Sydney’s Vega makes it big in Bollywood

Neeru Saluja - Vega Tamotia s


By Neeru Saluja

Actress Vega Tamotia is not your typical conventional actress. Brought up in Sydney, she has played lead roles in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films. She rose to fame with the Tamil film ”˜Saroja’ and her film ”˜Pasanga’ won two National Awards. Her latest film was screened at Cannes and she also produces a children’s series called Ghotu Motu Ki Toli. In spite of her achievements, she is a down-to-earth actress with girl-next door looks whom you can chat over a cuppa!

Recently, Vega is sporting another feather in her cap. She plays a significant role in the upcoming film Gangajal 2 which stars Priyanka Chopra. While she was promoting her film in Delhi, we talked to her at length about her career and films. Vega now spends her time travelling between Delhi, New York and Mumbai.

Vega ”“ we all know you as the Sydney girl who made it big in India. Tell us a bit about how you landed in Mumbai.

I moved out of Sydney nine years ago but still have lovely memories. I studied in UNSW where I did my bachelors in commerce. I then moved to Bangalore for an exchange program and that’s when I started pursuing acting in Mumbai. My plan was to come back to Sydney to start work, but I did theatre for six months in Mumbai which went on for nine years!

How did films happen after theatre?

I was doing my first play in Mumbai at the Prithvi theatre festival. The festival was at its closing night and two days before I met a director from Chennai. Within 10 minutes of conversation, he wanted me to do Saroja. I never wanted to do South Indian films. The movie was a success and my career got a leap.

You have played all kind of roles within a few years ”“ ranging from a kindergarten teacher, a rock star to a revolutionary. How do you ease in different characters so easily?

It’s easy to mould myself from one character to another, but in the end it’s all about the role and the character an actor gets offered. In terms of craft, the job of an actor is to play different characters, and people hire me because I can do that. It’s just a matter of doing your job right. As an actor I need to fulfil the needs of the story and the director. A film is a director’s medium, where the actor is just a puppet. That’s the honest truth. I would like to take credit but I can’t.

Tell us a bit about your role in Gangajal.

I can’t reveal much about the film but all I can say that if Sunita (my character) was taken out of the film, there would be no film! Sunita is the catalyst in the film. All characters and the historic graph changes in the film because of Sunita.

Sunita belongs to a lower middle class family. She is this really strong girl and even though she is uneducated, it doesn’t stop her from having an opinion.

You have mentioned that working with Prakash Jha is your dream come true. How was the experience?

I’m so enamoured by him. I stand up after he calls me. I’m in attention. It was fabulous. I thought he would be a strict character, but he’s cool. He lets you do that you want to. He’s actually quite easy going. He’s wonderful, my family have met him and we have all gone out for dinner. For me, he has taken a mentor role. He knows how to get the stuff out of the person without the actor knowing.

And how was it working with Priyanka Chopra?

It was great. She’s a pro. Once she is on the sets, she knows exactly what’s to do. She’s a go-getter. She knows how the other actor is going to react before she says her dialogues.

Besides films, you are also the producer of a children’s series. What inspired you to indulge in this?

Ghotu ”“ motu is my pet project! I got the inspiration from my nephews. This is my little gift to them as I wanted to introduce them to Hindi rhymes. They were just not available on YouTube or television. It was my effort to preserve the culture and make Hindi exciting. So I made ghotu motu, and the demand made me realise the huge need of this channel.

Your latest film ”˜Love Comes Later’ was screened at Cannes. How was the experience?

I did a couple of films in New York, and ”˜Love comes later’, a short film from 2015 took me to the Cannes Film Festival. Cannes is like one of those fancy merry-go-rounds where you get the best films, best talent all in one place. The film ended getting selected for the critic award. In the film I play the role of Riz who represents the underbelly of undocumented people. She is a maid in a motel with no visa in America. The film is based on one day of her life. Even though it was a short film, I was pushed as an actor.

Now that you have worked in Bollywood, Kollywood and Hollywood, how would differentiate these film industries?

It’s not about the industry, it’s about the kind of film. You can’t compare Chittagong to Amit Sahni ki list, as the subjects of the films are different. It depends on how the film is structured and the script. All films are about making art and entertainment, be it any industry.

Do you think Indian actors have finally made their way into Hollywood?

Things are changing. The credit goes to Priyanka to break those rules. Priyanka was able to do it because she was already a name. She is paving the way for me and other actors ”“ we will know in the next two-three years.

Looking back, do you think it would have been easier or difficult to make a break in the film industry coming from Sydney? Any advice you would like to give to upcoming actors here.

The challenges are still the same. From my perspective, the competition is still fierce. You have to find a way to stand out, either by being an amazing actor, an attractive personality or have stunning looks. That’s what makes you stand out, or be lucky like me.


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