The supporting cast of Song for Marion includes a number of very experienced British actors, all of whom have great stories to tell about their experiences on the set and about their lives and times in their profession. As Song for Marion's release date of 22 February nears, this blog will bring you interviews with some of them, starting today with Taru Devani. Playing the part of OAPz choir member Sujatha, Taru makes a moving contribution to one of the film's most moving scenes.
ME: How did you secure the part of Sujatha?
TARU: I went through an audition process where I showcased both my acting and singing abilities. I showed that although I’m unable to read music I am capable of learning and singing any song in any language. That, together with my acting abilities, won me the role. I was thrilled to learn I had been given such a wonderful opportunity.
ME: How would you describe Sujatha’s character and what particular qualities does she bring to the film?
TARU: Sujatha is a strong and independent lady who is simple yet vivacious. It is uncommon for an Indian lady to be in a community choir, but she doesn’t care – she loves to sing, she enjoys being a part of the group and she’s going to continue to do it! Sujatha brings an added dimension of cultural diversity and warmth through her character. I believe the character’s reactions to events will be relatable to the audience and they will feel the same way Sujatha does.
ME: What was it like being part of the OAPz choir, which included some experienced actors such as yourself and also some debutantes?
TARU: It was a lot of fun to be part of the choir. Everyone was great and we all learned from one another as well as having some fantastic training. Although the choir contained both experienced and new actors, everyone had talents which strengthened the group. It goes without saying that working alongside Vanessa Redgrave, Terence Stamp and Gemma Arterton was a dream come true.
ME: What was Paul Andrew Williams like to work with?
TARU: Paul was extremely friendly and easy to work with. He knew exactly what he wanted us to do and how. Paul’s mind is always ticking: when he realized a solo would add to a scene he suggested that I come up with lyrics and suitable melody that expressed the atmosphere. I sang the solo in the movie and it was an emotional moment for both me and Sujatha.
ME: What was your choir mistress, played by Gemma Arterton, like to work with?
TARU: She is lovely to work with. She is down to earth and very friendly.
ME: You have appeared in movies before. How did filming Song for Marion compare with those?
TARU: Tones from every movie set differ, but Song for Marion was totally magical. I made many friends and we became one big family during filming. There were lots of laughs, but when the time came to work everyone was focused and committed. I was very sad when the final day came.
ME: When did you learn to sing, and have you sung professionally or publicly much before?
TARU: I have been singing my whole life however I was never formally trained. I learned to sing by listening to the radio. I first sang in school and progressed from there. Over the years I have sung at many events, from parties to funerals. Fortunately I am able to sing with music or a cappella. I have sung in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Urdu and Swahili as well as once in German! I have recorded my own albums and released six CDs.
ME: I see from your biography that you were born in Kenya. Can you tell me very briefly when and why you came to live in England?
TARU: I was born in Uganda and got married in 1971. We lived in Kenya where I trained to become a secretary. My husband and I had British passports, so in 1972 we emigrated to the United Kingdom. We chose the UK as some of my husband’s family was already here. We raised two wonderful children, my daughter, Shilpa, and son, Nimish. Shilpa married a Canadian, Sanjay, and has settled in Canada.
ME: When did you become a professional actor/performer and why did you choose that line of work?
TARU: I always felt stage and singing was in my blood and it was always my dream to perform. I thrive on stage or in front of the camera. From 1972, while working full time, I joined a drama group and performed in nearly 40 productions, mostly as the female lead. We volunteered our time and raised money for various charities. As well as the UK, we performed in the USA, Canada, Africa, UAE and all over Europe. In 2003 I decided to pursue acting full time. I have since been part of Hollywood and Bollywood productions, television and radio shows, commercials and stage productions.
ME: What would you describe as Song for Marion’s greatest strengths?
TARU: It’s a family film that will make you laugh and cry - it’s the type of film that puts you through a roller-coaster of emotions. Above all, it has a powerful message that everyone can relate to: enjoy life, family and friends and don’t let age stop you from doing something you are passionate about.