Four Samosas: Director Ravi Kapoor and Star Venk Potula take us inside the making of the fabulous film

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The brilliant comedy Four Samosas, written and directed by Ravi Kapoor is a sparky, quirky heist film with a twist. The film, now in theatres and available On-Demand, stars Venk Potula, as well as Sonal Shah, Sharmita Bhattacharya, Nirvan Patnaik, Karan Soni, Tony Mirrcandani, and Summer Bishil.

Stuck in a rut in life, when wannabe rapper Vinny discovers that his ex-girlfriend Rina is engaged, he decides to disrupt her future wedding by stealing her dowry diamonds from her father’s grocery store. Crewing up with an actor who longs to go to Bollywood, a resourceful do-gooding newspaper editor, and a malcontent immigrant engineer, Vinny and his gang somehow pull off the heist but then comes the next act. To see what happens in the end, you will need to watch it play out in all its comedic glory!

Set entirely in LA’s “Little India” in a world of sari places, curry restaurants, Indian amateur-dramatic groups, and South-Asian revolutionaries, Four Samosas is a celebration of re-discovering your voice and finding your crew.

Let’s set the scene with the trailer so you get the feel.

In a fun and laughter-filled interview, writer/director Ravi Kapoor and star Venk Potula talked with Stacey about all things Four Samosas, including creating the world of the film, bringing the story to life, working with ‘the crew’, and so much more!

Mr. Kapoor, Four Samosas is a heist movie in the middle, but there are so many more layers, elements, and moments, so how did you develop the screenplay?
Yes, I think you are totally right. It is, at its core, a heist movie. But it is also a love story. It is also a movie about performance because Vinny, who is played by Venk, he’s a musician, he’s a singer, a rapper who is still trying to find his voice. So it is about the world that it exists in, which is Artesia, which is Los Angeles’ Little India. So there is a lot of richness to the film too. But really, in the end, it is about a guy who is trying to find his people and trying to find his voice as well.

I always wanted to make a lo-fi heist film, and I always wanted to do something set in Artesia, so those two things came together in this film.

Sonal Shah as “Paru”, Venk Potula as “Vinny”, Sharmita Bhattacharya as “Anjali” and Nirvan Patnaik as “Zak” in Ravi Kapoor’s FOUR SAMOSAS. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.


When you first got the script, Venk, what did you think when you read all that this story and film is?
Oh man, you know I was laughing out loud. It was so funny. It was charming. I really related to the main character, especially about him feeling a little stuck, and he so wants to get things going for himself. I think, in some ways, I always feel that leaning on community and trying to build a team of people to try and accomplish something is always the best way to go about it. So, I like that Vinny is sort of a leader as well. Even though his intentions are questionable in the beginning (laughs), he is kind of wanting to put himself out there and do something – even if it is anything. I kind of believe that too. Even if you don’t know what to do – just start.

Mr. Kapoor, how was it to direct Venk?
It was a nightmare. (Both laugh) Terrible, Terrible. I don’t know what I was thinking when I hired him to produce and act in it (Both Laugh).
No, really, Venk is brilliant. He can do it all as well; he can act, he can sing, he can dance. He was just so game. We talked about the idea that with this film and the way it was shot, with it being a little bit more of a lo-fi film, there was a lot of trust that was needed from all the actors, particularly from Venk. We were shooting on one lens, and we had the camera right up in people’s faces – it was not all conventional. Venk was just so game, and he was just so committed, and that is what this film required. It just needed everybody to be committed to the tone and style of the film. That tone and style involved you really putting yourself out there and being vulnerable and not hiding behind anything.

Venk, you did have to do a lot of shots with the camera right in your face, and you couldn’t just look into the camera. So, how was it to do those scenes?
(Laughs) Yes, yes, that’s true. First of all, it was there in the script, and when we had those early conversations and Ravi was talking about his vision for it, I think I was so down! I am a fan; I am a fan of Ravi’s work as an actor and as a filmmaker. It was so easy for me to bind to the vision because I believed it. I just believed it was the best way to try and do this. It was so fun! I mean, I never had a camera that close, but acting is acting; you can put the camera here, or you can put the camera there, but at the end of the day, for me, it is about the character, the scene, the moment, and trying to tell this story, you know? So, it was a great challenge. Of course, it was challenging at times, but it was so fun, and I had the support of all the other actors as well. We have such an amazing cast, very much in an ensemble way, Sonal[Shah], Sharmita[Bhattacharya], and Nirvan[Patnaik], the Four Samosas, it was so easy to rely on them, and I think we could rely on each other to create the moments and work within the tone of the film to bring it to life literally.

Mr. Kapoor, you put such an incredible cast together; everyone was so perfect; honestly, how did you get this cast together?
It was really cool in the sense that we just went out to people we knew, actors that I had worked with or we had seen or were part of the South Asian acting community. We basically didn’t audition anybody. It was straight offers; it was like will you play this part because we know you are going to be brilliant at it… they were like, ‘I don’t have to audition??’ We were like, ‘NO, just come and do! Come and play because we know you are going to be brilliant.’ (You can hear his excitement and smile). I think that was special for us to be able to do that and to be in that position to be able to do that. And I think it was very exciting for them as well to know that, oh, these people know I can do it; I don’t have to jump through hoops to prove I can do this part. I think it was liberating for everybody. You know, some of the actors were very close to home. My wife, Meera Simhan, a very accomplished actress, played Vinny’s Mom, Venk’s mom, and my daughter Maya played his cousin Nikki. So we definitely started close to home and then kind of worked out in our circles that we knew.

One of the things I really loved is that this looked like it was shot like a home movie, and the aspect ratio you chose really set the film’s tone. So, what went into that decision?
Yeah, I definitely wanted it to feel almost like a retro kind of movie, so doing it in the 4×3 aspect ratio and then curving out the corners and staying with one lens. Part of that was because it is a lo-fi film, a lo-fi heist film, in some ways, and I was trying to figure out how do I make this visually arresting but on the budget that we have. And how do you achieve that when you don’t have millions of dollars to shoot a massive heist film? So I was always trying and looking for things to limit ourselves with in order to then see what creativity came out of that.

Venk Potula as “Vinny”, and Summer Bishil as “Rina” in Ravi Kapoor’s FOUR SAMOSAS. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

Venk, your character, goes through quite the journey; he is lost, he plans this heist and is really excited, but he is still trying to find his love, and you go through a lot of emotions which you played really well; how was it to go through the emotions of playing this character?
Thank you! It was challenging. It really was. I think that one thing that Ravi said early on was that Vinny is very different from the other characters because everyone else, the way Ravi described it, is in a comedy, but Vinny doesn’t think he is in a comedy, you know. He is really hurt at the end of the day. That was the thing, to have that throughout the entire shoot and to know that that is what is really going on with him. It was hard. Especially with a comedy, you want to laugh. There were so many moments where I just wanted to NOT feel that way because it sucks to feel all broken. It sucks to feel that things are not working and you are doing the heist, and things happen – but that’s what the story called for. For me, one thing I did, and I always do this for my characters, is I create a music playlist of what they would listen to. That really kind of helped me slip back in. Often I had my headphones in and, depending on the scene, working with certain songs to help me slip into what the emotions are for this character. Then, of course, showing up on set and working with everybody saying let’s through caution to the wind and just play and be in the moment.

Four Samosas is a fun comedy heist movie; it also has drama, yes, and it had, of course, the South Asian aspects, the Bollywood moments, but it also is just a slice of life of Vinny, was that intentional just to be not to explain?
Yeah.. what is interesting with this film is that even though it is in some ways a bit of a slice-of-life movie, it is also a heightened slice-of-life movie. It is like everything isn’t quite real – it is all just a little bit more than real. It is above it. It is all most like it is a parallel universe world that is going on. I was also interested in looking at the outsiders of the South Asian community. What is interesting about Vinny’s character is that he is not rich, his dad is not around, his mom sits and works in the garage, and all these characters kind of live on the fringe of that affluent South Asian community. They live on the edges of it. I definitely wanted to lean into more of the kind of working-class, blue-collar South Asian community which we don’t always often see. I mean, sometimes you do, but not always.

Now, this was shot on location in Artesia; what was that experience like, Vinny? Oh, I am so sorry. I mean Venk!
(All laugh) No worries! Who knows, maybe I am in character now (laughs again). No, It was amazing to literally shoot it on location in Artesia. A place we have all been to and a place we all know. Of course, we got the support of so many of the local store owners and people within the South Asian community there in Artesia to kind of help. It really was a community-made movie. I think you felt that every day on set the fact that there is something special here. There is a homegrown kind of quality to it that, I think, in terms of the heart of that, I hope, shows through in the performances and in the film. That it was made of a community from the community and for the community.

Venk Potula as “Vinny”, Sharmita Bhattacharya as “Anjali”, Nirvan Patnaik as “Zak”, and Sonal Shah as “Paru” in Ravi Kapoor’s FOUR SAMOSAS. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

Now to both of you, Four Samosas is getting some amazing reviews; how does that feel?
Ravi: I am still pinching myself a little bit, going, ‘Wait, everybody really likes it??’. Especially when you make a film that you kind of go, I am just going to make a film that really appeals to me; if nobody else likes it, that is totally fine. At least I can go away happy and know we and I made the movie that we wanted to make, and that’s it. When people come and say, ‘I Loved It Too’, it is so gratifying. There are other crazy people in the world besides myself.

Me!

And, like you. (Laughs)

Venk: You know it is funny, I actually feel very differently. I think, obviously, having had the chance to read one of the early versions of the script, I really believed in it. It is incredible that people have responded to it; you don’t know… But for me, it is just really special to have read such an early draft and co-produce this movie with Ravi and bring it to life and show people that this is good! I always thought and believed in that. And believed in Ravi and wanting to make that vision happen and help in any way that I could to bring that story to life. For me, it was like, this is good, this is good. So, of course, it is very validating when other people feel that way, but I also feel that this should happen, and I don’t know if it always will, but I am happy in this case, it has.

Full of laughs, love, and a brilliant enjoyable story, we highly recommend you watch Four Samosas today!

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