Set to release in U.S. theaters on August 18th, is the brilliant independent hip-hop drama PATTI CAKE$. A critical success and a huge hit at both the prestigious Sundance and Cannes film festivals, this magical, moving and oh so cool coming-of-age story set in gritty strip-mall suburbia in Jersey stars newcomers Danielle Macdonald and Siddharth Dhananjay. The acclaimed film directed by Geremy Jasper, also stars Mamoudou Athie, Bridget Everett and Cathy Moriarty.
The film chronicles the story of unlikely rapper, who finds her voice and follows her quest for fame and glory with humor, raw energy and some unforgettable beats.
Since you have to see it to get a hint of the true flavor of this film check out the trailer:
Starring in his first feature film in Siddharth Dhananjay, an actor from India who certainly makes his mark in this film. Playing Jheri, best friend, motivator and killer singer, Siddharth portrays this character wonderfully hitting every right note. But more on that later when we release our movie review. First, check out what Siddharth had to say about landing this role, about working on his first film and what he thinks makes Patti Cake$ so good!
Was acting something you always wanted to do?
No, not really at all. I didn’t really have a plan to do it at all. I just sort of fell into it in such a random way. I guess, while I was doing it, I realized that this is something that I really love to do and want to keep doing. It was like a fateful turn in my life that made me decide I want to be an actor.
Tell us about how you landed the role in Patti Cake$.
I was just graduating from college in Iowa. Apparently, the director, Geremy had watched a video that me and my friends had made on YouTube, Dhananjay The First and he reached out to me to see if this could work out. I got an email from the producers of this movie, ‘We made Beasts of the Southern Wild, we are making this other movie, would you want to try and be a part of it?’ I was like, ‘Hell Yeah, let’s do it.’ That’s when it all started in 2014.
So what was your first reaction? Were you like how is this even possible?
At first I thought it was fake. Then we did a little research and we were like, oh this is actually real. I mean we didn’t know to what extent it was going to be at all, but I was like lets just say yes to everything and see what happens. See what comes at you. It was pretty wild. Everything since then has been so unreal that honestly I am not surprised by anything any more. (Laughs)
If you had to describe Patti Cake$ what would you say?
It is about a 24-year-old woman from Jersey, this amazing girl who is a really talented rapper unbeknownst to most people. It is about her accepting herself and dealing with all of the pressures in her life to make something of herself. It is all about Patti.
Tell us about your character Jheri and how you became and found this character
I loved Jheri’s character just because everybody needs that best friend. That crazy guy who is always sort of pushing you to do what you believe in even if you don’t believe in it. That I really loved. In terms of getting into the character – I think for me the crazy, extravagant, flamboyant part of the character I knew from my videos, I have done that before. The challenge was more for finding the human inside that character and finding the real best friend’s loving person in there and have that come out a little more. I think that was the challenge for me.
You had such amazing energy, and it seemed a real connection and friendship with Danielle Macdonald. Was that true and how did you develop that, because it was just so real.
Right! This all started so long ago. See when me and Danielle first met it was the summer of 2014, when the movie went to the labs. So we have know each other since then and even when we met then we clicked right away. We have been friends since then. I think we will be friends forever. Before I moved to LA, which I just did, I was there to take meetings; I stayed with her at her apartment. We are like siblings almost at this point. Yeah, I think that bond that we have had since then shows onscreen. And it really helped us do the scenes for sure. It made it very natural and easy to do the scenes and be comfortable.
First day on set what were you thinking? Were you nervous?
I was really nervous, because I don’t really have a reference for any of this. I don’t know how it is supposed to work. I guess you just gotta go with your gut and do what seems right. I don’t know, I think I was nervous just by being a nervous person. But there was nothing nerve racking about it because everybody was so supportive. They knew what I could be going through and making it so nice and easy for me to blend in almost and feel like a part of this crew in a way. It was really nice. I was really nervous but it went pretty smoothly.
What surprised you about making a film?
So much! Just watching people work. I had no idea, until I was on set, that there was another human doing the focus rather than the guy on the camera. Just small little things like that that really surprised me. I don’t know, I guess I had an idea of what it was going to be like and I think the general attitude of it was the same, but it was more small little things that I would never think about. I have always been interested in filmmaking and making the movies and maybe if I hadn’t fallen into this acting thing I would have tried to do something in that angle. But yeah I always had an idea of what it would be like, but it was much beyond what I imagined.
Do you think after you acting or maybe during your acting career you will go into doing some of that?
Yeah! That is definitely the long-term plan. Hopefully if everything sort of works in my way and I could do that as well. I would love too. Yeah, definitely! I don’t know in what way or what form. This is just an ideal Sid life situation. (Laughs)
This film has been so well praised and has connected so well with the audience, how does that feel?
It is really nice. It is really interesting watching it with an audience and seeing what they latch on to and what parts work for them. It is very interesting to see all the little things that people pick up on. We had a great screening at Sundance, which was awesome. Then we had another really great screening at Cannes, which was like totally different than the Sundance one but was like equally positive. Everybody seems to love it so much. I really can’t watch the movie objectively, because when I watch it I am like oh these are all the good times I had last year with all these people. It is hard for me to take a step back and see it as a movie. It is really nice to hear others come to you and say, ‘This movie is awesome!’
One of the things I liked the most was that even if you are not a rap fan, it certainly gave me even more appreciation for this music and a fan, you will still love this movie, do you agree?
You know, we get that a lot! We even get much older, even grand parents who are like ‘Oh I hate rap but then I watched this movie and it sort of changed my view of it.’ Which is really cool! That just shows it is all about what perspective you watch it from. From the get go you accept Patti as someone you would love and cherish as a person. To have this be her dream and watch her going through it, you see, okay now I understand. I didn’t see it like this and now I do. That’s really cool.
Your favorite track from the film?
Oh! I don’t know. We are going to release a soundtrack, with some additional songs that are not in the movie that we have worked on. I think my favorite track right now is one that hasn’t come out yet. We are making a video of this song I like as a promotion for the movie. From the movie, I would say ‘PB&J’, that is like the sweetest one.
I wondered, when the pizza guy called you Bollywood, what did you think about that, not only as your character but as yourself as well?
When we were doing that scene and Warren, who is the actor who plays the pizza guy, we were like just try a bunch of racist things and keep going over and over doing the scene with different things you call me. It was so funny because he was like an older dude from New York proper so it was really interesting for me to see all the variations that came out. He was so apologetic and he was like dude, I am so sorry.
I am usually so unfazed by things like that it doesn’t really get to me at all. But I guess being there in character and him saying it for a second I was like God damn this probably happens every single day. It’s funny right now but it is so real. I took a step back for a second and I was like I am so glad that this is in the movie and that we are talking about this in some way at least.
So would you want to do a Bollywood movie?
Yeah! Let’s do a Priyanka Chopra reversed! She is making it in Hollywood and I am going to move home and make it in Bollywood. That’s the plan. I would say if I went home I would probably be more inclined to do Tamil movies rather than Bollywood movies since I am from the South. But yeah I have dreams of doing that for sure in one way or another. I guess you could help me connect with some people over there! Let’s make it happen!
So looking back over your first movie experience, what would you say?
I would do it over again for sure. Hopefully I will keep making movies. I would say trust your gut – that really worked for me, someone who had really never acted before really. Trust yourself and do what feels right. Don’t doubt it there are always people to tell you if it is not working. If you doubt yourself from the beginning it is never going to work.
Do you have any other projects lined up?
At this moment, I am trying to figure out my 01 visa so that is the main project I am working on right now. As soon as that happens, which hopefully will happen very soon, probably by the time the movie comes out; people can actually hire me to work as an actor. We have been talking to a lot of people who are interested to do something with me. There is just a lot of positive buzz, which is really good.
We will have our review up later this week but we have to say this is one film you are going to want to check out! It is too good!
Opening in limited release on Friday, the acclaimed film will open in additional cities the following week and on Labor Day weekend.