Girl from Thiruvambadi dances her way to the Oscars

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Tia Sebastian played a key role in Gujarati movie Chello Show, India’s official entry to the Oscars 2023

Tia Sebastian played a key role in Gujarati movie Chello Show, India’s official entry to the Oscars 2023

Tia Sebastian has rejected quite a number of roles in movies, because she did not want to be that fat best friend of the leading lady who eats 10 masala dosas. She would rather be the bubbly Banjara dancer who inspires someone and dance all the way to Oscars.

This Mumbai-based actor, who hails from Thiruvambadi, a calm little upland village in Kozhikode district of Kerala, played a key role in the Gujarati movie Chello Show ( The Last Film Show), India’s official entry to the Oscars 2023. She plays ‘Lilamila’, a nomadic dancer who inspires the film-maker in ‘Samay’, a little boy in rural Gujarat, the protagonist of the film.

With 16 years of experience in theatre and quite a few films, web series and ad films in her kitty, Tia is not a newbie in the field. But it took an Oscar entry and a small role in the recent Malayalam hit Thallumala for her to be recognised by people back home. That’s because unlike most actors, acting in a movie did not cross her mind, until she started getting some offers. But yet, most roles offered were not to her liking.

“I do not adhere to the popular conception of how an actress should look like. I am a big girl and the roles I got were so typical in which big girls are either laughed upon or were dramatic attempts to educate the society that being big is not bad. I could not do such films”, Tia said, explaining her choices.

Acting skills

She believes that acting skills should be the first priority for someone to be cast in a role and hence is looking forward to acting in more Malayalam movies. “I am proud that Malayalam has the best content-driven movies in the country at present and that our audience have come way ahead from the stereotypes”, she said.

The opportunity to be part of The last film show came as a surprise for Tia and she had to sweat out a bit to be Lilamila. “I am a trained Kathakali and Kathak dancer. But here, though the character is a dancer, I could not use any of the normal moves we have seen in movies. Besides, I was not familiar with Gujarathi, let alone the rustic version of it used in the film”, Tia said. However, even while shooting for it, Tia felt that the film would go places. “We all felt that we were being part of something special; that this movie would win accolades at festivals. But Oscars? Never imagined” she added.

Tia is now preparing for three new projects in Bollywood, including a film with Aditya Roy Kapoor and a web series by Nagesh Kukunoor. A graduate from Delhi University and a former Radio Jockey, Tia is married to filmmaker and cinematographer Rohin Raveendran, who too has his roots in Kozhikode.

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