When modelling agency Inega asked its client Aarshi Banerjee if she’d be interested in auditioning for a French film, little did the teenager know that a year later she’d be walking the red carpet of the Toronto International Film Festival for the film’s premiere. Banerjee, 19, plays the titular role in French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve’s romantic drama Maya.
Casting director, Nandini Shrikent, was tasked to find an Indian girl aged between 16 and 18 years for the French-English film centered around a romance between a Goan girl and a 30- year-old French man. Seated at her apartment while nursing a cold, Banerjee remembered the day when Shrikent had called to inform that Hansen-Løve was only interested in meeting her after watching over 200 audition tapes. “I was nervous but so happy,” said Banerjee who had never auditioned for a film prior to Maya. More so, she had only heard of the writer-director and not seen her works. Banerjee immediately sat down to see her films. Things to Come and Goodbye My First Love are her favourites.
Born to actress and textile designer Ratula Banerjee, she studied at Ryan Global school in Mumbai where she would mostly get assigned older parts in skits by virtue of being the tallest in class. “I used to be the teacher or grandmother,” says Banerjee, who at one point wanted to be a cosmetic surgeon. But cinema was always a passion as evident by a wall in her living room which holds multiple Hollywood film posters including her favourite romcoms Pretty Woman, Notting Hill and Music & Lyrics. But Banerjee would first get comfortable with the still camera, beginning her modelling career at the age of 16.
The actress will soon be walking the red carpet of the Toronto International Film Festival for the film’s premiere. (Photo: Mail Today)
Banerjee says that Hansen-Løve insisted she not to do any acting workshops or courses and rather stay her “very raw” self. “Mia said, ‘I want to train you’,” says Banerjee, who learnt some Konkani for the part. It helped that she connected with Maya who Banerjee described as “fun-loving” but also “shy”. “She comes with a lot of baggage,” says Banerjee. “She falls in love with a French man who happens to be her family friend.” Roman Kolinka, who has worked with Hansen-Løve in both Eden and Things to Come, plays the part.
With regards to scenes of intimacy, Banerjee and her mother, Ratula, who was present throughout the shoot, were all praises for the director. “She gave me the space to choose what I was OK doing,” said the model-actress. “Everything was aesthetically done. We had total trust in Mia and the fact that she would not make anything look bad.” The Banerjees’ noted that all the heads of department were women and were amazed that the cast and crew worked only 7-8 hours a day and had weekends off.
That will be a luxury in Bollywood, which is certainly not ruled out by Banerjee. A Dharma or a Yash Raj film would be great. “I’m open to everything; I don’t have any restriction,” she says. “A lot of big people are going for the Toronto Film Festival, I hope they recognise me and I get to meet them.”
(Courtesy of Mail Today)