His viral series ‘Keeping up with the Guptas’ has been featured in ‘South Asia Magazine’, on the news, and in several newspapers, including India West. His recent film ‘Naked Innocence,’ despite having been shot in only 72 hours, has received countless awards and screened at Warner Bros. in June. He is a dancer turned model turned comedian turned actor turned writer turned director turned editor turned student turned entrepreneur turned…21.
That’s right, folks! Sunny Tripathy is one heck of a successful 21 year-old. If you haven’t heard of this talented young man yet, pay attention closely because it won’t be long before you cross paths with him!
Like many actors, he began his career in stand-up comedy. In 2006 he auditioned for Last Teen Comic Standing and after several final rounds including a special at John Levitz Comedy Club at Universal Studios as Season 1’s 2007 winner. After touring and performing in San Francisco, Toronto, and Los Angeles, he decided to start churning a majority of his material into writing, and began penning his first feature length scripts. Two years later when he was selected to participate in a beauty pageant, he was unsure of where he was headed.
“I thought those were for girls. At first I was hesitant, but with a little persuasion from a close friend, I just went for it. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family… to be honest, I was embarrassed,” Sunny admitted.
Well chance had it, he made it past final rounds and was chosen as a runner-up for Mr. India America and won Mr. Photogenic 2010 by a panel of internationally renowned directors, actors, models, and fashion designers. Having a strong background in dance, having been captain and lead choreographer of numerous Hip-hop and Bhangra (Indian) troupes, he performed a fusion piece for his talent, which he has since come back to perform at various events and weddings. He has since been featured in several spreads in both the US and Canada, and has quickly become one of the most highly sought after talents. Modeling offers soon turned acting gigs, and Sunny began making appearances in small roles in several short and feature length films.
He most recently played the role of Samir in the film ‘The Troublemaker’ a feature film which recently made official selection at both the Cinequest Film Festival and the 2011 Indian Film Festival. But Sunny’s interest for film and production was no recent turn of choice. As a matter of fact, he had been avidly been working towards his goal since he was a teen.
“Some people are born into connections, born into wealth. I was NOT. It’s really funny when you hear people talk about their ‘struggle’ when like their parents owned Paramount or something. They said it was about ‘who’ you know, and I have seen the extent to which that is true. But I hope, deep down, that it’s also about ‘what’ you know. I knew, that if I wanted to make it, I was going to really really work hard. I relied on inspiration from my role models including Steven Spielberg, Oprah, James Cameron, Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, and others, and just kept moving forward as best I could,” he said.
And so he did, and when he was 16, his short film ‘Fight for Peace’ won an achievement award from the California Senate, distinguishing him as one of the youngest award-winning filmmakers of his time!
But just when things were starting to look good, tragedy struck in a brutal in shocking manner. On the day of his high school prom, Sunny had gone with his mom to pick up his tux when he realized he had left his receipt in the car. Leaving his mom in the mall, he rushed back to grab it, unaware that he was being watched. Just several feet from his car, he heard footsteps when BAM, he was punched in the head. He was then brutally attacked while nearly senseless, taking multiple punches to the head and body. Police were looking for the three large men in their late 20’s who left Sunny with a shattered clavicle, back damage, a fractured arm, broken gums, a broken nose, and major bruising.
After almost a full year of recovery, Sunny came out stronger than ever before. Apart from starting a major cultural awareness and acceptance movement within his community, he decided to aim to make a bigger difference and he knew he needed a strong education. After receiving invitations from several prestigious institutions, including UC Berkeley, he decided to go to UCLA, where he worked on several student and feature films, all while pursuing a major and minor. Many of his projects focused on the issues of social justice and awareness, and he maintains it as one of his long term goals. He also jumped right into several internships and worked with the producers of Bride Wars, Max Payne, and other films why quickly moving his way up other companies.
By the age of 19, he had held executive positions at production companies, such as GlobalStar Films, where he edited full-length feature films in less than a week! He had also directed and produced several commercials for international companies such as bebe and had directed many short films starring talent from Hollywood and Bollywood.
While at UCLA, he took on a heavy curriculum with emphasis in advanced Screenwriting, Film & Television, and Economics. At the age of 20, he began preparing his own production company: SunnyTFilms, a name he had devised back when he was 13. He gather a team and began productions ranging in comedy and drama, with the most recent being a comedic sketch starring himself and his close friend and mentor, Tabu (The Namesake).
Now his production team has more than 12 feature films in development, of which Sunny penned 8 of the scripts himself. Many of the projects have already signed on producers and well known talent, while others all still open to involvement. Simultaneously, his team is fostering various Commercial and Music Video projects, as well as three Television Pilots, which will go into production this summer.
I was lucky enough to interview this talented young man…check out what he has to say!
Q: Hi Sunny! Why don’t you go ahead and tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
A: I’m not your average 21-year-old. I am currently finishing up my last year of college at UCLA, as well as preparation for my real estate license. My passion however is in Entertainment, and I’ve spent the last several years working towards some very high ambitions. I’ve been active both on camera and behind camera, though am pretty sure my forte behind may be stronger. I started my production company about a year ago, and since then have formed an amazing team, which has in essence become my second family. On top of our film, television, commercial, and music projects, we are working on three different business ventures with various investors, and are also assisting the World Hunger Project with a program called Take 5, aimed at ending Global Poverty.
A: I guess I’ve always had a certain affinity for the stage. Since I was four-years-old, I enjoyed acting, plays, modeling (even in my chubby days), and in essence entertaining in general. I loved to perform – I would do stand-up for friends and family at small dinner parties, play the drums, dance, almost anything you could think of. Shortly there after, I started to fall in love with writing and directing, and began producing my own short films. I was about eight years old, sneaking around with a video camera you’d probably now find in a modern museum, and I’d create short films with friends, having them act for me in exchange for things like Pokemon cards or Popsicles. Many of those films had huge “Global Box Office”, raking in anywhere from 50 cents to $3 internationally. It was a lot of fun, but soon interest turned to passion, and I began taking everything I did very very seriously. I laid out a plan of every goal I wanted to accomplish, the school I wanted to go to, and the films I wanted to make. And then I turned nine.
A: Umm, it’s not easy. My grades will tell you that. I mean, Mom & Dad, if you’re reading, my grades are really good… But umm no really, it’s not easy. A few years ago, when I first came to LA, it was even harder. Without a car, and in an unfamiliar city, I had to fight and fight hard. From buses to taxis, to walking miles on foot, I have done anything and everything to take advantage of every single opportunity. Around a challenging class schedule, I managed to gain experience through various projects including working on features for Paramount as well as various other production companies.
I made a lot of sacrifices. I missed out on a lot of partying and “college life” experiences, but I made that decision, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love what I do, and I am focused on where I need to go. They say college days are the “best days of your life”. I’d hope to disprove that statement. Every day should be the best day of your life. So do what you love, and work hard, and cherish every moment in the past, present, and future.
Film to me is more to me than just a career. Film is one of the few chances we get to live in the reality of someone else’s imagination. Film brings to light the stories of unsung heroes and untraveled worlds. We meet characters we are familiar with, as well as new ones we have yet to encounter. We can put the future before the past; we can put life after death. We can intertwine real landscapes with false ones, give animals the ability to talk, and violate the laws of cause and effect. Film, is an outlet of true expression, and the channel for my greatest ambitions.
Q: As many people know, you were not only the writer, director, and executive producer of the comedy “Keeping up with the Guptas,” you were also an actor of the show. What can you tell us about your experience while working on “Keeping up with the Guptas”?
A: Oh boy, umm Keeping Up With the Guptas was probably one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It was an accidental project that my friends and family did for fun, and it turned into something much larger than we expected. The segments, though typically done without any resources or decent equipment, gathered all sorts of international steam, and the show is now being pitched with a full season synopsis to a range of major networks. It was a phenomenal experience and it was an absolute honor to work both behind camera and on screen with my incredibly (and secretly) talented parents, and a bunch of my best friends including the hilarious Sahil Punamia and Sumi Raman who play my brother and sister, as well as Melissa Nemcek who served as our incredible production manager. Our fingers are crossed for the project, and hopefully with the help of the show’s fans, we may soon be seeing the Guptas hit the big screen.
Q: I recently found out that your film “Naked Innocence” has been nominated for four awards at next week’s Action on Film Festival. What was the story behind this film?
A: Naked Innocence was a cool little project. Again very limited resources on this one again, and with the help of a few hands from Cosmos Entertainment, and my incredible team, we pulled off yet another short film from start to finish in just 72 hours. As a group we were all horrified by the outbreak of child suicide, and we tried to shed light on a topic that clearly needed resolve. Despite our limitations on resources and time, I think we were satisfied with the way things worked out and the film managed to do pretty well. It screened and won Best Drama at CMF UCLA, an AT&T Rethink Possible Nomination, People’s Choice, Accolade Award of Merit, and picked up a few additional awards as well as four nominations at the Action On Film International Festival including Best Drama and Best Music Video. We are incredibly overjoyed and grateful for the response, and are working on a feature based on the short for next year.
A: POWERED BY IMPOSSIBLE
It seems the more the odds stacked against me, the stronger I was willing to fight against them. That has been the key for everything I have accomplished to this date. This business is tough, but you have to work incredibly hard, and play good cards. Use any failure to your advantage, and turn it around. Use anger, joy, and love as fuel, and the impossible can turn reality. (Our company logo is Powered By Impossible)
Q: What’s next for you and your team?
A: We’ve definitely got some exciting stuff coming up around the corner. We’re filming a very emotional film this month, on the subject of a recent terrorist attack, and then next month we are going to be shooting two television pilots for two new reality shows. We are also progressing four of our feature scripts, which are in development and have recently begun attaching some very cool talent as well as producers. We are taking things one step at a time, but with energy and passion, so fingers crossed and we’ll see where life takes us.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to say to your fans and UrbanAsian readers before you go?
A: I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has shown their support and love throughout this whole process. I have only love for the fans and I hope to be able to entertain them to the best of my ability. We have some big things right around the corner and I can’t wait to share them with the world.
Above: Sunny Tripathy with David Arquette
Below: Sunny Tripathy with Garry Marshall
Well, there you have it! Be sure to keep it locked with UrbanAsian for the latest updates on Sunny Tripathy’s upcoming works!