RUPINDER NAGRA- ON BEING A CANADIAN SOUTH ASIAN ACTOR
Posted by barkha on July 26, 2011 | 1 Comment
Canada is home to many South Asians, but despite the IIFA and Deepa Mehta’s, it is not easy being a professional South Asian actor in the Maple Leaf. However, emerging from that pack, with some amazing performances stretching across Bollywood, Canada, US and UK is Rupinder Nagra. His screen presence was noticed in a big way in Amal, where despite being with some stalwarts, he managed to hold his own. Good enough to catch the eye of Bollywood.
Here we speak to this emerging talent and get his candid and insightful views:
What made you decide on Acting?
This may sound like a cliché answer but it is something that I have always wanted to do since I was a kid. It started in kindergarten and wanting to be part of the school Christmas play. I remember getting cast as one of the principle characters. I was singing in the chorus. The chorus was off stage and I remember wanting to be on that stage.
I was 7, the first film i saw was Adalat, I was in awe of these people who were displaying their lives on screen. It intrigued me. Once I learnt they were actors it was something I wanted to pursue.
Compare the landscape for South Asian actors in Canada and the UK?
The landscape for South Asian actors in Canada is still growing and we still have far to go to catch up to the UK. The difference in the UK is that South Asians have been there for several generations. In the UK they have established themselves in many different fields. As a result they have truly become part of the mainstream. It is not unique to see a South Asian face on television, in film or on the stage in the UK. They have been doing it for years.
In Canada we are just getting into the second generation. It is still unique to see a South Asian face on television, film or the stage.
Also, in the UK they have an entertainment industry that is not dependent upon another country. As a result they have an opportunity to tell stories that are unique for their country. In Canada our entertainment industry (i.e. Film) is highly dependent on the US industry that we are still struggling to find our voice. As a result I feel there are at times missed opportunities for unique stories involving South Asians in Canada.
How was your experience working with Richie in AMAL and Aparna in Mitsein?
Both experiences were quite unique:
Aparna ‘Mitsein’ – Here was a US independent film that was written, produced and directed by this young filmmaker. She is passionate and strong willed. To this day I am impressed by her. Making a film is like going to war and she had to literally fight this battle on her own and she won. Watching her work certainly taught me how much one can achieve if they have the passion. Nothing can stop passion and hard work.
Richie Mehta’s ‘Amal’ - What was fantastic about Richie is that he created a safe environment on set for his actors. For an actor it is important to play and explore a character. On set with Richie you felt that you could do this. Richie believed that his actors were the experts on the characters and that they should be telling him what the characters would be doing.
I feel every project one does as an actor allows you to grow as a person and as an artist. As an actor you grow by doing your craft.
Brush with Bollywood and Kurbaan. What was that experience like?
A friend introduced me to Shanoo Sharma , head of casting for Dharma productions and Yash Raj. One day she gave me a frantic call that both Rensil and Karan have watched my work in AMAL and want to talk to me about their upcoming project.
Rensil and I had chatted and right away I felt we had great rapport over the phone. The next day I was on a flight to London so he mailed the script to me in London. I read it and accepted the role.
The interesting thing about this film is that it’s a departure from Dharma’s other body of work. This film is a move away from the family drama topics and looking at an issue that is affecting us globally.
It was a pleasure having the opportunity to work with Om Puri and stars like Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. I joke with my friends that since I have now worked with Naseeruddin Shah, Seema Biswas, Roshan Seth and Om Puri I can now retire.