When Taru Devani gave up her job as a secretary 10 years ago to become an actress she knew she would have to work hard. Today, she is still reeling from working with some of the biggest names in British cinema and thanks her lucky stars. HANNAH BEWLEY talks to Mrs Devani about working hard, following your dreams and what family life is like with 10 brothers and sisters.
TARU Devani’s positive attitude is infectious.
The 61-year-old is enjoying every minute of her working life and has no plans to slow down like many people her age.
After giving up her job as a secretary 10 years ago she is working hard but enjoying every minute of it.
She said: “Acting and singing has been in my blood since I was very little and when I was growing up in Uganda I started doing things as school in acting and dressing up and shows.
“I enjoy every moment.
“I do keep busy and I am proud of myself. I don’t think about whether it is a big job or a small job, but being in front of the camera or acting is what I want to keep doing.”
Taru is appearing in Song for Marion, a film about an elderly choir featuring and all-star cast of Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton and Christopher Ecclestone.
The Camrose Avenue resident lives with her husband Shashi, 67, who was a librarian and also ran Tara’s toy shop in Edgware.
They have two children, Shilpa, 32, and Nimish, 28, and fled to the UK as a refugee from Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda in 1972.
Mrs Devani was born in Uganda and is one of 11 brothers and sisters and even though she is the youngest in the family she still played a large role in helping out.
Her mother died eight months ago at the grand old age of 95 and was looked after for many years by Mrs Devani, who took her on day trips to everywhere possible in London.
Taru’s caring spirit and friendly nature did not go unnoticed on the set of the film.
When the film was presented at the Toronto International Film Festival Ken Marshall, the producer, invited Taru’s daughter and son-in-law, who live in Canada, to the screening as well.
She said: “I love everything that I am doing but when I found out that my daughter and son-in-law had been invited to the film festival I was really touched.
“Ken invited them and it touched my heart.
“I met them there and it was fantastic being with them. They were so proud of me – she was in tears and said she knew that one day I would make it to the red carpet.”
Her CV is full of achievements and appearances and she works as much as she can.
She also sings.
“My daughter pushed me and said this is in my blood and during this time we both travelled to India and I recorded six CDs, which was a really good experience,” she said, “that was about eight years ago. “I did live programmes in Dubai and some in London as well and I mostly sing devotional songs, or bhajans, as well as Bollywood songs and songs in Hindi, Gujarati and Urdu.
“I sing at funerals and with the family if someone has passed away and help the family through their grief.”
Taru has made friends with film stars, walked the red carpet, recorded her own CDs and performed for friends, family and the community in Harrow – but all without any formal training.
Now, she is extremely glad she made the difficult decision to give up her job.
She said: “It was a very hard decision and I did worry and think about how I would pay the mortgage, but my daughter said, ‘Look mum, do something because you only live once, it is in your blood’.
“I am very, very happy now and I have not looked back at all.
“It has been very hard but nothing is easy and if you show dedication towards what you want you will get there in the end. I have come so far with blessings from above and my parents and I have walked on the red carpet.”
She is now looking for a choir in Harrow to join after being inspired by being part of one in the film, which is made by Steel Mill Pictures.
Taru said: “Everyone says that you have to slow down with age but I don’t believe that at all – age is no barrier.
“People say ‘how can you do it at your age?’, but age is just a number, if you want to pursue something then you have to go for it.
“I don’t care if it is a small job or a big job, I will probably die on the stage or while I am working. My mother lived until she was 95 so hopefully I have a few more years left.
“I get such satisfaction at the end of the day, I am moving forward.”
She added: “The film has a really powerful message – enjoy life, don’t let age stop you doing what you want to do.”
From the sounds of it, I don’t think anything will.
n Song for Marion is released in cinemas tomorrow (Friday)