says the actor.

Do we detect an air of wistfulness? “I’ll miss the camaraderie on set. We were a small unit – 12 people at the most. That level of respect, appreciation and equality is hard to come by when working in Bollywood, which I imagine is the same in other regional industries as well,” says Shahana. Then again, with all her fondness for experimentation, it’s surprising that she hasn’t acted in regional cinema as of yet… “It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s because I haven’t been asked. I think regional cinema is my kind of cinema. I’d love to act in Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Oriya…” Any filmmaker listening?

Kerala calling

I was supposed to visit the city back in 2011 for the Indian première of Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children at the International Film Festival of Kerala. But, I couldn’t make it at the last moment. I’ve always wanted to come here because I’ve always felt a connection with Kerala. For one, my stepfather, Sanal V., a professor at IIT, Delhi, is a Malayali. Also, I’m quite intrigued by Malayalam cinema, particularly because of its long tradition of women-centric films and strong female characters.

Upcoming films

Vara: The Blessing, an English drama film on forbidden love between a Hindu dancer and a Muslim sculptor, directed by Bhutanese filmmaker Khyentse Norbu. Shahana plays the lead role of Lily. Under Construction, a Bangladeshi film, directed by Rubaiyat Hossain, in which Shahana plays the lead role of an ageing theatre actor, opposite Rahul Bose.