Crown The Brown: Rahul Rai
Crown The Brown: Tiktok Famous Actor Rahul Rai. Born and raised in New York, Rahul always had a passion for entertainment. He spent many years working towards entertaining others as a hobby which eventually took an unimaginable turn! Rahul worked towards an economic degree, leading to his love for financial literacy and helping others.
Being an introvert, enjoying solitude in every way possible. Rahul never imagined the impact that social media would have on his life as an actor. He describes his life as an happy accident, we were curious to know more about his life beyond content creation and acting.
Tell us more about you! Who is Rahul Rai?
I was born in New York, the youngest of two older siblings. I had a wonderful childhood growing up.
A lot of what I am able to do now is a reflection of the investment that my parents made in me. The always encourage me to do whatever I was passionate about. I never had to fight with my parents when it came to my career. In fact, my parents encouraged me to pursue acting. It seems ironic in any family, for parents to push their child into the world of arts. It is a very gutsy and forward thinking thing for a parent to do.
I consider myself very luck and privileged to be able to do what I do and to pursue it with the endless support of my parents.
Started out as a dancer. Everyday, I would come home from middle school/high school and pop in a Bollywood movie. Started learning the choreography for two hours every single day. Religiously! I was completely hooked.
Eventually, that led to me pursuing acting and fast-forward 10 years, I am in Los Angeles pursuing a career in acting. It is an interesting field. It’s entrepreneurial in a sense.
It requires you to do a lot more than usual, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem. I think it’s a great way of being able to see what you are capable of doing. It really allows you to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
How did your passion for acting come about? When did it start and what inspired you to get into the industry?
It all happened by accident. I belonged to a dance company and we would do performances around New York, New Jersey etc.
We would have small events and we had a gig in New York City and a director happened to be in the audience. He came backstage after the show and asked me to audition for a film (When Harry tries to Marry) and somehow I booked that job.
After doing that first job, I felt like this is what I want to do for presumably the rest of my life. It was a happy accident as they say. My entire life has been a happy accident. Most of the opportunities that came my way were by accident.
In 2011, you were the lead in When Harry tries to Marry. What was the experience like and what did you enjoy most about it?
The experience was very overwhelming. There is a lot of technical things that go into acting and film making. Most people have experience and a level of education and training for this, I went into it completely blind to it. It enabled me to learn more on set.
I gained more practical experience from it. It is quite challenging everyday because you aren’t quite sure what you’re doing but you’re doing it regardless. You are trying different methods and hoping something sticks. You start to grow as the weeks go by and you realize that you’re getting better every single time because of practice and knowing what works for you.
It was definitely different. The learning curve was extremely steep. It was very fast paced. That’s the best way to learn though, especially with acting. The technical side of acting (camera, lighting, crew, environment), it’s better to get really deep into it and work on it, as well as grow in that sense.
Being in this industry, what are some of the stereotypes or assumptions you have experienced as a person of colour?
Haven’t really dealt with a lot of that. Fortunate enough to not have dealt with any negative assumptions or stereotypes. I surround myself with a good team and they know the way that I present myself and the reputation I would like to uphold in the industry is more universal rather than stereotypical.
I think the industry wants to see fresh new faces. More diversity and more diverse stories which is great. There will always be stereotypes in the industry, whether it is cultural or gender-based. Discrimination is part of the game, stereotypes are part of the game of live.
The circumstances do not matter to me, I have already decided where I want to go in the industry. I am prepared for the challenges that come along in the industry and whatever I need to work towards or do to fix it all, I am determined to do it. That’s just my mentality. I don’t really care about what the market finds appropriate.
Why do you think representation and diversity is important in the entertainment industry?
The industry will become so boring without that sense of diversity and representation. Nobody wants to see the same thing continuously. People want something new and fresh.
I think it would be interesting to see South Asian creators go away from the culture for a while. Tell stories that are away from our culture and not use it as a crutch. That’s the next frontier for any ethnic minority group trying to tell stories or trying to get on the level of the great actors and directors out there.
Personally, I am more interested in storytelling. Diversity to me is important otherwise it would just all be boring. What’s the point if it’s not challenging, personally, risky or meaningful in any way?
If you don’t evolve or adapt, you are going to get left behind. Diversity is inevitable. People don’t really have a choice.
You have become so famous on tiktok. What do you enjoy most about tiktok?
Again, a happy accident. A friend of mine suggested that I go on tiktok and that I do tiktok because I could dance really well. They suggested I put up content of me dancing on tiktok.
I basically started on the app in October 2019. I started making videos just for fun in October and November. In December, I started focusing more on the content. I became extremely aggressive with it in January because I really enjoyed putting out content. It was fun to create content and lip sync to different sounds and shows that I love.
Eventually, this led to original ideas and I started putting those out. It snowballed into what it is now. Lockdown certainly encouraged me to put out more content on a daily basis since there is nothing else to do.
I put out around 24 videos a day. My tiktok consists of two profiles on the app. One for acting and one for financial literacy and educating people about money and the important of learning about money. Usually I would make 9/10 videos on financial literacy a day and 14/15 pieces on the acting profile a day.
I usually start creating content around 10am until around 4pm. I enjoy creating content and putting out ideas that I have. The consistency is worth it in the end.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the pressure of creating content?
I have days when I feel overwhelmed by creating content. Sometimes I feel stir crazy but then I remind myself of how much I love pushing out that content and every single day is different. You have a different feeling every day and if I can just be disciplined with myself about it then that overwhelming feeling is no longer an issue.
How has tiktok impacted your life and career in the entertainment industry?
It has impacted my life a lot. I am interested to see life after quarantine. I am interested to be in public and see the result. It’s all about the process and creating that end result. It’s the process of creating and that it what has to supersede everything. The process has to supersede the process of creation in itself. Whether the results are attention, money, rewards, work or other temptations, those are all built on process so as long as I am dedicated to process, I am good.
I do think that as much attention there is on me through tiktok right now, it will only increase as I am continuously showing up and putting in the work. It is going to grow and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
For me, it’s a reminder of the process which is everything. The outside world can judge me on the results but I have to be fully focused on process. If I am fully focused on process then I can accomplish anything that I want.
You also incorporate a lot of Bollywood into your tiktok work and online platform, what do you enjoy most about Indian cinema and would you ever consider going into Bollywood?
I enjoy the music the most. That is where I started finding my love for dance. I’m really attracted to the music.
I don’t really have specific plans to go into Bollywood but I guess you never know where life takes you. I don’t speak Hindi, that is one challenge to overcome. My family is from the South of India, Bangalore. I speak Tulu. It is a very old language, one of the original languages of the South.
I love the content that is out there on a global scale in India Cinema. There are always certain stereotypes on how they are made and the content related to it. It is interesting to see them break those barriers to reach an audience that is more global and much younger. The younger generation really enables them to put out more character driven pieces in the industry.
Hollywood has a very flourishing independent Cinema ecosystem, which influences the big cinema and vice versa. In my opinion, our capability of storytelling is much more diverse. We have so much of talent and India is creating that ecosystem and we are embracing it which I genuinely love. The world is really able to see Indian talent in terms of actors, directors and talent. They get to show what talent they have to offer.
Who are your biggest motivators and favourite actors? Who would you love to work with in the future?
Marlin Brando is my favourite. I admire Johnny Depp a lot. People who are quirky, weird, not afraid to embrace it and it shows in their work because they do a lot of diverse work. Christian Bale, Joaquin Phoenix. People that are dangerous in that sense.
I would love to work with Johnny Depp, Denzil Washington. Christopher Nolan, he directs in a really interesting way. Catherine Bigelow. Steve McQueen.
What advice do you have for other aspiring actors?
Focus on yourself and what you want to do. It should come from the individual not the masses. If you want to be an actor, go and do it!
A lot of education or self-education comes from learning and doing. Reading books, watching interviews and everything else is good but to really know what works for you, you have to put yourself in the deep end and try. It is a real process.
Process trumps results. As an individual, you have to be married to process. Critics will be married to results and you can’t fall into the trap of playing for the critics or the audience or the outside world.
The outside world is result oriented. The inside world is you. Your mind and your body completed dedicated to process.
If you are not in love with process it is going to be very hard to sustain yourself. It is a process to be in process. It never ends. Sometimes you don’t feel like it but you show up because it is the right thing to do.
Rahul Rai has certainly been favored with happy accidents in life. His passion found him and social media definitely impacted his life in the best way! Rahul is certainly an example of what process can do if you work hard and continue towards a process rather than focusing on a result. Be sure to follow his journey on social media and tiktok – @therealrahulrai,