New Delhi: For Indo-Canadian actress Anita Majumdar, playing the role of a north Indian girl Emerald in Deepa Mehta`s adaptation of "Midnight`s Children" was a challenge and she was "awe-struck" while working with veteran Bollywood actors.
Emerald, the aunt to main character Saleem Sinai in Salman Rushdie`s "Midnight`s Children", ends up marrying General Zulfikar, played by Rahul Bose who covers the Pakistan angle in the novel.
"Perhaps the greatest challenge was that I was a Canadian playing a girl who was born and brought up in north India during a very specific time period. On a personal level, I felt confronted with nationality," says the actress of Bengali heritage.
"Up until then I had really thought myself an `Indian` and then suddenly working with all these noted Indian actors it became very obvious to me that I will never fully be Indian. That the way I approach my work, the way I express myself, the experiences that have brought me to this place in life are inherently Canadian.
"I had to really embrace my birth country after the shoot, which I think is very in-keeping the story of `Midnight`s Children`. Finding nationality and found families as the result of circumstances and immigration in the pursuit of happiness," the actress-danseuse told reporters.
Anita took admission into the National Theatre School of Canada, where she graduated in 2004. Work on stage and screen took her to Toronto, where she now lives.
She says she fell in love with theatre because the theatre didn`t care about "ugly" or "pretty", but the theatre just wanted good storytelling.
Asked about Mehta as a director, Anita says she had an idea of what she wanted, but she loves working with actors and talking to them about what they think about the circumstances and the character.
"She knows her film and story inside and out. She would read the corresponding passages from the book the night before shooting any particular scene. Deepa doesn`t push any actor beyond what she thinks they`re capable of. If Deepa is asking you to do more it means that`s how good she thinks you are as an actor.
"I was awe-struck," she says, while working with veterans like Shabana Azmi, Bose and Seema Biswas.
"I was shocked how loving Seema was to all of us. And then you would see her work and just be in awe how someone so talented can be so humble.
"And Shabana Azmi. What can you say? She`s an institution. She plays my mother in the film and there would be times I would forget to act in the scene because I was watching her give her dialogue. She is just as magnificent to watch live as she is on screen," she says.
Rahul has a wicked sense of humour and in so many ways childlike and loves to laugh, says Anita, who first came to attention with her one-woman play "Fish Eyes" in which she played three different parts.
"Fish Eyes", written and performed by Anita, tells the story of an Indian-dancing teenager who thinks her Indian roots and dance skills are the reason she`s not popular with her white Canadian school friends. And her dance teacher (also played by Anita) tries to encourage her to embrace her skills.
On Rushdie as a screenwriter, Anita, a playwright herself, says she thinks he needed to write the screenplay in order to feel the full circle of the story.
"I think he`s done a brilliant job on adapting the film into a screenplay and I love that he lends his voice to the narration voice of Saleem Sinai. No one knows the story of `Midnight`s Children` the way he does. It`s a very personal story for Salman. He describes `Midnight`s Children` as his love letter to India. I think it would have been strange had he not been a part of the creative process."