The upcoming live-action remake of Tom & Jerry will mark the first time that the hilarious pair will become part of the real world. The dynamic cat-and-mouse duo have been livening up our screens ever since the 1940s and this new upcoming film stars Chloe Grace
Moretz and Michael Pena alongside the iconic pair, as they attempt to break up the mischievous antics of Tom and Jerry whilst planning the wedding of huge socialites, Ben (Colin Jost) and Preeta (Pallavi Sharda).
In an exclusive interview with Asian Style Magazine, Pallavi Sharda, who plays Preeta in the film, shared how it felt to come into a huge franchise like Tom and Jerry, how it feels to be an Indian woman in film and transitioning into Hollywood from Bollywood…
Could you give me a brief overview of the film and of your role as Preeta in the movie?
The film is introducing these beautiful characters that we all love so much to a new generation of kids who I think have not seen Tom and Jerry in the glory that we or our parents or our grandparents have seen. It’s been very exciting to be a part of that project and that journey and to play Preeta, who is a classy Indian American woman who’s just getting things done in life. I see a lot of parts of myself in Preeta, but a lot of my friends and my cousins and so many women who have grown up as Indians across the globe and who are incredibly poised and polished and dignified and know what they want and go out and get it.
What were your first feelings when the film got introduced to you and you heard about this role that you could play in Tom and Jerry. How did it feel coming into the franchise?
It felt quite unbelievable, first of all, the fact that they were reinvigorating Tom and Jerry was exciting to me because it’s been such a big part of the cultural phenomenon in India, particularly. My earliest memories of Tom and Jerry are from my childhood trips to India where we would always watch it for some reason at my cousin’s house. Even my parents remember seeing Tom and Jerry when they were growing up so I think that the intergenerational aspect of it is fantastic but also makes it a great honour to be part of this version of it and this avatar of it. I was very excited there was a role for an Indian looking actress in there.
I think whenever there’s a role that I know that I can fit into, that excites me and the fact that these roles are being written right now is extremely exciting. The fact that we’re moving away from the monolithic portrayal of South Asian identity and actually getting into the nuance of what that is. Especially in the US, the American Indian community is very established, very well to do, they have a lot of political clout. I think that element and that aspect of the diaspora is important to show as opposed to the person in their scrubs saving lives which is a great part of who we are but not the only part.
How was it to play Preeta. She is a character that is an Indian woman but it’s not particularly the focus of the film. Her identity is just simply a part of who she is. How did that feel?
I think that was why I enjoyed the script, it was just there as it is in real life. I don’t walk into a room and announce that I’m Indian, I just walk into a room! It’s obvious that I’m Indian! And that’s where we need to be with our storytelling. Particularly in the West where migration is such a normal part of how we exist in the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, these kind of post-commonwealth countries, particularly. The connection of India and these countries is so integral and it’s interlinked in many ways because, as you know in the UK, Indians have been going there post-decolonisation for a long time and similarly in the US. My grandparents, my great grandparents died in the US so playing Preeta was quite personal because I felt like I was representing the truth about my own family and their journey of migration.
How was it playing a socialite? Some of the sets looked amazing, it looked very luxurious and fun to do.
It definitely was reminiscent of my days in Bollywood. That’s when I was like “Oh this was just normal life in Bombay!” I think playing anything larger than life is always fun because you really get out of your own skin and your own head and you surrender to the set and the character and the story. And with having a great scene partner in Colin and Michael and Chloe, it was just very easy and natural. I think what was great about this film was that the team were so seamless and everyone was kind of meant to be there it felt like. Everyday on set was an absolute joy.
The CGI animals and the CGI people as well, because I think Spike was played often by a guy in a blue bodysuit and he was fierce, man! He was barking or biting and it would take us by surprise because Colin would have a man on a leash and then he would leap! It was really funny. I was lucky, I didn’t have a human in my arms when I had Toots, I had a toy. But it was definitely strange squirming with a toy, that took getting used to. The body language around how you would pretend a squirming animated cat might look took a lot of imagination which was a lot of fun. I think as actors, a lot of it is about portraying drama, whereas this was all about suspension of disbelief and letting go and surrendering to the childlike qualities in us.
Was it fun to do that?
Absolutely. It reminded me of why I used to love watching Bollywood as a kid, for example, because there was that complete suspension of disbelief and being taken into another world and that’s what attracted me to cinema when I was growing up, was the joy that it brought and the escapism of it.
What were the main differences you found between shooting this massive Hollywood blockbuster and the Bollywood films that you used to do?
They’re actually quite similar in a film like Tom and Jerry, which was a rarity because I’ve been on a number of other sets as well which are not larger than life. I think every industry is different, every culture is different and that seeps down into a set and how people interact with one another. I definitely miss some of the chaos of India and the fact that you just never know what’s going to happen. It definitely made me very resilient and very adaptable because I’m just like “Throw anything at me!”. Even if somebody hits me in the face, I’ll still be able to perform.
I love the UK, I have actually shot there the most in the last few years, I was there when the pandemic hit. I was legging it back from Bristol where I was shooting something else. I shot ‘Beecham House’ in EAling Studios as well the year before so I’m actually really familiar with working with UK crews and I’ve actually had a number of crew members switch over from one set to another so I love it actually. London is like a second home to me and I love being there.
It was recently your eleven year anniversary of your film debut with ‘My Name Is Khan’. How does it feel looking back over your career now?
It’s interesting because I’ve got so many emails about that and I’ve seen it in the press but I played a very small role in ‘My Name is Khan’ and that was really me learning what being on a set was, and my first scene partner ever being Shah Rukh Khan. I think I’ve stuck true to who I was when I first went to India as a wee thing and I wanted to do different out-of-the-box roles,. I didn’t want to get caught up in any archetypes and I’ve constantly challenged myself. As soon as I hit a threshold, I would tear it away and then I start again. I’m addicted to the challenge of starting from scratch. I feel like the same person, I feel like that same girl who’s hungry and wants to know what’s next. That’s why I keep coming back to it. As a craft, it’s incredibly difficult but the constant element of fight is addictive.
“Tom & Jerry The Movie” is available to rent at home from March 25.