Lokvani Talks To Samrat Chakrabarti, Actor And Musician
Samrat's Chakrabarti credits include Manish Acharya's "Loins of Punjab Presents" (starring Bollywood star Shabana Azmi), Spike Lee's "She Hate Me", Manan Katahora's "Arya", Joseph Castelo's "The War Within" (nominated for INDIE SPIRIT AWARD) and Anjaan Dutt's "The Bong Connection" (starring Victor Banerjee). This year he will be seen in Ajay Naidu's 'Ashes', Sarba Das's "Karma Calling" and Amyn Kaderali's 'Kissing Cousins" Samrat has also had several guest appearances on television including Law & Order (NBC), The Sopranos (HBO), Love Monkey (CBS) and Hope and Faith (ABC). He holds an MFA in Acting from the ART/MXAT Program at Harvard University, and is a graduate at Brandeis and an established international musician. He has won numerous awards for his music, including a U.S. CARA for Best Original Pop / Rock Song for his composition "What's It all About".
Samrat talks to us about his latest film 'Loins of Punjab" to Lokvani
How did Loins of Punjab come by your way? It seems like a fun film. Tell us about your role in this venture?
I had worked with Anuvab Pal (one of the co-writers) in a few projects in
NYC, and he recommended me to director Manish Acharya. In addition to
acting, I was doing music at the time, so this film just happened to be a
perfect fit. I play DJ Trance Sen, a self proclaimed music guru who is one
of the main judges of a New Jersey based singing competion, "Desi Idol". I
also wrote, composed and produced the theme song "Dhol Beat" for the film.
What was the experience like working with the director and actors like Shabana Azmi and Naseerudin Shah?
It was a great cast. A true ensemble of actors. Very professional and very
funny. As actors, we got to improvise a lot and bring personal touches to
our characters. Watching Shabana ji work was a gift. She is quite graceful
both on and off screen.
You speak Bengali fluently? How did that happen?
All the credit go to my parents. They insisted we speak Bengali at home and
they also took me to Calcutta at least once every two years as a kid. In
addition to all that, I went a Bengali school on Sundays, to learn how to
read and write it.
What was your family reaction to you being an actor?
I did pre med in college, but in my junior year, I looked around at my class
mates and realized that I wasn't as passionate as them, in becoming a
doctor. Instead of taking notes in class, I was memorizing lines of whatever
play I was working on at the time. That's when I told my family, that I
wanted to be an actor. It was tough at first for them I think. But now
they're quite supportive.
You are a native of Boston. Talk to us about your life here and how it
shaped your passion for the arts? Or did it?
My dad was and still is very involved in the Bengali community in Boston.
Even though he's a doctor by profession, he has acted, directed, written many plays for the community. As a kid, I became heavily involved in these plays and I think that's what planted the seed. So yeah, you could say that the
Boston Bengali community shaped my passion for the arts.
Acting and music both are a big part of your life? What takes priority?
To make a living as an artist in NYC, is quite difficult. I feel quite
blessed that I am able to do music when the acting is slow and vice versa.
When it comes to acting and music being a part of my life, there is no
priority, just creativity.
You said elsewhere that you are a brown man in a white industry? Has
anything changed since then?
Well yes and no. Hollywood is slowly changing but it is primarily a white
industry. Everything is political, and as artists we must be smart about
projects we do and do not do. In today's age of globalization, I think
Bollywood is also slowly changing. Lot of interesting films are coming out
of India that are not song and dance based alone. But still, the fact remains
writers need to write more human South Asian characters and producers take
more creative risks when it comes to casting. At the end of the day I just
want to continue to tell meaningful stories in a truthful manner.
Best movie so far?
Loins of Punjab ranks ups there as one of the best ensemble pieces that I
have done. Kissing Cousins, written and directed by Amyn Kaderali, is
definitely one of my favorites.
What are your future projects?
There are a few films coming out in the next year or so that I have worked
on. Look out for the intense underworld family drama ASHES (directed by Ajay Naidu), the "You've Got Mail" meets Call Center romantic comedy KARMA CALLING (directed by Sarba Das), and a film about the trials and
tribulations of friendship in urban India: BOMBAY SUMMER (directed by Joseph Matthew).
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