"My childhood? I can’t give all the details because it will scare the readers"
Festigious' First Time Screenwriter winner Rakesh Dasgupta ("Shiva") is a magnificent actor who has found writing to be more than just telling a story ("To me, writing is a therapy").
In the following interview, Rakesh takes us back to his childhood in India, his passion for acting and writing, and how it all started for "Shiva".
You recently won Best First Time Screenwriter (Feature) at Festigious. Congratulations! We wanted to ask if you a few questions about your path, your inspiration, your goals... Let's start at the beginning. When did you become interested in filmmaking, and what were your first steps in the industry?
Firstly, thank you Festigious for selecting me as the Best First Time Screenwriter for Shiva and thank you very much for this interview.
I was obsessed with acting since I was in school in India. But at the time there was nothing much I could do about it. I can’t give all the details because it will scare the readers. All I can say is, deliberate actions were taken to force my brain to go to a different direction. At the time I lost control of myself. I was functioning like a remote controlled robot. But I guess, my fate wrote it for me, so it couldn’t be changed. Years later, when I was working as a police officer in Australia, overnight, I decided to make the move to Sydney to pursue acting full-time, professionally. I didn’t know a single person in the entertainment industry at the time. My acting resume was a blank A4 size paper. I started acting for free in student projects….and the rest is all in front of you.
Who, or what, are some of your inspirations? Do you feel you're influenced by the work of other artists and filmmakers?
When I can make someone laugh or cry through my work, that inspires me. I find Johnny Depp’s work very inspiring. I also follow Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
What makes you passionate about writing?
To me, writing is a therapy. That’s what makes me passionate about writing - again soon.
Let's talk about SHIVA, your award-winning screenplay. (SPOILER ALERT): Through flashbacks, you take us back to Shiva’s early life and reveal more and more about his character and where he comes from. Even more importantly, you create a rounded, fascinating character. What do you find in common with your protagonist?
Shiva said, “certain things are best left unsaid”.
The Indian and American cultures are different, and so are the movies created in both worlds. SHIVA obviously turns to both cultures. Do you find it a challenge or an opportunity? And why?
Facing cultural differences are both a challenge and an opportunity. You have to welcome and accept that challenge to find that opportunity because the opportunity lies within that challenge.
SHIVA involves several violent scenes, which are rarely seen in a Dramatic Romance movie. Who is your target audience?
Everyone. Shiva will provide entertainment value to people from all age groups.
In SHIVA, (SPOILER ALERT) Kristy represents a wonderful human being from her very first scene - she’s the only one who stands up in class, not willing to let the teacher humiliate Shiva. Her loyalty pays off a few years later, but then she finds herself in a complicated situation. How did you create her character? Was she based on a real person?
I really don’t know how I created this character or any character as a matter of fact. I have never taken any training in screenwriting. So, I don’t really know if there is any procedure to create characters for a screenplay. But I can say, I did see visuals coming in front of me, flashing every now and then and that’s where I saw Shiva and Kristy.
When I was writing Shiva, I felt as if I knew her but I am still not a hundred percent sure if I really know her. But I would love to know her if she exists.
Alongside writing, you're also a model and an actor. What's the best part about being on set?
Getting makeup and free food.
You also have extensive experience shooting commercials: Drive Safely, directed by Ade Mardiyati, Love Your Lungs, directed by Daniel Bodle, Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to Health, directed by Masha Turkina, Bharat Matrimony Testimonial, DKTV, directed by Mouradi Nassereddine, and Optus, by Emotive Content - to name a few. Would you say shooting commercials is different than working on a narrative project? If so, in what way?
The primary difference between shooting for commercials and shooting for a narrative
project is that in commercials you act to sell a physical item and in films, you act to sell
entertainment. As an actor, I am an entertainer and not a salesman. Let me put it this way, I hate to do commercials.
Who is the most memorable character you portrayed so far?
The answer lies in future tense - Shiva.
What do you wish people knew about your work as an actor?
That it’s not all fake.
Did you ever refuse to take on a project? If so, for what reason?
Oh yeah, many times. I have rejected numerous auditions. Sometimes I get scripts which looks like they are meant for intellectual people and normally I don’t understand those intellectual scripts, so I reject them. If I see there is no entertainment value in the part, I reject it. If I feel that I won’t be able to justify a character for whatever reason it is, I say “no."
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Having a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Would you like to add anything?
I would like to tell this to every single artist who are out there trying to make it happen - Be true to yourself, be honest with yourself because if you cheat yourself no one else will lose but you.
Always be grateful to those people who have helped you because that’s the least you can do.
As I always say I couldn’t do all this by myself - I had a lot of help.