Bollywood is one of the most welcoming film industries and that is exactly why actors from all over the world realize that they would like to take a try at Hindi films. Sarah Thompson Kane is no different. The minute she was offered to be a part of Prakash Jha’s blockbuster hit Raajneeti, she found herself saying yes almost instantly. She traveled to India and became a part of the mammoth of a star cast to a film which is easily the biggest hit of 2010. However, little did she know that her role would not only be recognized but praised incredibly. The American actress played the love interest to Ranbir Kapoor who travels from the United States to meet him and learn about India in the process. BollySpice spoke to the actress who was back in Los Angeles about Hindi films and her experience all around.
Welcome to Bollywood and congratulations! Your performance in Raajneeti has been praised and appreciated by critics and audiences. How does it feel?
It’s amazing! I was so nervous to see the reaction just because it’s my first film in India. You hope people like it and connect with the performance and the film. And it’s just so gratifying that people liked the film. I’m so proud to be a part of it. It’s still a little overwhelming still for me because the response has been so great but I’m thrilled.
How did you land the role in Raajneeti?
Well, about a year ago my manager here in Los Angeles called me and asked if I was interested in meeting an Indian director who was coming to town to find Americans actors to play this part in the film. And I’d always wanted to travel to India so I said absolutely! I’d love to meet him. Then I started discovering a little more about Hindi cinema. I knew about the singing and dancing numbers; I knew a little bit about Bollywood but I wasn’t that well versed so I watched a few of Prakash’s [Jha] films and I met him for breakfast. And we just totally hit it off! We had a three hour meeting and I was in awe of him; in awe of his work. He is just such an amazing filmmaker and such an amazing human being. I left that meeting and said to myself, I have to work with him. And we had a couple more meetings and then he called me up and said alright, I want you to do the film!
What was Prakash Jha’s brief to you when he casted you for the role?
Basically he gave me a synopsis of the story which is obviously very complicated so I studied it and studied it before our meeting so that I knew all of the characters names and who belonged to what part of what family. I wanted to really understand the story. He gave me that and then he gave me a really thorough back story on my character; where she came from, who her parents were, things that are not necessarily in the film but it’s helpful to know as an actress. And he mostly briefed me on the story and the characters. He also told me of all the other actors involved. The story is just so good and the characters are so strong. I knew I had to be a part of it.
And how was it working with him?
He’s amazing. Prakash is one of the most passionate dedicated people I’ve ever met. He’s so passionate about film but he’s also passionate about all these charitable organizations as well. We just did a tour as a charity event for a hospital he is trying to build in Bihar and so I found him to be such a well-rounded person. He’s a very inspiring guy! He directs movies, he owns a television station, he builds hospitals, malls, movie theaters. This man is superhuman! I loved working with him. He is an excellent director who gives the actors their freedom but also guides us. It was such a pleasure working with him
I’m sure. Now the star cast is big! How was it working with such a huge and prominent star cast?
(Laughs) I know! I still can’t believe I’m in a film with all of them! I still look at the poster and wonder how I end up in film with all of these guys? They were amazing. I was actually a little intimidated at first. Once I got the film, I watched all of Ranbir’s [Kapoor] movies. I really studied all of them. I became a big fan of all of the actors. It was fantastic; they were all so nice and made me feel so welcomed. They didn’t make me feel like a newcomer to Bollywood which I was. They just welcomed me and so I was initially nervous for the first couple of days and then I felt really at home.
Ranbir, it is said, made sure you were very comfortable and taken care of. How was it working with him?
He’s so sweet! He’s such a sweet down to earth guy. And yeah, we have a couple of romantic scenes and he was so conscious of the fact that maybe I might be nervous. He made sure he was checking in with me all the time. I just adore him. He is so talented and I am such a fan of his work. And when saw Raajneeti, I couldn’t believe how amazing he was! I had never seen him in a role like that before. I had mostly seen him do more comedy. I was just blown away.
You’ve been a part of two popular shows: Angel and Seventh Heaven. So are you leaving Hollywood completely and shifting to Bollywood? What are your plans?
My plan right now is to capitalize on the release of Raajneeti. So right now there is a lot of interest in me from India and I am in Los Angeles right now. I have actually gotten an agent in India and a publicist so in an ideal world, I would like to go back and forth. I feel like cinema in general is becoming more international and Indian film is crossing over here. There is so much crossover that I am hoping that maybe I can simultaneously go back and forth and that the movies I do in India will be of interest here and vice-versa so that the two worlds are not so separate anymore. I was born and raised in Los Angeles; this is my home. I don’t think I’ll ever leave completely but I will go back and forth. Too bad they are so far apart! (Laughs) At the end of the day, it’s just a plane ride.
Did you like India?
I love it! I’ve been there about three or four times. You know my parents spent a lot of time in India before I was born. So I grew up here listening to all these great stories about India and I always wanted to go. It was literally the top of my parents to go traveling. I loved it. I mean its definitely a lot different. It’s overwhelming at first because of just the sheer number of people. And I was just there recently and it’s hot! And there are a lot of people. But the energy of Mumbai is unlike any other city I’ve ever been to. People are out all night long, people are so hospitable. I’ve made so many friends in such a short period of time. Not like flaky friends but real friends. That has been astonishing! I feel like a little piece of my heart is in India; I fell in love with the country and the people. The country gets in your soul and then you feel like you have to keep going back.
What is the difference working environment between the east and west?
You know there aren’t as many as I expected. I expected it to be radically different for some reason. And it wasn’t really that different. The main difference is that the crew is a lot bigger in Bollywood; there are so many people working on the film. I don’t even know what everybody was doing at any given time. There were so many people involved. And another big difference along those lines was that I had an attendant, a driver, my own hair and make-up. Whereas in Hollywood, even the biggest stars aren’t immediately given all this. It was great! I was treated like a queen! (Laughs) And the other big thing is in Bollywood, at least in Raajneeti, we dubbed the whole film. I’ve never had to do that before. So that was a challenge on its own. Coming back a month later and basically redoing my performance was tricky. It was something I had never done before but I learned.
Word has it you have taken Hindi classes! How are those going?
They are great. My Hindi teacher made me learn how to read and write the script. That was the biggest obstacle. I got through that then I knew I could learn to speak Hindi because it was so difficult learning a new alphabet. It actually does help me because when I see something in Hindi, I don’t feel like what does that say? And now I am practicing my speaking. The hardest part is becoming conversational. So much of my speaking has been done in a classroom environment where it’s very academic. Now I have to take it to the next level and communicate back and forth with people! It’s going well. I am studying everyday and trying my hardest.
What kind of offers have you been receiving?
I’m mostly just having meetings. You know I have a lot of directors I would really like to work with so I’m trying to meet all of them. With Raajneeti being my first film, where do I go from here? There are so many Indian directors I love.
When do we see you onscreen next?
Well, I’m focusing on India right now. So I intentionally blocked out this chunk of time to devote to Raajneeti. So I’m not sure but I’ll let you know!
Who are some of your favorites?
I love Aamir Khan! And you know what? I got to meet him at the premiere! I was standing on the Red Carpet, I turned around and there he was! And I was introduced to him and was so star struck. I had to be cool! (Laughs) It was so funny because literally five minutes before that, I was doing an interview on the Red Carpet, and someone asked me who my favorite actor was. I said Aamir Khan and I had no idea he was at the premiere! He’s so talented!
What message do you have for your new fans?
I just want to thank them for welcoming me into their country and into their cinema. Words can’t express how much I appreciate that. I feel so welcomed and loved from the fans. I don’t feel like an outsider!
Sarah is on her way to ensuring she becomes a part of the biggest movie industry in the world. We at BollySpice wish her good luck as she ventures into Bollywood.