South African actress, film producer, and humanitarian, Tarina Patel, was born in Cape Town and raised in Durban. She attended Durban Girls’ College where she studied English, Afrikaans, French and Latin. She finished school at the age of 16 and went to India to study Medicine. In this interview with Quadri Akanbi, Patel reveals details of her career, working with stalwarts, and legends like Omar Sharif, as well as Peter O’Toole. Laurence Olivier too.
How do you describe your acting style?
Regarding my acting style, I would say that, you know, I’m more of a thinking actress. So, I like to really understand my character, what her background is, where she comes from, and why she is the way she is. And once I have a better understanding of my character, can I then lend that knowledge to the scenes that play out, and the things that she does throughout the film or throughout the series. I also tend to rely a lot on my director for his guidance because he’s got a greater overview of all the characters. So, instead of my character being, you know, in its solo sort of understanding, it’s always good to gauge the understanding and the dynamics between my character and the other characters through the vision of the director.
You are a reputed actress, how did you find yourself in the acting world?
I was in India as a medical student. I was in Bombay studying to become a doctor. And I would get spotted, I was spotted repeatedly where, you know, people would approach me with their details and suggest that I get into modeling. I suggest getting into films. And as I was out and about on weekends, you know, with my family at dinners, filmmakers would approach me and say, Look, you’ve got, like, really beautiful bone structure. And you’re really beautiful. You really should, you know, are you interested in doing films? Or are you interested in this?
And I would get amazed , and this would happen to me often. It’s so bizarre because I come from such an academic family. And nobody in the family’s in the arts, and so it was quite foreign to them. And it was certainly foreign to me because I’d also never seen myself that way. I’d never thought of myself as somebody who could, you know, be in front of the camera. I was just a girl with the head in the books. That was it. That was my life. And then I decided one day because my friends goaded me on, and they were like, come on, Terina. Like, just give it a shot. Like, why not? Like it could just be the most amazing thing and you never know, and why not? You have nothing to lose. And I went ahead and did this photoshoot and I couldn’t believe the result. I couldn’t believe that that was me. I had this out-of-body experience where I was looking at these pictures and saying, Oh my God, that’s phenomenal. I had never seen myself or thought of myself as being this really beautiful girl. And so yeah, one thing led to the other and before you know it, I was shooting commercials around the world. I’ve done more than 100 TV commercials, and then I learned Hindi and then I was, you know, in the film world, and then you know, as they say, the rest is history.
Talking about your debut in 2006 with the film “One Night with the King’’, how has the movie influenced your style as an actor?
Part of my career, working with stalwarts and legends like Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole. And Laurence Olivier. I mean, life does not get any better than that because here we are upset with these people and then offset by just sitting with them and engaging with them.