Before she sang “Galavaaant” across the castles and fields of England, actress Karen David was filming in London for Atul Malhotra’s Brit Indie film Amar, Akbar & Tony. Amar, Akbar & Tony are three best friends who all are from different backgrounds. It is about the camaraderie and love between these three friends through trials, tribulations, predicaments they face and the happy times as they grow up and come of age.
In the comedy/drama, Karen plays the mysterious character of Meera, but that is all we know! What we do know is that according to director Atul, she has done an incredible job.
Stacey got the chance to catch up with Karen and had a fun, fabulous chat about the challenges playing Meera, what she thinks is so special about this Indie film and more! Enjoy!
I know when we last talked, you were telling me that filming was in the middle of your wedding?
Yes! I was planning my wedding. It was so crazy. The funny thing is I was asking my managers and agents when is a good time to get married? And they said April-May, it is completely dead. It could not be further from the truth! When I met with Atul he told me about the film and said he wanted me to play Meera. I was so excited about it, and I was like ‘great when do you want to start?’ He says, ‘We are going to start in May’. I was like ‘What? Oh no! Slight problem… I am getting married in May’. Now this is a testament to Atul’s vision and his determination because he said, ‘We are going to work the schedule around you getting married’. I said, ‘Really?’ I felt so bad because I know it is an Indie film and it is all about budget and scheduling. I said, ‘Don’t do it on account of me and my wedding. You guys have to do what is best for the film’. He said, ‘I really want you to be a part of this’. God bless Atul and the gang because they really did work around it. And my wonderful husband did not panic, he said, ‘Okay I will make sure the wedding runs smoothly; all you have to do is just make sure you show up at the altar’. And literally when I said I do, I left him a few days after we got married to go back to England to finish making the film. He said, ‘You better make sure this movie sees the light of day’. He was so happy and delighted to see that this day has arrived that the movie is releasing.
What attracted you to the role of Meera?
I was always told by my managers the reason you do an Indie film is because the script is really good, you love the character, and the people you are going to work with are an interesting, talented bunch of people. Amar Akbar & Tony ticked off all of those boxes for me. It is this very endearing, cheeky, funny, witty, and poignant at some points, story of the friendship and the bond between these three guys growing up in England. It is a story that is so universal and so relatable and humbling at the same time. There is something really special about this story.
First of all, to play a girl from India, knowing that I would have to do an authentic accent I was like… okay NO pressure. (Laughs) What attracted me to Meera was that I really loved the complexities of the character. There is so much about Meera that is mysterious. Meera has a loving side but she also has some demons and a dark side and as an actor those are things that are very interesting and appealing for me. They are challenging as an actor to play.
Eventually, as we get to know more about Meera and her story, her life and what has taken place in her past. Then it starts to unfold that who she is is this vulnerable, young, hopeful, and scared young woman. Coming to a new country where she doesn’t know anyone, who has left her family and everything that she knows back home in India. Those are things I know my family could relate too when they left India and what I felt like when I left my family to go and study abroad and embark on something that I had no idea how it was going to turn out, and if there was going to be a happy ending or not. That was something in her journey that I could relate to in many ways.
How was it to play such a complex character, because as you said she does have those two sides to her and you had to have the one underlying dark side always there.
With Meera I knew she had some demons and she has a past, which no one knows about quite yet. Like I said, she is this mysterious character, which is what really endeared me towards wanting to play her. I am not going to lie, I was scared. I was like wow – there are some moments and some twists and turns in this story line. It is something that I hadn’t quite done before. I am the type that likes to throw herself into the deep end. When tackling some of these tricky scenes with Meera, it is such a fine line to not tip over to what is not realistic, do you know what I mean? It is playing the moments of what happens when people who do suffer from depression or are in a moment of complete and utter loneliness. I can’t even begin to imagine the level of loneliness one must feel to go sometimes into these dark places. It breaks my heart because you can just only imagine…without giving away too much… how Meera must have been feeling. The wanting to find peace in her heart and to be at peace with some of the things she has done in her past. So that was a big challenge.
Tell us about working with Atul; he seems very passionate about the project.
It is that passion that is so enthusiastic and that passion infiltrates into the script and dialogue. Atul has this unbelievable imagination and talent – I just love his approach towards filmmaking, as you will see when the movie comes out.
Tell us about working with the cast and preparing for this film.
Before we started filming we did have a week of rehearsals just to really get into the headspace of our characters. Plus meeting the other actors, getting to know each other and feeling comfortable. Finding out what our comfort zones are and what was not our comfort zone was really interesting to see because that makes for great acting as well. We obviously worked thorough the scenes, doing a line run and blocking before filming. Atul is also very big in being in the moment and just letting whatever happened spontaneously in the scene come. As I said we would go through the scene before we would shoot and if there were any different ideas we wanted to throw out to each other, we would work those into the scene as well. It is a very organic approach with Atul. You see an idea start off in a very embryonic stage and then you see it develop and then you work on that idea with him and then he is very welcome for any ideas that we might have. But Atul is very particular with his vision too and so he should be. We would find the happy medium of trying to breathe life into these characters with his vision and your ideas.
It seems like from talking with you and with Atul and some of the other cast members that you all really joined together to make this great film. Is that what it was?
I think that is the spirit of making an Indie film. I find when you are doing Indie films there is more of a camaraderie. There is more of that family support because everyone wants to make it special. I think we all felt with AAT. We are working with such a wonderful bunch of people. I learned a lot working with Atul and working with actors likes Rez (Kempton), Tanveer (Ghani), Martin (Delaney), Sam (Vincenti) and Laura (Aikman)… the list just goes on with the whole cast. It was such a wonderful supportive cast and crew, it just made things so much more enjoyable and easier. Everyone is rooting for each other.
A lot of my scenes were with Rez and Tanveer, who are such brilliant and giving actors. It really is so rare to work with actors that are so giving and so supportive and will do anything to not only make the scene work, but also to bring out the best in you and make you look good. That is what I got working with the likes of Rez and Tanveer and Atul. That is what they do I am just so happy to have been a part of this.
How does it feel to have the director say that this was an amazing performance?
Atul is so very kind and gracious with his words, but I think he forgets how wonderful he is as a director. He really just brought the best out of me. That is the icing on the cake, when you have someone like Atul, your director, being so utterly happy with what you have done. That to me that is what matters most. If the director is happy then I am happy.
Do you see this film as a way for people to see Indian and British Asian characters in Television and film in a different light?
I am so relieved. I am like Thank Goodness! We have seen a lot of different British Asians depicted in different ways on TV, which is great. Some of it is very stereotypical. I know for comedies it can be really funny and it works but you know, everyone is different. With our movie, I just feel that it is such a fresh, very raw depiction of Brit Asians. It doesn’t hide behind anything. It is what it is. That is what I loved about it so much because it didn’t go along with the stereotype of what Brit Asians are like or should be like in other people’s minds. It’s so very real to a point that you think wow it might make some people uncomfortable. But you know that is good! That is a good thing!
It talks about issues that maybe some people don’t want to talk about concerning sexuality and decisions and life choices that one makes. Sometimes I think we are to sheltered in a way. I am trying to say this as eloquently as possible without causing offense because I don’t want to cause offense. The only way we can grow, evolve and learn is to look at things in the face and not be afraid to look at it. I think Atul deals with these very delicate subjects and issues so beautifully. Because it will feel uncomfortable for some viewers, but at the same time you are going to end up laughing at the end of it. Thinking, oh wow I get it. The point was made and it was executed beautifully in a way I can understand now. Atul really does that. If anything I think he deserves a bit of a pat on the back because we live in a very sensitive time now. I think he had set with those more sensitive topics really well.
What do you think is the underlying message of the film is?
The tagline friendship, family and finding love does sum it up. I think Atul could speak to this much more eloquently than me. I think it is about how true friendship has no boundaries. You have three young men who are cut from very different cloths and it is about how they have come together, grown up and evolved together and have gone through the trials and tribulations that life throws at you. It is a wonderful coming of age sort of A to Z story of these three boys. It is so inspiring.
I think it reminds me of the friendships I have had as a child and still do. My childhood friends are my best friends to this day. My best friend has known me since I was six years old. She could probably describe every fiber of my being to a tee. She is my go to for everything. You know going through this journey as an actor you face a lot of rejection. Goodness knows you go through these moments and you think ‘what am I doing with my life’? I will never forget during one of those times she just looked me and said, ‘Karen, ever since I have known you this is all you have ever wanted to do. As far as I am concerned you are doing what you should be doing.’ She is the one person that has witnessed my life and I think that is a gift and an honor.
And I think with these three characters, they have witnessed each other’s lives and they are there to speak for each other. That to me is such an amazing gift and blessing to have friends like that.
So I have to ask…is Galavant coming back for season 2?
Touchwood it is looking good but stranger things have happened. Dan (Fogelman) has got some really big plans for season 2 which I am so excited about. He has told us a little but not too much. He is keeping his cards close to his chest but he has said he has some very, very big plans for season 2. We are going to know in May – that is when ABC and most of the networks make their announcements. Fingers crossed, but it is looking hopeful.
What else are you working on?
I am working on a very top secret video game. I will be able to talk more about it soon. It is very Matrix style. I am playing such a strong character and it is very different from what I normally play. I have never done motion capture before and this is so cool. I am like a kid in a candy shop. I have got these really cool dark suits that I have got to wear with white dots all over it and this camera right in front of my face attached to my helmet. It is amazing! It is such a cool way to pay the bills. I feel like such a kid, I mean I am such a gamer girl and the gamer girl in me is so excited. The digitized version of me is very tall and beautiful and I wish I could like that every day but that is a whole other story. (Laughs) I am having the time of my life. It is so much fun. It is going to come out in February 2016. My husband is more excited about this than Galavant or anything else. (Laughs) I think the best thing about it is that it gives me the highest brownie points with my nephews.
I did do an American Indie film The Tiger Hunter, directed by Lena Khan, with Danny Pudi, Rizwan Manji, Jon Heder, Kevin Pollack, Sam Page and Iqbal Theba. It is such a great cast. I am so excited about this film. It is such a great romantic comedy film. I am sure you and I will be talking about this soon!
I also have been back recording in the studio and it has been so great being creative and writing new music. It’s actually my haven. I am hoping I can get my EP done and release something later this year. I wanted to stem off from my last EP Dust to Stars and Daydreamer. I love feel good music. I always have theme songs everyday, songs that are going to make me feel good, feel good about life and about myself, about all the blessings I have. We all need that theme song to quick start our day and that changes for me daily. That is the kind of music I want to write. Infectious Indie girl pop songs. That is what we are trying to do for this EP. We will see. I am excited.
Getting back to AAT, what do you hope audiences take away after seeing this film?
I think Atul has presented a very universal storyline which they will relate to and find endearing. And like we talked about earlier, it does deal with some very sensitive subjects and so maybe it will open their eyes and maybe having a fresh perspective on it. That some of these subjects that Atul talks about in the film, that they happen in every culture no matter what cloth you are cut from. These are every day challenges for a lot of people in England, not just Brit Asians. I think he has unified those sensitive subjects within the storyline so eloquently. There is a wonderful grittiness and a beauty in that grittiness that he brings out which I love and it is very edgy, and refreshing and different. It is a different, fresh, more raw depiction of modern day Brit Asians growing up in the big Western world and trying to fit in and make a life for themselves.
I am glad it is having a release in London. It will be interesting to see what the reaction will be over there because that could open a lot of doors for the film. I know it did really well at the Mumbai Film Festival; they had such a warm reception to it. I am hoping that happens in London. But at the end of the day, if the people who come to see the movie are moved by it and enjoy it that is why we do what we do and that is why you take the punt and make an Indie film. I am so excited for Atul and everyone involved to see our film release.
As always it is a total joy and so much fun to talk with Karen and we look forward to seeing her in Amar Akbar & Tony when it releases on April 17th!
Atul Malhotra’s Amar Akbar & Tony stars Rez Kempton, Sam Vincenti, Martin Delaney, Karen David, Laura Aikman, Goldy Notay, Tanveer Ghani, Meera Syal, and Nina Wadia.